I have no #Sources, or any information at all to prove my assertion. I’m not basing this off of any rumors I heard on NBA Twitter, or anything like that.
It’s just a result of me evaluating the leverage both sides of this deal possess, and coming to the conclusion that Sean Marks of Brooklyn really has no choice but to trade Kyrie to the Lakers. And while Rob Pelinka doesn’t have a lot of leverage over Marks, he does have slightly more.
Let’s run through a hypothetical conversation that I just made up the dialogue for between Sean Marks and Rob Pelinka, negotiating the Kyrie trade. We will start from the beginning, but the latest news as of today (July 12) is that the main sticking point holding this trade up is that Brooklyn wants two first-rounders and LA only wants to send one first-rounder.
This is not because the Lakers think those draft picks in 2027 and 2029 are going to be incredible picks or anything like that (the kids in those draft classes are currently 14 and 12 years old respectively). It’s because the Lakers want to hold on to one first-round pick so they can use it as a trade asset in other deals after acquiring Kyrie–such as a deal for Buddy Hield or Eric Gordon. The Lakers still want to add more shooting after they get Kyrie (they’ll also presumably get Joe Harris in the Kyrie deal as well, but they would still like to add one more reliable shooter on top of those two).
So here’s the Pelinka-Marks dialogue, as I see it…
BEFORE JUNE 30:
Pelinka: “Sean, looks like you’ve got a problem on your hands with Kyrie. Well I’ve got a proposal here: you take Westbrook off our hands, get his expiring contract for next summer, and we’ll take Kyrie off your hands, plus Seth Curry to make the salaries work.”
Marks: “Hah! Yeah right, mate. Westbrick? I’ll take me chances with Kyrie!”
Pelinka: “But Kyrie is saying he might just opt out of his deal and become a free agent if you don’t trade him to us.”
Marks: “You guys don’t have the cap space to sign him.”
Pelinka: “What if he takes the mid-level exception with us? He might just be crazy enough to do it.”
Marks: “Trust me, mate. He might be crazy, but he’s not that crazy.”
Narrator: And Marks was right. Kyrie was not that crazy. He opted in to his contract for $37 million rather than signing as a free agent with the Lakers for $6 million.
AFTER KD REQUESTED A TRADE
Pelinka: “Well, looks like we’re back to where we started. You’ve got to trade Kyrie now, Sean. offer is still on the table: Westbrook for Kyrie and Seth Curry.”
Marks: “I’ve got to trade Kyrie, sure. But you have to trade Westbrook. And right now, I’m your only real hope at doing that and getting something good in return.”
Pelinka: “We could trade him to Charlotte or Indiana.”
Marks: “And get saddled with Hayward’s contract? One bad contract for another, huh?”
Pelinka: “At least we have other options. You don’t. Kyrie wants to come to LA.”
Marks: “Dallas and Philly are kicking the tires. Don’t assume you’re the only suitor here.”
Narrator: Dallas and Philly were most certainly not interested in Kyrie, and Pelinka knew it.
Pelinka: “Come on, Sean. We all know Dallas and Philly want nothing to do with Irving. We’re the only option you have here.”
Marks: “Look, Rob. I gave up a boatload of first round picks to get Harden, and still haven’t recouped them all yet. If I’m going to lose KD and Kyrie, I’m going to need some picks to start a rebuild here. And I need you to take Joe Harris instead of Curry. Harris has the bigger contract and I want him off my books. Curry is cheaper and better and I’d like to keep him.”
Pelinka: “Okay, fine. We’ll take Harris. And I’ll give you one first rounder–2027. It’s all I can offer.”
Marks: “Two first rounders.”
Pelinka: “I can’t do two. I need to have some assets left over after this trade. We still need shooting.”
Marks: “True, but you need to get rid of Westbrook even more. What are you really going to do, Rob? Keep Russell Westbrook? You and your new coach keep talking about all these big plans you have for him next year, but we all know you’d trade him for a pair of worn out Converse All Stars if you could. You and I both know you have no chance at winning next year if he’s still on your roster. You’re more desperate than I am!”
Pelinka: “Sean, you know you can’t go into training camp with Kyrie. And you know we’re just going to sign him a year from now when he’s a free agent, and you’ll lose him for nothing. How does that sound? You want to lose Kyrie for nothing?”
Marks: “How old is LeBron these days, Rob? 37, turning 38 midway through next season? Yeah, I’m sure he wants to wait a whole year for Kyrie. And I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to be running it back with Westbrook in his 20th season. Have fun telling LeBron he’s officially going to retire with 4 rings!”
Pelinka: “You got me there. But what does that accomplish for you? Play it out: you stubbornly hold on to Kyrie, you pay him $37 million and he doesn’t play for you. You guys win 28 games. Kyrie becomes a free agent in summer ’23, we sign him after wasting another year of LeBron’s prime. Maybe LeBron’s game falls off a cliff after next season and our window is closed before Kyrie ever takes the floor in a Laker uniform. But you still lost Kyrie for nothing. Is that really what you want? You just want to spite me?”
Marks: “No, you’re right. Let’s do the damn deal, then.”
That’s the way I see this playing out. I think the deal is taking longer than expected because Pelinka is holding out to ensure he doesn’t have to give up two first-rounders.
He does run the risk that Kyrie changes his mind, though. You never know what can happen when it comes to Kyrie Irving. Maybe he suddenly starts to look at it as, “The Lakers don’t want to give up two first round picks for me? They don’t think I’m worth it? Maybe I don’t want to play for them after all. Maybe I’m open to going to Dallas.”
And then the Lakers suddenly lose a ton of leverage and have to compete with Dallas. That’s the nightmare scenario for Rob Pelinka and the Lakers. I think it’s unlikely, because I think Kyrie is probably being appraised of the whole situation through back-channels–he knows Pelinka is trying to get as good a price as possible so he can add another shooter after he closes the Kyrie deal.
And I think LeBron knows this, too, which is why I don’t see the whole, “The Nets can hold out until LeBron starts applying some pressure on Pelinka and hopefully that causes Pelinka to fold.” LeBron can sign his contract extension starting on August 4th. The hope, from Brooklyn’s perspective, is that LeBron says, “I’m not signing that extension until Kyrie is a Laker.” And then that will force Pelinka to acquiesce to whatever Marks wants in exchange for Kyrie.
But I don’t think this will work. I don’t think LeBron will do that to the Lakers. I think he fully understands the dynamics of this trade negotiation.
We all know LeBron doesn’t give a shit about the Lakers’ 2027 and 2029 first round picks. LeBron wants to win now. Even if LeBron is still in the league in 2027 (unlikely, but I wouldn’t rule it out completely), he wants guys who can help him win now, not 19-year-old rookies. But LeBron also knows that if Pelinka can get Kyrie without having to give up both first round picks, it means Pelinka can probably also add yet another shooter in the form of Hield or Gordon. And I’m sure LeBron’s on board with that–he wants to get Kyrie and another shooter afterward. It benefits him if Pelinka doesn’t have to send out two first rounders, hence I don’t think LeBron will put the pressure on Pelinka to give up both first-rounders. I think as long as LeBron is on board with Pelinka’s plan, it’ll work and eventually Marks will have to just accept the fact that only one first-rounder is coming his way from the Lakers.
I really don’t think Sean Marks has any other options here. Kyrie wants to be a Laker, and no other team but the Lakers wants Kyrie. Marks is really over a barrel here.