What If LeBron Demands A Trade?
How the Los Angeles Lakers could use a LeBron James trade demand to transform their roster into a young juggernaut
With Magic Johnson dramatically resigning as the president of basketball operations for the Lakers, could LeBron suddenly decide he no longer wants to wear the purple and gold and surprise everybody by demanding a trade?
If the Lakers strike out in free agency this summer, can’t swing a trade for Anthony Davis, and fail to attract an elite president of basketball operations, it’s not impossible LeBron James might start pining for greener pastures. While LeBron doesn’t have a no-trade contract, the challenge is finding a team he would accept a trade to and a return that would give the Lakers fair value for the best player on the planet with three years left on his contract.
Just for fun, I spent a few minutes playing GM with ESPN’s Trade Machine and I think I found the answer in the form of a blockbuster three-team trade between the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, and New Orleans Pelicans. The Lakers would get Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, the Celtics would get LeBron James and Solomon Hill, and the Pelicans would receive Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, Jason Tatum, Lonzo Ball, and Brandon Ingram.
This trade could actually be a big win-win situation for all three teams. The Lakers would suddenly have a more sustainable championship window with two dynamic All-Stars in their prime in Davis and Holiday, the Celtics would immediately become favorites to win multiple championships by reuniting LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, and the Pelicans would reap a bounty of young talent to rebuild with in Hayward, Tatum, Ball, Ingram, and Smart.
The Lakers would be giving up a 35-year old LeBron James and two 21-year old budding stars in Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram but would be getting back a pair of proven two-way All-Stars in their prime in 26-year old Anthony Davis and 28-year old Jrue Holiday. They would also retain two promising young role players in 23-year old Kyle Kuzma and 24-year old Josh Hart and would still have $38 million in cap space to pursue free agents this summer.
If the Lakers could sign Kawhi Leonard in free agency this summer they could start a championship caliber lineup with all five starters under 28-years old, with Jrue Holiday at point, Josh Hart at shooting guard, Kyle Kuzma at small forward, Kawhi Leonard at power forward, and Anthony Davis at center. That would be a starting lineup that would not only enable the Lakers to contend right now but would also give them a decade-long championship window.
The Celtics would be giving up 29-year old Gordon Hayward, 25-year old Marcus Smart, and 21-year old Jason Tatum but would be receiving 35-year old LeBron James with three years left on his contract and 28-year old journeyman Solomon Hill with two years left on his contract as salary filler. They would also be retaining 22-year old future star Jaylen Brown and would become odds-on favorites to win multiple championships the next few years.
The addition of LeBron James would also insure that Kyrie Irving and Al Horford would not leave the Celtics in free agency. Danny Ainge would also still have his complete bounty of first round draft picks with which to restock or upgrade the Celtics’ roster. Landing the best player on the planet would reunite LeBron James and Kyrie Irving with a much deeper and stronger bench than the dynamic duo ever had playing with the Cleveland Cavs.
Meanwhile, David Griffin and the New Orleans Pelicans might be the biggest winner of all by landing the Lakers’ and the Celtics’ most promising young stars in 21-year old Jason Tatum, 21-year old Lonzo Ball, and 21-year old Brandon Ingram plus 29-year old All-Star Gordon Hayward and 24-year old defensive energizer Marcus Smart. The Pelicans might need a year or two but they would probably boast the league’s best group of potential future stars.
While it’s highly unlikely that LeBron James will demand a trade since he likely wants to stay in L.A., a three-team trade between the Lakers, Celtics, and Pelicans could be a legitimate win-win deal for all should he want out.