Should Los Angeles Lakers Consider LeBron James Trade?

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA Trade Rumors
NBA Analysis Network

The 2021-22 NBA season didn’t end the way the Los Angeles Lakers or LeBron James had hoped or expected. After forming a new “super team” by trading for former MVP Russell Westbrook, the Lakers proceeded to struggle with injuries and on-court chemistry in route to a 49-loss record that ultimately held them out of the postseason altogether, failing to land even the 10th-seed to skate in with the new Play-In Tournament format.

Now, Lakers brass has some tough decisions to make as the current roster has proven to be deeply flawed. Unfortunately, when the Lakers traded for Westbrook, they also shipped out all of their valuable trade assets in Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and their 2021 first-round pick that was rerouted to the Indiana Pacers.

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka now has to find a way to construct a championship-caliber roster around LeBron James despite having almost no means to do so.

Russell Westbrook just came off perhaps the worst season of his entire career and carries a $47 million-plus salary figure for next season, making him virtually an untradeable contract. The Los Angeles Lakers could trade Anthony Davis — an All-NBA big man still theoretically in the middle of his prime — and try to build a contender around LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, and whatever they get in return for Davis.

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The Lakers get left in a precarious situation moving forward, though, as both LeBron and Russ become free agents at the conclusion of the 2022-23 NBA season. Anthony Davis, on the other hand, is signed through 2024-2025 and could either segue the Lakers into their post-LeBron era or be used as trade fodder to help Los Angeles rebuild after James leaves or retires.

Of course, if the Lakers do nothing or fail to improve next season, LeBron will either leave in free agency or sign one of his infamous “one-and-one” deals — a two-year contract with a player option in the second year that keeps leverage over his team and flexibility in his back pocket.

He’s already gone on record to say that he plans to play with his son, Bronny, when his junior is drafted into the league, meaning that he plans to be a free agent the summer of his son’s eligibility in 2024.

Rather than let James exert his leverage over the organization and potentially jeopardize the future of the Los Angeles Lakers for years after his departure, perhaps Pelinka should take advantage of LeBron — the asset — while he still can.

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Surely, 29 teams would be willing to pay a ransom to bring LeBron James on board, even if it’s just for one season. Los Angeles could theoretically launch a rebuild around Anthony Davis and prevent James from manipulating them through clever contract structuring by trading him for as many future assets as they can.

It’s a safer bet than trying to build a contender with the spare parts they currently have in attempts to appease LeBron James.