The Athletic’s Shams Charania was the first to report the trade demand, as apparently Irving and the Nets have come to a stalemate on Irving’s extension, so Irving has decided to request out. Shortly after, veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein reported the Lakers and Mavericks would be among the teams engaging with Brooklyn in trade talks for Irving. Multiple NBA reporters, including ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Tim MacMahon, and Zach Lowe, have also corroborated the Mavericks interest.
This isn’t the first time Irving has been linked to the Mavericks, as last summer when Kevin Durant had his own trade request, the Mavericks were on Irving’s list of preferred teams when the thought was Brooklyn might blow the whole team up last offseason.
Before we go any further, it’s best to remind everyone that part of the reason Irving is available in the first place is his long history as an anti-vaxxer, which caused problems for the Nets during the pandemic seasons of the last few years. Irving was then suspended earlier this season for sharing and encouraging antisemitic views through his press conferences and on his media platforms. That’s not even touching on his locker room baggage, where Irving wore out his welcome in both Cleveland and Boston.
The Lakers have long thought to be Irving’s destination, as they clearly seemed like the team desperate enough to not worry about Irving’s troubles and give LeBron James one more run at a title. However the Lakers have been very stingy with trading future picks and the organization has little to offer in terms of players that would help the Nets. Russell Westbrook’s expiring contract is attractive as a means to clear space, but Brooklyn is currently fourth in the East — they’re clearly a contender with Kevin Durant set to return soon from his knee injury. Westbrook would make the team actively worse and the Lakers don’t have much else in terms of attractive players.
While the Mavericks are struggling, their issue is more top-end talent, not depth of role players. If the Mavericks seriously want Irving, a package including picks and some combination of players like Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, Christian Wood, Reggie Bullock, and Dwight Powell would be infinitely more useful (while also not breaking Brooklyn’s cap sheet) to keeping the Nets a competitive team. For the Mavericks, this would give them the elusive second star they’ve been craving next to Luka Doncic. Despite Irving’s list of off-court troubles, he’s actually putting together one of his better seasons with the Nets. It’s not hard to imagine how Irving and Doncic could terrorize defenses with their combination of shooting and passing. There’d be some things to work out, but Irving has already excelled as the second guy next to a ball dominant wing (LeBron, Durant) and Luka’s willingness to pass/facilitate should only make that fit easier.
The ultimate trump card the Lakers have to play are including their 2027 and 2029 first round picks. The Mavericks can match that, but the Lakers picks are worth significantly more considering LeBron James will be 42 in 2027, so either retired or presumably a reduced version of himself. The Lakers could be a disaster by 2027, which makes those picks more valuable than the Mavericks.
This was supposedly going to be a boring trade deadline, so of course something like this happens. We’ll update as more info comes out.