If the Lakers don’t trade Kyrie Irving to the Nets this summer, could they sign him as a free agent in 2023?

The Kyrie Irving business saga meanwhile dragged on for weeks with several plot twists. Still, the prevailing belief has been that Irving will join the Los Angeles Lakers—if not this summer, then in 2023 when he hits free agency.

But do the Lakers have the money to sign Playmaker next year if they don’t acquire him through a trade with the Brooklyn Nets?

With Russell Westbrook’s mammoth $47.1 million salary coming from the books, L.A.’s payroll will likely lighten significantly next summer. So far, only Anthony Davis, Max Christie, Talen Horton-Tucker and Damien Jones are under contract for 2023–24, with the latter two having a player option for the season. LeBron James doesn’t appear to be in a hurry to sign a two-year, $97 million contract extension, which he’ll be eligible to ink on Aug.

But the first report to suggest Irving would move to LA next summer also claimed he would. James. reunite with Except for wearing the same jersey that the late Kobe Bryant once wore. Therefore, in any scenario in which the Lakers get Irving in the 2023 off-season, one needs to assume that LeBron has extended his stay with Purple and Gould – on a two-year deal as a player option – for next season. There is a possibility of a deal with, so the four-time NBA champion could remain In control of his future when his son Bronie becomes a draft character,

Disregarding any unexpected incentives, which brings the Lakers’ payroll to roughly $102 million, with James, Davis, Christie, Horton-Tucker and Jones on the roster – assuming the latter two have revised their player choices. raised) – and some $30.8 million under the estimated 2023-24 salary range of $133 million.

However, the Lakers won’t be able to spend all that money on Irving. Teams with fewer than 12 players under contract are subject to an incomplete roster fee, which should be approximately $1.1 million for unused roster spots the following year. In addition, Austin Reeves and Scottie Pippen Jr. will become restricted free agents in 2023 unless the Lakers decide not to extend their qualifying offers and let them hit free agency without restriction – however, this It’s hard to imagine that L.A. left Reeves after him. Impressive rookie season, while Pippen’s qualifying offer won’t be much more than an incomplete roster fee.

Adding up all those additional expenses, the Lakers could potentially pay Irving closer to $22 million in 2023-24 and a total of $92 million in a four-year deal — provided Reeves receives an offer from another team. No, which would be near LA. to match.

Next summer, Irving will be able to sign someone with a four-year, $200 million maximum contract – and significantly more if he returns to Brooklyn. However, NBA teams, including the Nets, are reportedly unwilling to offer the freak guard the maximum.

Still, can Irving sacrifice more than $100 million—half the money he’s eligible for—to reunite with James in L.A.? That’s… well, the one (hundred) million dollar question.

Some reports indicated that Irving wanted to join the Lakers so badly that he might even be out of his contract with the Nets and Signed with Purple and Gold using $6.5 million taxpayer mid-tier exception this summer. Those hopes were quickly thwarted, however, as the guard opted out of his $36.5 million player option a few days before the June 29 deadline.

The caveat here is that the above calculation assumes that Westbrook stays with the Lakers for one more year. Meanwhile, more and more teams are being linked with a move to make up for the 33-year-old’s ending salary, most notably the Indiana Pacers. But in any deal, trading Westbrook without a more long-term salary seems impossible — and so parting ways with the 2017 NBA MVP will further reduce the available cap space for Irving to sign next summer. will do it.

The trade with the Pacers will reportedly bring in Miles Turner and Buddy Heald in exchange for Westbrook and draft assets. While Turner’s contract expires next year, Heald still has more than $40 million left on his deal over the next two seasons—virtually taking up the Lakers’ remaining 2023-2024 cap space if his addition is only projected payroll. Breakdown is the change made.

Without the cap space, Purple and Gold could again only offer Irving mid-tier exception funding, which could exceed $11 million in the first year of the deal if they can stay below the luxury tax line.

Whether Westbrook is traded, LeBron can aid the Lakers in their pursuit of Irving by following James Harden’s lead and taking a significant pay cut by increasing LA’s free agency budget when he signs his expansion. . Purple and Gould could trade Horton-Tucker for an expiring contract, freeing up $11 million in cap space – or try another roster charades if they match other players like Heald between now and the 2023 offseason. make acquisitions.

An example of this is the New York Knicks this summer as they attached Draft Capital to Kemba Walker to trade him to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for a future draft pick, with no current pay back in return. He then did the same with Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel, trading him to the Pistons, which eventually opened up more cap space by signing Jalen Brunson to a four-year, $104 million free agency contract.

The Lakers could follow a similar path next summer if they have a legal shot at Irving, although doing so would require a partnership with some draft capital in the future.

If the Lakers think Irving will give them the best shot at the title in the years to come, then taking advantage of the turmoil in Brooklyn this summer could be the easiest way to sign him.

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