Winning a championship in 2016 with the Cleveland Cavaliers after being down 3-1 in the series was one of the biggest accomplishments of LeBron James' historic career. Right by his side helping him accomplish the unthinkable in the NBA Finals that year was Kyrie Irving.
The duo of James and Irving had a chance to be extremely special for many years to come in Cleveland, yet egos and the mentality of wanting more got in the way of success. Irving was traded from the Cavs to the Boston Celtics in 2017 due to the notion that he wanted to be a focal point on his own without James. Shortly after, LeBron left Cleveland for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018.
A lot has changed since these two stars split from the Cavaliers, as Irving is now with the Dallas Mavericks, his third team in the last five seasons, and James is nearing the end of the line in his Hall of Fame career in Los Angeles.
After losing in the Western Conference Finals this season with the Lakers, LeBron James has hinted at possibly retiring, but is that really what he wants? Irving is set to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and has a handshake agreement in place to remain with the Mavericks- but is he having other thoughts about what to do?
While they did split from Cleveland after winning a title together, the belief of LeBron and Kyrie teaming back up with one another has remained a constant in the NBA throughout the last few seasons. The two All-Stars are still close friends with one another and joining forces again seems to be an appealing scenario.
Irving being traded to the Lakers was a topic of discussion amongst league circles last summer and then again at the trade deadline this past season. Los Angeles did not look to pull the trigger on a deal in either instance and now, questions about whether Irving will join the Lakers in free agency are beginning to form.
However, Irving may not be the one to leave his team in a reunion with LeBron.
Kyrie Irving reportedly wants LeBron James on Mavs
According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, Irving has reached out to James in attempts to see if he would be open to joining the Mavericks this offseason. While he still has another year left on his contract before a player option, James' mysterious comments following his team's exit from the playoffs have opened the door for discussion about whether he wants to remain with the Lakers.
The idea presented across the league has always been for Irving to join James in Los Angeles. Could the scripts flip this offseason and see James team up with Irving and superstar Luka Doncic in Dallas?
There is certainly traction that exists between Kyrie and LeBron to play with one another again. This suggestion existed last offseason and now it holds true once again this offseason, as Bleacher Report's Chris Haynes also reported that Irving has a desire for the Mavericks to pursue James. The catch here though is that according to Haynes, the Mavericks were preparing to make an offer for James at the trade deadline this past season.
Why this LeBron James-to-Mavs scenario is pure fantasy
Adding LeBron James at the deadline and pairing him with Irving and Doncic would have surely saved Dallas' season, but the problem here is that this could not happen. Aside from what the trade would look like from a personnel and financial standpoint, trading LeBron was an impossible idea for the Lakers to ponder this season because of the extension he signed in August 2022. As a result, he was ineligible to be traded over the course of the 2022-23 season.
Something does not add up here. The Mavericks front office is obviously very aware of the rules regarding player contracts and they would have known they had no way of pursuing LeBron, so why even put together a hypothetical trade package for him? Maybe they were just planning ahead for this offseason, but let's just address the elephant in the room – Dallas has no assets to pull off what would be the heist of all heists in NBA history by trading for James.
If the Lakers are actually going to consider trading their superstar, which they have shown no interest in doing, they are going to want to add draft picks, young players and dynamic talents that can help them grow into a solid, all-around team. The best deal the Mavericks could potentially offer them, assuming they are not trading Doncic, includes Tim Hardaway Jr., Josh Green, Jaden Hardy and Christian Wood in a sign-and-trade scenario since he is a free agent this offseason.
This would hard cap the Lakers as a result of the sign-and-trade. They would be taking on an unfavorable contract with Hardaway Jr. and Dallas really does not have any draft assets to trade. You also have to consider the financial implications of the Mavericks possibly pursuing James and the $46.9 million guaranteed on his contract for next season.
The Mavs can give Kyrie more money than any team this summer with a five-year, $272 million deal and even if they were to give him less than this, it is still hard to believe that Irving would accept anything less than $40 million per year. Doncic is already making $40 million for the 2023-24 season and if you factor James' contract into this, that is almost $130 million in salaries between three players. The salary cap for next season is $134 million and the tax line is set at $162 million.
Owner Mark Cuban is never afraid to spend big money in order to put his team in a position to contend for a title, but with the new CBA guidelines coming into effect soon and the league about to harshly penalize teams that have an excessive payroll, the image of Dallas pursuing James becomes extremely blurry. It's not feasible for them to put together a good enough trade offer for LeBron and it is extremely hard to imagine that either Irving or James would be willing to take massive cuts to their salaries.
LeBron James, who is set to make $46.9 million next season and then potentially over $50 million during the 2024-25 season with his player option, would be a fool to give up any of his money- and he is not going to negotiate a buyout either. On the other side of things, being tied down to over $40 million in guaranteed money is not something the Lakers want, so they are going be unwilling to negotiate a buyout as well.
The Mavericks have zero assets to give up in a trade for any superstar around the league and their cap situation is about to become very complicated with Irving's free agency.
At the end of the day, all of this is simply about Irving and James wanting to play with one another again. Kyrie may very well be sending a message to the Mavericks about his desire to play with James and it is already known that LeBron wants Los Angeles to make championship-level moves this offseason.
Playing together in Dallas just isn't feasible from both a free agency and trade perspective. Irving joining James on the Lakers though, remains a possibility heading into the offseason, and this is a scenario that the Mavericks have to be very careful about, especially since they gave up so much to land Kyrie at the trade deadline.
Want to see LeBron James join Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic in Dallas? Well, I hope you have NBA 2K updated and ready to play because that's the only way you will see that trio on the Mavericks!