The Lakers aren’t going to trade LeBron James. It would be an admission of failure this season, and James is one of that small group of players that franchises just do not trade, even if they are going to walk in free agency.
Instead, the question is should the Lakers at least consider the possibility? No, they probably won’t even humour it… But, what if they did?
What if the Lakers could rebuild around Anthony Davis and restock their draft capital?
LeBron has a player option for 2024-25. It’s no secret he wants to play with his eldest son, Bronny, who is eligible for the NBA Draft this summer.
Aside from his connections to Los Angeles, what is keeping LeBron at the Lakers?
They are 19th in net rating. They are only +1.2 per 100 possessions with James on the floor. An adjusted shot quality of sixth-best in the Association is one of the few positives this season.
Winning a title and playing with Bronny are LeBron’s priorities. The former seems impossible in 2024. The latter could be arranged at any number of teams.
If the Lakers accept they are no more than a Play-In Tournament team this season, shouldn’t they at least survey the LeBron trade market before the deadline? If they can’t get into the top six in the West with James relatively healthy and Davis playing at an All-NBA level, what is the upside with this roster?
Despite winning their last three, the Lakers just aren’t very good. Their offense is 20th in the league. They are 21st in turnover rate, bottom-10 in forcing opponent turnovers, and shooting remains an issue. Only eight teams have a tougher remaining schedule.
So, say we work on the assumption this is a lost season for the Lakers. It would make sense for James to at least be open to a trade if he can land somewhere with at least an outside shot at the title. Most semi-contenders become full-fledged title challengers if they trade for LeBron – he’s still that good.
Possible LeBron trade destinations
The Sixers are the most obvious landing spot. Joel Embiid’s injury might make Daryl Morey more cautious before the deadline, but if they’re confident Embiid will return, LeBron would certainly Tyrese Maxey for the remainder of the regular season. That’s one hell of a Big Three for the Playoffs.
Philly could use Tobias Harris’ expiring salary as the centerpiece. Alternatively, they could bundle together Marcus Morris, Robert Covington, Furkan Korkmaz, Jaden Springer and filler. Morey has several first-round picks at his disposal after trading James Harden to the Clippers.
In these most hypothetical of hypothetical trades, the Knicks have often been mentioned. Rich Paul has reportedly ‘hashed out’ tensions with Leon Rose. New York has been on a tear since acquiring OG Anunoby, and could yet earn a top-two seed in the East.
Like with the Sixers, the most obvious configuration is around Julius Randle. James and Randle are not a good fit, but New York could build a deal around Mitchell Robinson, Evan Fournier, Ryan Ardiciacono and Jericho Sims. Isaiah Hartenstein is a more than serviceable starting center to replace Robinson long-term.
New York has an arsenal of firsts to deal, albeit most are heavily protected. Would the Lakers gamble on a future Knicks first?
Out in the Western Conference, the Mavs are probably the only team that could talk themselves into a LeBron trade. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Richaun Holmes’ salaries would need plenty of filler, and the Mavs can only trade one first. Again, though, that might be worth a dice roll for the Lakers in case Luka Doncic leaves.
Lakers should at least consider trading LeBron
Even in his age-39 season, trading LeBron James would immediately be one of the biggest trade deadline deals in NBA history.
The Lakers aren’t going to do it.
It’s probably a topic not even worth bringing up in front office discussions.
They should have at least thought about it, though, and it would be a mistake not to see what teams might offer.