NBA Finals matchup makes Lakers' mistake look even more foolish

Los Angeles Lakers v Dallas Mavericks
Los Angeles Lakers v Dallas Mavericks / Ron Jenkins/GettyImages

It took just five games for the Denver Nuggets to eliminate the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. As bad as that loss was for the Lakers, the rest of the playoffs have proven that if the Lakers just got hot, they could have made a run to the NBA Finals.

Denver was bounced in the second round of the playoffs by the Minnesota Timberwolves, who were shockingly dismantled in the Western Conference Finals by the Dallas Mavericks. Dallas now finds itself in the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics while Lakers fans imagine what could have been.

This year's Lakers team was not only talented enough to make a similar run to the NBA Finals but could have had the very same star that has helped propel Dallas to this point. Kyrie Irving very easily could have been a Laker and with the benefit of hindsight, it feels outrageous that he isn't.

Lakers not trading for Kyrie Irving now feels like a massive mistake

Prior to his tenure with the Dallas Mavericks, there was a lot of speculation about Kyrie Irving joining the Lakers. It started prior to the 2022-23 season when there were questions about the future of the Brooklyn Nets. At the time, the Lakers would have had to pair Russell Westbrook with at least two first-round picks to make the trade happen.

At that time it did not make sense for the Nets to trade Irving so nothing came out of the speculation. However, fast forward to the 2023 trade deadline and Irving was being shopped at a much lower price.

Irving was traded for Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie, an unprotected 2029 first-round pick and two second-round picks. The Lakers could have matched that price, and ended up trading a first-round pick to get off of Westbrook anyway.

It was a controversial idea at the time but it was one that both LeBron James and Irving reportedly supported. ESPN's Ramona Shelburne recalled that Irving, "had a strong interest in reuniting with James". LeBron, meanwhile, was "open to the idea, sources said, but careful not to do anything that would be seen as a push".

It didn't take long for LeBron to outright tell the world that he wanted Kyrie in Los Angeles. On the same day that Irving was traded, LeBron went to the media and said that he was disappointed that the Lakers couldn't get a trade done for Irving. That was an obvious, direct message to the front office.

And less than 18 months later, LeBron appears to be the one in the right. Nothing is guaranteed in this league, but a Lakers team with LeBron, Kryie, Anthony Davis and Austin Reaves would have been more talented than this current version of the Mavericks, regardless of the players who would have been surrounding that foursome.

Now, LeBron enters an offseason in which he can flex his leverage and leave the Lakers high and dry. After Kyrie proved that the Lakers whiffed on trading for D'Angelo Russell instead of him, LeBron could very well find greener pastures this summer.