Under CBA rules, the Los Angeles Lakers can acquire a $248 million wing and 22-year-old rising star for LeBron James this summer if the King requests a trade or the purple and gold decide to move on from the future Hall of Famer.
In a January 16 article called “Is there a summer 2023 deal for LeBron James that makes sense? The art of the possible,” The Athletic’s David Aldridge came up with a hypothetical trade between the Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers. Los Angeles would send James to Philadelphia in exchange for Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle and a future draft pick in Aldridge’s trade.
“Daryl Morey will make any trade at any time if he thinks it increases his team’s chances of winning by even a fraction of a percentage,” Aldridge wrote. “LeBron alongside Joel Embiid and James Harden certainly does that. Yet there isn’t a logical mesh between James and Harden unless Harden committed to a full-time switch to shooting guard – if not a catch-and-shoot type, perhaps a curl and second-side drive type – and left James more of the ballhandling responsibilities. Could that happen? Sure. Would it? Hard to see it. But if the Sixers don’t break through and reach the Finals this season, all bets are off. Philly’s Tyrese Maxey is precisely the kind of shooting + finishing player who would thrive with James, so he’d top the Lakers’ ask-for list. The 22-year-old quicksilver guard has future superstar written all over him and would be a great fit with Davis.
“Tobias Harris would have to be included in the deal to make it work financially, but he wouldn’t be a mere throw-in. For all of the local moaning about his game, Harris is still just 30, capable of creating his own shot and a career 37 percent shooter from deep. He would help the Lakers space the floor for Davis and Maxey to do their things. Matisse Thybulle has seen his minutes cut in half in Philly this season, but if Ham can position Westbrook to be a more effective offensive player in L.A., imagine what he could do with the 6-6, similarly perimeter-challenged Thybulle – and how he could weaponize the two-time second-team all-Defense honoree at the other end.”
James signed a two-year, $97.1 million extension with the Lakers in August 2022. The four-time MVP and four-time Finals MVP is ineligible to be traded this season because the second year of his extension exceeds a 5% raise. James, 38, can be moved this offseason.
Could LeBron James Request a Trade from the Lakers This Summer?
In a January 9 column called “NBA Execs Advised to ‘Be Prepared’ on Lakers-LeBron James Trade,” Heavy Sports senior insider Sean Deveney reported numerous teams are preparing for the possibility that James could request a trade from the Lakers this summer. Los Angeles has struggled to surround James and Anthony Davis with the correct pieces to compete for a title since winning the 2020 championship over the Miami Heat at the Walt Disney World bubble.
“It’s in the background if you think you have a chance at him. There are preparations being made just in case. You have to make them. Like the Boy Scouts used to say, ‘Be Prepared,’” one general manager told Deveney. “It will not be an easy thing to do and there are a lot of factors. There’s still a chance the Lakers make a trade this year or that something clicks and they go on a run. You can’t count that out. And they will have a chance to do something that (James) likes in free agency this summer, something that could change the outlook there.
“But since he went to L.A. (in 2018), there has been this certainty that he was going to finish up (his career) in Los Angeles, that he wanted to be an entertainment mogul and that he needed to be in Hollywood for that. He is realizing that he is only going to get one shot at how he finishes his basketball career, though, and that the movie stuff will always be there. He doesn’t want his time playing basketball to end missing the playoffs every year for the Lakers.”
The Lakers lost in the first round of the 2021 playoffs to the Phoenix Suns and missed the postseason in 2022. Through 45 games this season, Los Angeles is only 20-25 despite James averaging 29.8 points, 8.4 rebounds and 7.0 assists.
Tobias Harris & Tyrese Maxey Could Be Good Fits Next to Anthony Davis
Harris and Maxey can both create their own shot off the dribble and hit 3-pointers, making them good fits next to Davis, who would become the main option on offense for the Lakers if James got traded. Harris is averaging 16.3 points and 6.3 rebounds this season while shooting 37.6% from beyond the arc, while Maxey is putting up 20.7 points per game on 39.3% shooting from 3.
Harris signed a five-year, $180 million contract with the Sixers in July 2019. He will have made more than $248 million in his career once his current contract ends in 2024. Maxey, meanwhile, is still on his rookie deal. He signed a four-year, $12.2 million rookie scale contract in December 2020.
James has a player option for the 2024-25 season worth $50.7 million. There are no indications that he wants to leave the Lakers. However, things could change if Los Angeles doesn’t turn its season around.