Most of the chatter surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers right now revolves around who will be the next head coach and possible Russell Westbrook trades. However, there could be a much bigger storyline to watch this offseason. LeBron James is eligible to sign a contract extension this offseason and if he decides not to, it could change the team’s trajectory.
Playing out his contract means that he’s prepared to test free agency after next season. If he leaves for nothing in 2023, that would be a nightmare scenario for the Lakers. They’ve mortgaged their future to take advantage of him being with the team. Leaving after next season could set the team up for failure for several years.
If LeBron doesn’t sign a contract extension, it’s possible that the Lakers explore trades for the superstar to try and salvage their future. While anything is possible, it doesn’t sound like Los Angeles would really consider trading him regardless of what he does this offseason. According to The Athletic’s Sam Amick, team owner Jeanie Buss doesn’t plan on trading LeBron.
“If LeBron James ultimately decides against signing an extension with the Lakers in August, sources say Buss wouldn’t see his desire to play out the final season of his contract as a reason to consider trading him,” Amick wrote. “Without an extension, James’ current deal will expire after next season (in which he’s owed $47.1 million).”
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Should Lakers Explore LeBron Trade?
It’s been a rocky year for the Lakers and tensions between LeBron and the front office could be growing. There have been a lot of leaks from the two sides taking shots at each other. That’s not the recipe for a healthy relationship. With LeBron’s career only having so many years left, it’d be easy to see why he’d ditch the Lakers mess rather than fix it.
From Los Angeles’ point of view, they should do what they can to mend the relationship and get him signed long-term. Not only is LeBron still their best player, but he also holds a lot of power with Klutch Sports. The agency represents many of the league’s best players and the last thing the Lakers need is to alienate agent Rich Paul. If LeBron is getting traded, it should be because he requested it.
Will LeBron Ask Out?
It sounds like the Lakers wouldn’t seriously entertain trading LeBron but that doesn’t mean a trade won’t happen. As noted earlier, he’s entering the twilight of his career. He loves Los Angeles and already won a championship with the Lakers but if he doesn’t see a path to winning, he could abandon ship.
Going to a team that is competing for a championship immediately could be appealing to him. That isn’t to say that the Lakers can’t get back into contention. They still have Anthony Davis and LeBron, which is a duo that could beat anybody if they get hot. LeBron will likely see what the Lakers do this offseason before he really considers if his future should be elsewhere.