LeBron to Dallas? Three reasons why it probably won’t happen

A potential reunion of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving has been rumored for over a year now. Speculation grew when he requested a trade ahead of last season’s deadline and the Lakers made an offer for him. Despite getting moved to the Mavericks, that speculation continued with Irving attending Lakers playoff games ahead of his free agency this summer.

According to Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes, Irving indeed is interested in reuniting with James but in Dallas. This might signal that Irving is committed to the Mavericks and is trying to recruit talent to join him and Luka Doncic. While there are ways the Mavericks could acquire James this offseason and form a new Big Three, it is an extremely unlikely scenario for several reasons.

The Mavericks don't have the assets

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Unless James were to seriously press a trade with the threat of retirement, the Mavericks don’t have a reasonable offer that would satisfy the Lakers. Assuming the goal is to pair James with Doncic and Irving, the best offer they could reasonably make includes prospects Josh Green and Jaden Hardy, and a maximum of two first-round picks. Because they still owe the Knicks a Top 10 protected first-round pick in 2024, and they traded their 2029 pick to Brooklyn, they are limited to moving the 10th overall selection in this year’s draft, and their 2027 first-round pick.

As for veteran talent who also would make up the majority of the salary matching for James, it’s hard to imagine the Lakers being thrilled about acquiring a combination of Tim Hardaway Jr., Davis Bertans, Maxi Kleber, Reggie Bullock, JaVale McGee, or even Christian Wood or Dwight Powell through sign-and-trades. If push comes to shove, the Lakers could arguably be better off agreeing to a buyout with James where he reduces his guarantee to $0. This would increase their cap space projection this summer to nearly $80 million.

Having that Big Three could decimate their depth

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The best way for the Mavericks to form their Big Three while being able to pay Irving a market-value contract would be to trade for James before July 1. That way the Mavericks would operate under the current trade rules and would only need to send back $35.5 million to match for James. This would prevent them from having roster-building restrictions in 2023-24 since the modified trade rules in the new CBA could hard cap them.

Once the new league year rolls in, the Mavericks would be required to send at least $37.3 million in outgoing salaries to match for James. However, sending out anything less than $42.6 million, or 10 percent less than James’ salary, would hard cap them below the first tax apron, projected at $169 million. This would limit the depth they can put around their trio assuming Irving gets a maximum salary or close to it. In this scenario, they may have to roster 9-10 minimum players to field a roster while staying below the first tax apron.

It would be expensive and restrictive in the future

Even if the Mavericks were able to trade for James while re-signing Irving to a big contract, the team would get very expensive. The Mavericks could be looking at a luxury tax penalty north of $100 million in 2023-24 if they’re able to acquire James with the minimum matching salaries required without hard capping themselves, re-sign Irving to a maximum contract, and re-sign Powell and Wood.

Aside from expensive tax payments, such a heavy payroll would put the Mavericks over the second tax apron going forward. This would restrict them in many ways from improving the roster, such as no longer having access to the mid-level exception, not being able to sign certain veterans in the buyout market, and being unable to increase payroll, aggregate players, or send out cash in trades. They would essentially be locked into the group they end up surrounding their Big Three with.

Story originally appeared on HoopsHype