WIth the Detroit Pistons helping to make things work; the Los Angeles Lakers can trade away Russell Westbrook, while the Brooklyn Nets could get some valuable role players, and move on from Kyrie Irving, as part of a three-team trade.
It is not exactly a secret that Russell Westbrook wants out of playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, and Kyrie Irving has reportedly asked to be traded from the Brooklyn Nets. For the right deal, the Lakers and Nets are probably just fine with getting rid of them as well.
However, unlike James Harden, neither has said they will take a pay cut to go elsewhere. Irving supposedly wants to go to the Lakers, and he could have, if he had accepted the $6 million mid-level exception. But Irving opted into the $36.9 million option on his Nets contract (So much for being different).
A straight Westbrook-for-Irving trade does not work in terms of matching salaries (Westbrook makes $10 million more), and Brooklyn also has no interest in having Westbrook on the team.
(Could you imagine a Ben Simmons/Russell Westbrook backcourt? No defender would be more than 10-feet from the basket.)
To get the Lakers and Nets where they want to go, a third-party needs to enter the talks. Some team that has cap space, movable contracts and not looking to contend this season. Hmm … know a NBA team like that? Might be one in the Motor City.
The key to pulling off the trade would be the Pistons being willing to take on Westbrook’s huge contract. They would quickly buy him out, as Detroit is set at guard for years with Jaden Ivey and Cade Cunningham. They also do not need to add another guard who can’t shoot.
Brooklyn will have to be willing to give up a draft pick to get Irving out of there. The Lakers will also have to give up a draft pick and also accept some role players.
Here is the trade (and it did work on ESPN Trade Machine):
What is in it for Lakers, Nets, Detroit Pistons?
Brooklyn Nets: They basically break Irving’s big contract into three smaller ones. The Nets struggled with size last year (shockingly, they found ou Andre Drummond was not the answer). Olynyk and Noel will help them in the middle, while Burks is a microwave scorer who will help make up for the loss of Irving’s firepower.
And all three players contracts are only fully guaranteed thru this year, so Brooklyn gets some cap relief.
Detroit Pistons: No, a Westbrook-Cade Cunningham backcourt will not occur. As soon as possible, the Pistons will negotiate with Westbrook’s agent (whenever he gets a new one) for a buyout and send him on his way.
It is another win for general manager Troy Weaver. He pockets two first round picks and only gives up players who were not part of their future anyhow.
Los Angeles Lakers: First, Westbrook is gone! Which will cause dancing in the streets of L.A. They now get to deal with Kyrie Irving. He is a better fit than Westbrook with the team. He and LeBron James did win a title in Cleveland.
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But you won’t have him for games in Toronto, where players must be vaccinated. And you never know when he will disappear for ‘personal reasons’. To make the salaries work, the Lakers also get Kemba Walker (who has not yet been officially bought out by Detroit, so eligible to be traded). Walker could give them a boost off the bench if healthy (which could be said for half the team).
A win-win for all teams?
It looks like it.
Brooklyn gets Irving out of there, which might help them keep Kevin Durant, and get some solid players and more easily movable contracts.
The Lakers swap Russell Westbrook for Kyrie Irving which, under their circumstances, is as good as they can get.
The Pistons net two first-rounders for using some of their cap space and taking Westbrook’s contract (but not Westbrook).
If all parties are motivated enough to pull it off, the Lakers and Nets can get themselves out of what seems like a sticky situation, and the Pistons walk away with compensation for helping them along.