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Will Anthony Davis trade ruin Nets plan to sign Kyrie Irving?

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Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Lakers on Saturday traded Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and a boatload of draft picks to the Pelicans for Anthony Davis, leaving L.A. one player short of a super team ... and with around $30 million in cap space to lure one.

While Marc Stein of the Times reported that Kemba Walker will be L.A.’s top choice in free agency, two reporters on the Athletic report that Kyrie Irving could be the target.

As our Lakers’ sister site, Silver Screen and Roll reported early Sunday, while the Nets still appear to be the favorites for Irving, the addition of Davis could appeal to Irving. According to David Aldridge of The Athletic:

If Davis waives his $4.7 million trade kicker, the Lakers will be able to add another star in free agency on a max contract. Whether it’s Kemba Walker, whom the New York Times’ Marc Stein reported as a potential Lakers target, or Kyrie Irving, whom sources have maintained for months wants to play with Davis, someone dynamic will likely be on the ball next season in L.A. (Cap guru Albert Nahmad pointed out Saturday that the Lakers might wait 30 days after the June 20 draft to officially execute the trade so Davis could keep his trade bonus.)

Aldridge wasn’t alone. Sam Amick, another respected writer, suggested Irving is likely to be the subject of some heavy wooing from both Davis and LeBron James, with whom he won a chip in Cleveland. Amick also writes Irving-to-Brooklyn is NOT yet a done deal.

And now, with the Lakers still capable of creating enough cap room for another max-salary player in time for the start of free agency on June 30, there’s a very real possibility that one of the many available top-tier talents could decide to join them and form the kind of superstar trio that LeBron was accustomed to both in Miami and Cleveland.

Could it be Kyrie Irving, whose frustration with the Celtics experience has been well chronicled and who has been tied to the Brooklyn Nets in recent days? It certainly matters that the two former Cavs co-stars reconciled back in January, when our Joe Vardon detailed the apology phone call heard ‘round the basketball world. What’s more, it was also clear back then that James was open to the possibility of a reunion. Just days before the Davis deal was done, a source close to James indicated some optimism that – Nets noise be darned – Irving was still in play for the Lakers.

NetsDaily can report that the Nets — from front office to team bench — are optimistic about Irving signing in Brooklyn, but there’s been no commitment and, in fact can’t be, at least officially, until free agency begins at 6 p.m. on June 30.

Not everyone believes that Irving is the new L.A. superteam’s top target. Marc Stein writes Sunday...

[T]he Lakers plan to make a strong push to sign Charlotte’s Kemba Walker when free agency begins on June 30, according to two people familiar with their plans who were not authorized to discuss them publicly.

The Lakers are expecting to have $28 million to $33 million in salary-cap space to pursue Walker to fill the void in their backcourt created by the departures of Ball and Hart. Walker, a three-time All-Star, has said he will give the Hornets first crack to re-sign him but is also expected to be pursued aggressively by the Dallas Mavericks as well as the Lakers.

Problem for Walker is that he’d leave $81 million and an extra year of security on the table if he signs anywhere but Charlotte. That’s the difference between the $221.3 million the Hornets can pay him over five years and the $140.6 million over four any one else can. Walker said last week that he might sacrifice a little to help the Hornets, but no player has ever left that much money behind, superteam or not. Not to mention that for the first time in his career, he wouldn’t be the top dog on a team.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer also reported, “Don’t bank on Kyrie Irving reuniting with LeBron. League sources fully expect him to sign with the Brooklyn Nets.”

Where does that leave the Nets if Irving went west to La-La Land? As a league source told NetsDaily two nights ago, they remain “fluid and flexible,” with enough cap space to move in any one of a number of directions, including retaining most of last season’s team, starting with D’Angelo Russell. SNY’s Ian Begley reported Friday that if the Nets sign Irving, it is “highly unlikely” DLo will return to Brooklyn.

After the Allen Crabbe-for-Taurean Prince modified salary dump, the Nets have $46 million in cap space. By renouncing Russell and some other minor moves, they get that number up to $68 million, enough for two max free agents. They did give up two first round picks in the Crabbe deal, but still retain all their firsts from 2021 on and have a plethora of seconds.

Speaking of Draft picks, the Lakers decision to hand the Pelicans three first rounders (only one protected) and two first round pick swaps recalled the Nets’ package for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry. There are, of course, two big differences. On one hand, Davis is 26, ten years younger than any of the three Celtics. On the other, the Nets didn’t give up any good young players in the Celtics deal, while the Lakers are surrendering two overall No. 2s in Ball and Ingram, as well as Josh Hart who’s proven himself a solid NBA player.