Even when they aren’t not playing, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are the center of the basketball universe.
This time, the 19-year vet has been thrown out as a trade chip, to where?
On Wednesday morning, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith argued that the Lakers should explore all their options to stay relevant, including trading James:
.@stephenasmith has a solution for the Lakers 👀
“I think the Los Angeles Lakers should strongly consider trading LeBron James. That is what I believe.” pic.twitter.com/CI3l7lAqJ7
— First Take (@FirstTake) May 4, 2022
It’s an interesting, if completely unfeasible idea.
A little context–the Lakers are coming off of a massively disappointing season.
Anthony Davis missed significant time, Russell Westbrook played too much, and the aging superstar James didn’t have nearly enough talent around him.
Despite that, James had another incredible season.
Had the Lakers been more competitive, there’s probably no question James would have been a legitimate MVP contender, alongside Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Lakers enter the offseason without a head coach, having fired Frank Vogel, apparently before even telling the coach himself.
LeBron himself has done little to quell the speculation, making quite the show at All Star Weekend.
Among other things, LeBron cast implicit doubt in Lakers GM Rob Pelinka, heralding the job Sam Presti has done in Oklahoma City.
He also refused to shut the door on a potential return to Cleveland.
Oh, and he announced his intentions to play pro ball with his son.
Somehow, in the middle of it all, he managed to play basketball.
In addition to the Cavaliers, Smith said he would make calls to Utah, Portland, and Miami for James.
It also sounds like Smith would expect to net some massive haul of young talent from those teams (or in the case of Portland–not so young, talent).
But it’s hard to imagine Utah parting ways with Donovan Mitchell for James, Miami sending Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro to Los Angeles.
And frankly, I’m not sure what else the Lakers would really want from Portland to make up for James’ loss.
The Heat are already an aging team; the Jimmy Butler–Kyle Lowry core has logged serious NBA minutes.
Another point made was whether LeBron would even consider a move to these destinations, especially Utah.
That might be problematic, but Smith noted that there no longer is a no-trade clause in LeBron’s contract.
That said, it’s hard to imagine the Lakers shipping their superstar; the franchise has established a reputation as a premium destination not just because of proximity to Hollywood and power, but for the way it treats its stars.
Put short: the Buss Family treats basketball legends as family.
But enough about Los Angeles.
What could this look like for Cleveland?
To begin with, to pull off a trade like Stephen A. suggests, the Cavs would be looking at shipping at least two (or more) of Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen.
That’s…uh…probably a nonstarter.
Those three pieces are future cornerstones, young assets that, with growth and nurturing, should bloom magnificently.
Adding LeBron does add one of the greatest NBA players off all time.
But for what?
It’s hard imagining the front office sacrifices everything it’s worked towards over the last four years.
Plus, don’t underestimate the hunger to win without LeBron.
This is a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game without LeBron since the 1990s.
Proving they can win, even without LeBron, has to be a major goal for this team.
Even if they won’t admit it.
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