Irving is an unrestricted free agent, while James signed a two-year, $97.1 million extension, with a third-year player option, last summer. That would make it pretty difficult for the Mavericks to acquire James, which would either be through a very elaborate trade or, as Haynes suggests in his story for Bleacher Report, a buyout and James accepting a significant pay cut.
Haynes report mentions the Mavericks “were preparing to make an offer for James last season when the Lakers were spiraling,” but according to CBA rules, James was not eligible to be traded at the February trade deadline since he just signed that extension in August the year prior. James would be eligible to be traded this off-season, however.
This is a funny twist, considering how a lot of the narrative before this was focused on Irving and whether he would force his way to the Lakers. Now the shoe is on the other foot and while it seems absolutely improbable something like this would happen, I must admit it is fun for the Mavericks to be on the other side of one of these stories — being a team trying to recruit the star away, as opposed to the team being poached.
Just getting James to Dallas would be...difficult. James makes $47 million next season, so just matching salaries would be hard. The contracts of Tim Hardaway Jr., Davis Bertans, Reggie Bullock, and Josh Green would fit, money-wise, but it almost feels like no amount of picks the Mavericks could offer would be worth anything near what the Lakers would theoretically want in a James trade. The Mavericks can only offer the 10th pick (on draft night) and the 2027 pick. It seems impossible that James would be traded for a package that’s highlighted by Josh Green and two picks. It might have made more sense if the Lakers season had continued adrift last season, but the mid-season turnaround and the Western Conference Finals run should spur the Lakers organization to keep trying to build for one more James title before his retirement.
The most likely scenario is that this is all a leverage play, perhaps by James and Kyrie to spur either of their respected teams into action. It’s clear there’s a lot of smoke around James and Irving wanting to play together, but we’ll just have to wait and see how much of it is real.