The Los Angeles Lakers don’t boast a roster that is built for the future, in fact, anything beyond the end of the upcoming season is looking rather murky.
In the immediate, you have the Russell Westbrook saga to deal with, and then there’s LeBron James’ impending free agency, and on top of all that you have the questions surrounding Anthony Davis’ ability to remain healthy throughout a season.
The first two of those concerns can be resolved quite quickly, but Davis’ is a whole other story. Since joining the Lakers in 2020, Davis has participated in a total of 138 regular season games – less than 50% of what his team has played in that time. Yet, the Kentucky alum still has another two years remaining on his current contract, so it’s hard to see the Lakers parting ways with him any time soon.
However, according to a Western Conference executive, who spoke with Heavy.com under the condition of anonymity, there are members of the Lakers front office that would prefer to explore trading the oft-injured big man, as the team looks to build for the future.
As the executive told Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney:
A lot of that depends on where LeBron winds up. If he stays in Los Angeles and he stays a Laker, he had a lot personally invested in AD being there so, yes, in that case, Davis stays. But it is not a sure thing. There are some in that organization who would not mind seeing what they can bring back for AD, but they would not do it with LeBron there. You get to 2024, though, and maybe things change.
The Lakers have AD for two more years for sure, and they can only hope he stays healthy. But after that, they have to think, is this guy really our future? He can’t stay on the floor. And he has to think, do I want to be here without LeBron? That’s why the Lakers do not want to give up those future picks.
LeBron Could be Planning Los Angeles Exit
While LeBron is widely expected to sign a contract extension with the Lakers, there is a growing belief that the superstar forward will only do so if there is a player option for the 2024 season – allowing him to team up with his son, Bronny James, once he enters the league.
NBC Sports’ Kurt Helin explained this thought process in an August 4 report, “LeBron has made it clear he wants to play a season with his son. It is the one thing everyone believes he would leave Los Angeles to do. Maybe the Lakers would use their 2024 first-round pick to select Bronny and keep the family working out at their practice facility, except the Lakers don’t control that pick. The Pelicans do from the Anthony Davis trade.”
If LeBron does decide to leave Los Angeles at the end of the 2023-24 season, that would line up with Davis’ player option on his contract, which could potentially leave the Lakers without a star player heading into 2024-25 – but of course, that is a worst case scenario.
Cleveland ‘A Threat’ to Land LeBron Next Summer
Whenever LeBron is close to hitting the free agent market, there is always some amount of expectation that he may return home to Cleveland, and considering the Cavaliers’ lack of wing depth, a reunion doesn’t seem that far-fetched.
In fact, ESPN’S Bobby Marks listed the Cavs as a potential threat to land LeBron in 2023 in his August 3 article, noting how his former team will have the cap space to facilitate any formal offer.
“Until a James extension is signed in Los Angeles, the Cleveland Cavaliers should be a team to keep an eye on next offseason…The Cavaliers have a strong nucleus consisting of Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen and could have more than $30 million in cap space in 2023. Would James return for a third tenure in Cleveland if he views the Lakers roster as not championship-worthy?” Marks wrote in his August 3 column.
Of course, LeBron will have a plethora of options available to him, should the Lakers fail to agree on a contract extension before the end of the season. Either way, one thing is certain – Los Angeles needs to start planning for the future, because right now, everything looks like it’s built on a house of cards.