Recent reports indicate that Kyrie Irving contacted LeBron James to encourage the superstar to leave the Los Angeles Lakers and join him and Luka Doncic on the Dallas Mavericks. If true, it’s an unbelievably bold move from the free agent to be, signaling the start of an eventful month for the Mavericks.
Ordinarily, the outlandishness of James joining the Mavs is an idea reserved for click-bait stories from content mill websites. These aren’t ordinary times, however. The reports are credible. As such, the Mavericks should welcome the chaos Irving has summoned and pursue every trade scenario and every angle imaginable in acquiring James this summer.
The Mavericks are in a tough position. After failing to make the playoffs — tanking the final two games of the regular season in a successful bid to keep their first-round draft pick — Dallas faces a summer full of tough decisions. The front office must move the team from the Draft Lottery back to the playoffs.
Irving wants to stay in Dallas. He’s made it clear that he likes playing alongside Doncic, even if their pairing didn’t pan out as anyone hoped — the Mavericks had a 5-11 record when they played together. Now, he’s decided that Dallas doesn’t just need to focus on re-signing him in free agency; they must also go out and get James, the face of the NBA for the last 15-plus years.
Convincing James to leave Los Angeles for Dallas won’t be easy. Since joining the Lakers in 2018, he’s established himself in Hollywood. Not only does he have business ties throughout the city, his eldest son, Bronny James, recently committed to USC. He’s made L.A. the center of his work and family life.
That said, he may feel like he is ready to move on from the Lakers. James hinted that he’s mulling retirement after the Denver Nuggets unceremoniously swept LeBron and L.A. out of the Western Conference Finals last month. Given that he’s still playing elite basketball at age 38, he was more than likely signaling that the Lakers need to improve the roster around him if they want him to stay.
In steps Kyrie to up the stakes. While the Lakers have the upper hand in retaining James — he has two years left on his current contract, with the final season being a player option worth $50.6 million — he could demand a trade. Dallas doesn’t have much to offer L.A. in return if that’s his chosen route.
The Mavericks have a dearth of assets, but they could assemble a package including players, draft picks, and swing for the fences. Josh Green, Tim Hardaway Jr., Jaden Hardy, and the No. 10 pick in this year’s draft would likely be the first pieces on the table before salary matching and future draft picks come into play.
A more straightforward approach — for Dallas — would be for James to request a buyout and become a free agent. He could then sign with the Mavericks. However, LeBron would have to take less money than the Lakers currently owe him to help the Mavericks maneuver around the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and its stiffer restrictions. Irving, too, would have to take less than he would make if he were to sign a max deal.
The notion of chasing James this summer is an absolutely absurd one. But Dallas doesn’t have the luxury of rational thinking anymore. The 2022-23 season was more than disappointing. It was a disaster. Even if LeBron only has a few seasons left before he retires from his Hall of Fame career, he can still help the Mavericks now.
Dallas’ front office needs to throw caution to the wind and embrace the mayhem Irving has brought down on the franchise in his quest to reunite with James. Free agency starts in less than a month, and the Mavericks must be ready with plans A through Z when the calendar turns over to June 30. The potential of James, Irving, and Doncic playing together is too great to pass up.