The NBA Finals may be drawing ever nearer — the Denver Nuggets have already punched their ticket to the title round and the Miami Heat could do the same on Saturday — but the basketball world has also been abuzz with LeBron James chatter.
Amid reports that James is unsure whether he’ll be back with the Los Angeles Lakers next season (and may even be considering retirement) — not to mention the nonzero chance he’ll need foot surgery this summer — the GOAT candidate’s future is once again a hot topic in hardwood circles.
So, naturally, rumors about a potential move to the Bay Area and the Golden State Warriors are swirling. According to one Lakers insider, though, the LeBron-to-GSW talk isn’t completely unfounded.
“I think it’s certainly possible,” The Athletic’s Jovan Buha said of a potential partnership during a Friday appearance on KNBR radio. “I would definitely put them, if you were looking at realistic alternatives to him playing for the Lakers, I think the Warriors have to be in the top two or three,” Buha said.
Buha Believes That LeBron James’ Eye Could Wander After Lakers’ WCF Beatdown at Nuggets’ Hands
Objectively speaking, it’s hard to say that the Lakers didn’t overachieve this season. But the way in which they lost to the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals was enough to dampen the spirits of even the most optimistic fan. It’s Buha’s belief that the big sweep may have had a similar effect on LeBron.
And as the veteran writer reminded the KNBR crew, James’ teams hitting the wall in such a way has served as a catalyst for change before.
“If you study LeBron James’ career, when he has these types of losses … 2010, they lose in the second round to Boston, he leaves that summer to Cleveland, 2014, they lose in five in the Finals to San Antonio, he goes back to Cleveland from Miami and then, 2018, they get swept in the Finals by Golden State and he goes to LA,” Buha said.
“I think you’ve kind of seen it’s been every few years, with now him kind of breaking that exception with LA where he’s been there for five years, but I think he’s kind of taking this loss hard. He basically had a 40-point triple-double in Game 4 and that still wasn’t good enough to even get a game in the series.”
James averaged 28.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists and shot an even 50.0% from the field during the regular season for Los Angeles.
A LeBron-Dubs Pairing Still May Not Be Realistic
As it stands, James is owed in the neighborhood of $47 million next season, after which he has a player option for the 2024-25 campaign worth in excess of $50 million. In a world where the Association’s new collective bargaining agreement with the players allows for stiffer penalties on exorbitant spenders like the Warriors, those numbers could wreak havoc on Warriors owner Joe Lacob’s pocketbook.
From a trade standpoint, even getting to a place where the salary involved lines up properly could be a task for Golden State, too, and that’s to say nothing of the draft assets/prospects the Lakers would inevitably want out of a deal. One also has to wonder whether the trade cost makes sense for a player who will turn 39 next season.
Lacob and Co. may have designs on getting Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson the veteran help they need to compete for a championship again, but the Dubs may not even have enough left from a depth standpoint to get there depending on what they’d have to unload to make a trade happen.
And if bodies begin to break down — both Steph and LeBron dealt with major injuries this season — things could get ugly quick.