What Can the Lakers Do To Convince LeBron James to Extend His Contract?
The Lakers will be under intense pressure to win games the rest of this season and transform their flawed roster into a deeper, more balanced and talented team this summer in an effort to convince LeBron James to sign an extension.
LeBron James will become eligible to sign a 2-year extension with the Lakers on August 4th. The Lakers need to do everything in their power before then to win enough games and improve their roster to convince LeBron to re-sign with them. While the Lakers didn’t have the trading chips to make a big move at the trade deadline, will be able to offer their 2027 and 2029 first round draft picks and Russell Westbrook’s $47 million player option will be an expiring contract.
There’s also been a rash of articles in the media and blogs about the Lakers wanting to distance themselves from Klutch Sports. While the organizations have many common goals, their motives have not always been totally aligned. Nevertheless, the partnership has resulted in the Lakers acquiring superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis and winning the franchise’s 17th NBA championship in the bubble, proof of the benefits of the Klutch alliance.
The Los Angeles Lakers/Klutch Sports alliance has been a huge edge for the Lakers over other NBA teams. While it can be an unwieldy partnership at times requiring compromise, it’s an advantage no other team in the NBA possesses. That’s not something you throw away or risk losing. Nothing wrong with wanting to renegotiate certain issues but keeping communications open and working to refine and make the partnership even more rewarding is smart.
So what do the Los Angeles Lakers have to do to convince LeBron James to sign a two-year extension to continue wearing the purple and gold? Here are the four key things the Lakers must accomplish to get LeBron to sign an extension:
1. Mend Fences with Klutch Sports and Agree on Offseason Plan
Nobody really knows who or how the Lakers front office makes decisions. Most observers see the team being run by a cadre of four individuals: team governor Jeanie Buss, VPBO Rob Pelinka, and advisors Kurt and Linda Rambis.
What’s missing are the dominant voices the Lakers had when Jerry Buss was the managing owner and Jerry West the GM. Instead, the Lakers now make their decisions via mutual collaboration and consensus rather than executive edict. One of the reasons the collaborative approach has worked for the Lakers has been their close alliance or partnership with Rich Paul and Klutch Sports, the agency that coincidentally represents both LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
From the free agency signing of LeBron James to the forced trade of Anthony Davis, you could argue that Rich Paul and, by extension LeBron James, have been the real general managers behind the Lakers’ 17th NBA championship. While there can be situations where what’s best for the team and a player may not align, there’s little question signing LeBron James as a free agent and then forcing a trade for Anthony Davis were gifts to the Lakers by Klutch Sports.
Rob Pelinka and Rich Paul need to sit down together and get back on the same page because the LeBron James and Anthony Davis pairing is still the genius move that’s raised the bar and ceiling for both the Lakers and Klutch Sports. They need to share intelligence and work together to figure out how best to resolve the Russell Westbrook situation, keep the players who have proven they belong, and how to upgrade the starting lineup and overall rotations.
The Los Angeles Lakers/Klutch Sports partnership has been an important success for both the NBA team and the player agency. The Lakers need to do what’s necessary to mend the fences and keep Klutch Sports as an exclusive weapon.
2. Finish Regular Season Strong and Show Up Big in Playoffs
The Lakers have 24 games remaining in the regular season. They are currently 9th in the West with a 27–31 record. To compete for 6th in the West and avoid the play-in tourney, the Lakers will have to win 75% of the rest of their games.
That would mean going 18–6 with a good chance neither Anthony Davis or Kendrick Nunn will be available until the last 6 to 12 games. Realistically, the Lakers are going to be hard pressed to avoid being in the play-in tournament. While participating in the play-in tourney would definitely create a gauntlet the Lakers would have to survive to win the championship, the silver lining is they always have a chance with a healthy and motivated James and Davis.
The Lakers have finally elevated their play over the last few games, almost defeating the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco and coming from behind after losing Anthony Davis to an ankle injury to smack down the Utah Jazz. Hopefully, the team will back after the All-Star break refreshed and ready to make a serious stretch run despite missing their superstar center. While they probably can’t go 18–6 over the last 24, the goal should be at least 15–9.
As for the playoffs, here’s where it gets interesting, if the Laker finish 7th or 8th, they can win the #7 or #8 seed. If the finish 9th or 10th, they can only win the #8 seed. Ideally, the Lakers should want the #7 seed to face the Warriors. Because of matchups, the last team the Warriors want to play in the first round of the playoffs is the Los Angeles Lakers with healthy superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Lakers could upset Warriors and win first round battle.
