Proposed Lakers Trade Reunites LeBron James With Former Championship Teammate

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Getty LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers.

A highly-regarded offseason for the Los Angeles Lakers and general manager Rob Pelinka could have set them up to make a big splash this coming season.

“In May, the Dallas Mavericks reportedly had “no interest” in trading for D’Angelo Russell, but the Los Angeles Lakers signed him to a very movable contract,” wrote Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report on September 24. “And if the Dallas Mavericks underwhelm for the second season in a row, you can be sure the rumors of a LeBron JamesKyrie Irving reunion will resurface.”

Lakers get:

– Kyrie Irving

Mavericks get:

Rui Hachimura
– D’Angelo Russell
– 2029 first-round pick

Irving and James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the first championship in franchise history in 2016, becoming the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in NBA Finals history with their seven-game series comeback over the Golden State Warriors.

It was Irving who hit a clutch three-pointer in Game 7 to give the Cavs a late lead.

Irving had a public falling out with the organization and complained of being in James’ shadow but has since said he wished he handled the situation differently, easing those concerns.

“We already know how that partnership looks on the floor,” Bailey continued. “Those two, Anthony Davis and just an average supporting cast would make up a title contender. And with Austin Reaves, Gabe Vincent and Taurean Prince still around, that supporting cast can be at least average (even without Rui Hachimura).”

Irving re-signed with the Mavericks on a three-year, $120 million contract this offseason with a $42.9 million player option for the 2025-26 season. He cannot be traded until December 15 due to league rules.

That does give the Lakers time to get a feel for their current group, though.

Rui Hachimura, D’Angelo Russell Were Key to Lakers’ Run

The Lakers acquired both Hachimura and Russell during the season, and both players wound up being key contributors to the team’s 18-8 finish to the regular season and surprising run to the Western Conference Finals.

Hachimura averaged 9.6 points and 4.7 rebounds in 33 appearances with nine starts. But he was a vital part of their defensive strategy in the WCF and is expected to start in 2023-24.

Russell averaged 17.4 points, 6.1 assists, and 2.9 rebounds.

He also shot 41.4% on 6.5 attempts from beyond the arc during the regular season but his play tailed off during the postseason leading to head coach Darvin Ham reducing his role, particularly over the final four games. Russell has maintained a team–first mentality even as the front office added Vincent on a three-year, $33 million contract this offseason.

But Russell waived his implied no-trade clause when he signed his two-year, $36 million contract leading to speculation that he could be traded regardless of Vincent’s addition. There is also some thought that Vincent could be a cleaner fit alongside James.

Kyrie Irving’s Track Record Could Cause Lakers to Pause

One additional factor the Lakers have to consider in any decisions regarding pursuing Irving once again has to include his recent track record of missed games.

Irving’s 60 appearances in 2022-23 were his most since 2018-19 as he dealt with injuries and off-court issues. Even if he has moved on from the latter, durability does not tend to improve with age even for the most talented players.

The Lakers felt the effects of having stars miss large portions of the regular season, and know full well the toll it can take as they try to balance rest and rust. Perhaps they can convince themselves that they have enough even without Hachimura or Russell with Jarred Vanderbilt and Vincent, respectively.

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