Four Possible Paths for LeBron James and Los Angeles Lakers This Summer
Two disappointing injury-plagued seasons where the front office failed to make moves to improve the team at the trade deadline have now morphed into a crisis that could result in LeBron James leaving the Los Angeles Lakers.
For a team that won its 17th NBA championship just seventeen month ago, how the landscape has changed is stunning. How the Lakers respond and play the rest of this season could be critical to what finally happens this summer. Maybe everything is just posturing as usual and LeBron is just putting the normal pressure on the Lakers to be prepared to make major moves and spend lavishly this summer to build a legitimate championship team to keep him.
Or maybe what we’re seeing is the next step in evolution of player freedom as LeBron James choreographs a dramatic return back to Cleveland or minimum contract signing as a free agent to play for the team that drafts his son Bronny. Bronny will eligible to be drafted by an NBA team the summer of 2024 while LeBron’s current contract with the Lakers ends the summer of 2023, meaning next season could be LeBron James’ final year wearing the purple and gold.
This summer was going to be a huge for the Lakers before LeBron turned it into the summer that will determine the future of the franchise. Here are four possible paths for LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers this summer.
1. LeBron Signs Extension and Guarantees Lakers Two Years
LeBron signing a 1+1 extension is probably the best solution as it guarantees the Lakers at least two more years of the King while setting up a 39-year old James to join another NBA team and enjoy his dream of playing with his son.
This would certainly be the Kumbaya solution as it would signal at least a temporary peace and alignment between the Los Angeles Lakers and Klutch Sports and a recommitment to winning championships with LeBron and AD. It’s also the smartest option for both sides, who know that injuries have been the real culprits who’ve derailed the Lakers/Klutch championship quest. A heathy, rested, and engaged LeBron James and Anthony Davis is unbeatable.
James agreeing to an extension to be a Laker through 2024 with an option to be a free agent the same summer his son Bronny is likely to be drafted by an NBA team would be the idea solution for the Lakers and Klutch this summer.
2. LeBron Refuses Extension and Lakers Gamble to Keep Him
LeBron refusing to sign an extension and threatening to leave as a free agent after next season could force the Lakers to pursue a blockbuster trade this summer to replace Russell Westbrook with a legitimate third superstar.
While the Lakers’ assets were underwhelming at the trade deadline, they should be appreciably better this summer when the Lakers will be able to offer two first round draft picks and Westbrook will become an expiring contract. Whether that would be enough to trade for a legitimate third superstar like Dame or Beal is uncertain as is the question of whether it would be smarter to swap Russ, the picks, and filler for three elite starters and a deeper bench.
In any event, LeBron may opt to keep his options after next season open and apply maximum pressure on the Lakers to make moves and spend money this summer to build a championship team or risk losing him to free agency.
3. LeBron Refuses Extension and Lakers Look to Trade Him
The Lakers’ other option should LeBron refuse to sign an extension would be to trade James this summer to avoid losing him for nothing the following summer. Trading LeBron could end up being a savvy move by the Lakers.
Even though he’s 37-years old, there’s no question LeBron James would bring back a huge package of talent and picks. Would the Cavs be willing to give up Collin Sexton, Jarrett Allen, Kevin Love, and two first round picks for LeBron? Could the Lakers choreograph a LeBron James trade that netted them another top ten player and a couple of elite starters plus picks for the future. It would not have to be a rebuild. The Lakers could still remain a legitimate contender.
While trading LeBron could yield a huge haul, the simple truth is LeBron is irreplaceable for the Lakers, which is why Los Angeles needs to look at every possible option to convince LeBron to stay, including drafting Bronny James.
4. Lakers Breakup with Klutch and Also Trade Anthony Davis
To their competition, the partnership between the LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers and Rich Paul’s Klutch Sports is like an unholy alliance with the devil, something the league should be investigating and somehow outlawing.
The past two seasons, however, have been plagued by injuries to both James and Davis, reminding everybody LeBron is now 37-years old and Anthony has missed more games than he’s played during the last two Lakers’ seasons. Maybe it’s buyer’s remorse for agreeing to LeBron’s and AD’s request to trade for Russ, or the pressure to not trade THT for Kyle Lowry last year or pressure this year to trade Russ and the pick to Rockets for Klutch client John Wall?
At any rate, one very possible fallout from the collapse of the alliance between the Los Angeles Lakers and Klutch Sports could be a request from Rich Paul for the Lakers to trade both LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
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