The Los Angeles Lakers are still rejoicing over snagging LeBron James this summer. But what if it doesn’t work? While LeBron is still considered the best player in the NBA, he’s still 33-years old and just signed a 4-year deal that will take him to 37. This is something the Lakers must be mindful of as the years pile on–championships or not.
While many will argue that the Lakers held on to Kobe Bryant for too long, it’s without a doubt that Kobe was the Lakers. LeBron, however, is a rental. The good thing about LeBron is that he has avoided any major injuries during his stellar career. But one thing is for certain–no one can outrun Father Time.
The Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James Are on A Mission
In Year One of the LeBron James era, the Los Angeles Lakers will be experimenting. With the lineup they have now, no one expects them to carry much weight in the Western Conference. Yes, LeBron instantly improves them and when you add in Rajon Rondo to pair with Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball, they have a pretty nice nucleus. But still, this is the West where they will have to contend with the likes of the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz and more. It won’t be easy.
But what happens in Year Two will decide how long the Lakers will give LeBron to turn things around. James going to L.A. is not the same as him heading to the Orlando Magic or Phoenix Suns. The Los Angeles Lakers are a proud franchise who has housed some of the NBA’s best talent over the years and winning is expected. But what if he can’t get it done?
Year Two is important as players like Kawhi Leonard, DeAndre Jordan, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant will be available. If the Lakers can find a way to snag either one of them, then their chances of raising banner No.17 greatly increase. However, if they don’t, then the Lakers and LeBron James will head into Year Three with a tough decision. By then, James will be 35-years old, Ball, Ingram, and Kuzma will be looking for huge paydays and Magic Johnson must decide what’s more important– the present or the future?
The Reason The Lakers May Trade LeBron
By Year Three, LeBron will be on the books for $39 million with a player option for his fourth year. One of the reasons why the Lakers may trade him, despite his family’s presence in L.A., is that this is a business. Why would the Los Angeles Lakers let one player dictate their future? Think about it. What team wouldn’t give the Lakers a nice haul for James even at the age of 35? Even with a few more years added on, is it that hard to think that LeBron’s averages will fall that dramatically from his normal 27 points, seven assists, and seven rebounds? LeBron, even at 35, will still be better than 85 percent of the players in the league. This would be a bold move by Johnson and Rob Pelinka but one that must be made.
If the Lakers can find a way to keep their young core, trading LeBron for players and draft picks will ensure they still have a fighting chance in the West. By keeping him through his deal, they run the risk of letting him get too old or watching him walk away from his option, leaving them empty-handed.
While fans can’t see it now, the Lakers may have played their cards right by not giving LeBron James a No-Trade Clause (NTC). There’s no need for them to end up like the New York Knicks and Carmelo Anthony. If James was five years younger than maybe attaching a NTC would have made sense but even he has to know his career is coming to a close.
Trading LeBron seems foolish now, but if the Lakers fail to do what’s expected of them with him on the team, they will have no choice but to look for other options.