Who knows, maybe the Lakers take down the Grizzlies in round two and the Suns to get to the Finals and we have a Hollywood ending to the story. Showing up in the playoffs, however, could be key to keeping LeBron James.
3. Bring Back Role Players Monk, Anthony, Reaves, Johnson, and Nunn
One of the underappreciated aspects of this season has been the emergence of several talented young players who should be part of the Lakers’ roster next season, hopefully providing some long needed continuity and consistency.
This season, the Lakers brought back just three players from the previous season: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Talen Horton-Tucker. The expected lack of continuity was exacerbated by injuries, creating constant dysfunctional lineups. Even if they trade Horton-Tucker, who’s not a great fit next to LeBron, AD, and Russ, the Lakers still have five quality role players to come off the bench in Malik Monk, Carmelo Anthony, Austin Reaves, Stanley .Johnson, and Kendrick Nunn
LeBron James and Anthony Davis plus the five proven role players listed above would give the Lakers’ roster for next season seven returning players, which is almost half of the fifteen active players each team is allowed to have on its roster. The Lakers need to use Russ’ $47 million expiring contract and THT’s $10 million contract and their 2027 and 2029 first round draft picks to trade for three quality starters to complement LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Of the five role players, Malik Monk is the one the Lakers are most at risk of losing because the most they can offer him is the taxpayer $6.2 million MLE, while there could also be teams willing to offer him the full $10 million MLE. Reaves is under contract, Nunn has a player option, Johnson a team option, and Anthony likely to want to run it back. So with luck, the Lakers might be able to keep the best of this year’s team for better continuity next season.
Bringing back players whom LeBron likes and respects is just as important as bringing in new players who solve needs that cost us wins this season. Monk, Anthony, Reaves, Johnson, and Nunn would give the Lakers a great bench.
4. Trade for Third Superstar or Three Elite Two-Way Starters
The most important thing the Lakers can do to get LeBron James to sign an extension this summer is trade Westbrook, Horton-Tucker, and their 2027 and 2029 first round draft picks for a third superstar or three quality starters.
How successful the Lakers are in trading Russ’ $47 million expiring contract, Horton-Tucker’s for that elusive third superstar —like Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal — could easily determine whether LeBron James stays or forces a trade. While it seems like a long shot that the Lakers could turn Westbrook, Horton-Tucker, and two first round picks into a third superstar or three elite starters, there are fortunately pathways Pelinka can take to accomplish both goals.
Landing a legitimate third superstar to complement James and Davis would likely require a loyal superstar like Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal requesting the Blazers or the Wizards to trade him to the Lakers, which is not likely to happen. But trading for three potential starters who would be major upgrades over the current starters is a challenge Rob could likely meet using Russ’ $47 million expiring contract and the Lakers’ 2027 and 2029 first round draft picks.
The key is the Lakers’ willingness to trade Russ’ expiring contract for two or three players with multiple-year contracts. The Pacers, for example, might be willing to take Russ’ expiring contract to dump Brogdon’s and Hield‘s long-term contracts. While they would be accepting Russ’ $47 million expiring contract, they would also be avoiding the over $100 million total salary owed to the other two. The real value of expiring contracts is helping other teams clear cap space.
Turning Westbrook, Horton-Tucker, and their 2027 and 2029 first round draft picks into three quality 3&D starters would be the kind of offseason Rob Pelinka needs to have to convince LeBron James to sign an extension.
What this entire situation has come down to is a battle for positioning on what the end of the LeBron James era as a Laker is going to look like. Will it end with the Lakers paying supermax salaries to a diminished superstar like with Kobe? The win-now Lakers just don’t want the LeBron James era to end like it did the two times he left the Cleveland Cavaliers, where the team was left with zero cap space and too many overpaid veteran role players on long-term contracts.
In the end, its LeBron versus Jeanie in that James and Klutch want the Lakers to go all-in to win another championship, which today means trading draft picks, taking back long-term contracts, and being willing to pay mega luxury taxes. Frankly, these are valid points Lakers media and fans have been screaming about for years. The rules of how you win in the NBA have changed and the Lakers need to recommit to doing whatever is needed to win championships.
Lakers just need to mend fences with Klutch, finish the season strong and have a good run in the playoffs, bring back their five elite role players, and trade Russ’ expiring contract and picks for a third superstar or three legitimate starters.
That’s how the Los Angeles Lakers get LeBron James to sign an extension.
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