The Nets appear to be the favorite to land Kyrie Irving, but other teams still hold out hope that they can sign the point guard. The Lakers remain optimistic that they could sign Irving, a source close to LeBron James told Sam Amick of The Athletic prior to the Anthony Davis deal.
For months, Irving has expressed a desire to play alongside Davis, sources tell David Aldridge of The Athletic. While the Lakers intend to bring in a third star, adding to the Davis-James pairing, it’s unclear where Irving ranks in the franchise’s preferred signings.
Kemba Walker is reportedly the top target. Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard are other options, though both could be hard to pry from their incumbent team (and in Leonard’s case, the Lakers appear to be trailing the Clippers if he does depart Toronto).
Inking one of those players to a full max deal will be a challenge for the Lakers. The franchise is projected to have between $23.6MM and 27.7MM in cap space depending on whether Davis waives his trade bonus. If the team finds a taker for Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga (could be the Pelicans in revised Davis deal), the Lakers are looking at upwards of $29.4MM in room. The starting salary on a max deal for players like Irving or Walker is $32.7MM.
A path to opening up the amount needed to offer a full max deal involves the Lakers signing a free agent with cap space and then waiting until July 30 to officially complete the Davis trade. That would allow Los Angeles to aggregate the No. 4 pick’s salary in the Davis deal and operate as an over-the-cap team. Such a strategy would bring the Lakers roughly $32.5MM in room, assuming Davis waives his trade bonus. The figure remains slightly short of the max for this tier of players, though Los Angeles could make additional moves to get all the way there.
Brooklyn will have no issue offering Irving a full max deal. The Hornets possess Walker’s Bird rights and can offer him a super-max deal that tops out around $221MM in total value. Butler believes he’s getting a full max no matter which team signs him and the Raptors will hand Leonard whatever contract he wants should the Finals MVP decide to remain in the North.
The Lakers have an attractive situation for a star on the market. They can offer a title contender in one of the league’s premier markets and depending on Rob Pelinka‘s salary cap gymnastics, they may have to hope a star believes the situation is worth forgoing potential earnings.