Kyrie Irving is once again the center of NBA attention off the court.
The Brooklyn Nets point guard must decide by Wednesday whether to take a $36.5 million player option or elect for free agency. If he leaves, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski identified the Los Angeles Lakers as “the most significant threat” for his services.
That would reunite the former Cleveland Cavaliers star with LeBron James, a pairing Draymond Green knows well.
Per Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw, Green said he’s doesn’t anticipate Irving sacrificing significant money to play elsewhere. And while he acknowledged that the point guard would put the Lakers in a stronger position, he doesn’t foresee them threatening his Golden State Warriors for Western Conference supremacy.
“With LeBron James, if you give them someone like Kyrie… they’ll have a chance because of the way Kyrie can score the basketball,” Green said. “LeBron will only put him in a position to do that. Kyrie has not proven to be a great leader. LeBron will put an umbrella over that. If you can do what you’re good at, you have LeBron leading.”
“They could contend, but they won’t beat us.”
A lot must happen for this Lakers hypothetical to become a reality. If he opts out, Irving would need to leave approximately $30 million on the table to take the $6 million exception. Otherwise, the Nets and Lakers would have to arrange a sign-and-trade, almost certainly involving Russell Westbrook.
The James-Irving duo beat the Warriors in 2016, coming back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat a team that earned a record 73 wins during the regular season. Irving averaged 27.1 points during the series and made a huge three-pointer late in Game 7.
He missed most of their 2015 encounter after getting hurt in Game 1. In his final season with the Cavs, Irving and Co. fell short to a Golden State club emboldened by future teammate Kevin Durant. However, Irving has only played 103 games in three seasons with the Nets.
Irving remains one of the NBA’s most talented players when on the court, and the same goes for the oft-injured Anthony Davis. Yet James has a lot of mileage on his body entering his 19th NBA season.
Would that trio block the Warriors’ path to their sixth conference crown in nine years?