The Los Angeles Lakers briefly contemplated a LeBron James trade, per Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher. The trade deadline came and went without the Lakers making a major move, but that does not mean there were not discussions behind the scenes. Could the Lakers have traded James?
ESPN’s Bobby Marks reported James was not eligible for a no-trade clause when he signed his current contract with Los Angeles. This means the Lakers could trade James when the offseason rolls around, but that is an extremely unlikely scenario. Bucher reported the Lakers did not rule out this possibility after L.A. ownership grew frustrated with James’ agent Rich Paul.
The subject of moving James, however, was contemplated by the Lakers, a team source said, weeks before Van Gundy aired it. When rumors engulfed the team at the February trade deadline that it was willing to trade anyone other than James to acquire All-Star forward Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, James’ agent, Rich Paul, was widely accused of spreading those rumors because Davis is also one of his clients. Paul denied to B/R that he leaked the Lakers’ interest in Davis, but Buss suspected otherwise and was furious. The idea of terminating the franchise’s relationship with Paul by moving James at least crossed Buss’ mind, the team source said, and Paul was made aware of that.
LeBron’s Trade Value May Not Be As High As Expected
The Lakers worked for years to have enough cap space to sign James last summer. The plan was to unite James with another star player, but the Lakers have so far been unsuccessful in finding his Robin. Bleacher Report noted some NBA executives believe James’ trade value has drastically declined.
“I still think you could get a decent package for him from a bad team,” one GM told Bleacher Report. “A first-round pick and a good young player. But it would’ve been a lot more a year ago, for sure.”
After spending the entire summer hyping up James signing, the Lakers are also unlikely to trade one of the greatest players of all-time. Executives noted the team would never be able to live down trading James, which would likely prevent them from dealing him.
“Even if it’s the right thing to do as a franchise, I don’t know how you’d do it,” an anonymous GM explained to Bleacher Report. “LeBron would eviscerate them. The question goes beyond what you could get for him to: How do you explain that away? How do you go to the next free agent and say, ‘We really want you,’ and have him believe you after you had the face of the league for six months and then traded him away?”
Several GM’s indicated in the report that James’ value is likely some combination of a draft pick and young player. It is hard to fathom that a team would not give up more than that to bring a superstar of his caliber to their market.
The Lakers Are Already Eying the 2019 NBA Season
The Lakers are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoff race. The first year of the Lakers-LeBron marriage did not go as planned, but L.A. is already eying the 2019-20 season. James has been placed on a minutes restriction and top players like Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball will miss the rest of the season.
Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are hoping they can attract another superstar free agent this summer. Some of the names that have been mentioned include Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. We will see if the Lakers are able to accomplish this offseason what they could not in 2018, find another elite player to pair with James.