Lakers Refusal to Trade Reaves Shows Lack of Faith in LeBron, 2024-25 Title Chances

Austin Reaves

Getty The Los Angeles Lakers may need to trade Austin Reaves to land another star.

The Los Angeles Lakers believe they can win the NBA Championship by adding another elite player to an aging-yet-amazing LeBron James and two-way superstar Anthony Davis. The problem is, Sam Amick of the New York Times says they’re reportedly unwilling to use their most attractive asset in Austin Reaves, raising questions about whether they’re more worried about winning now or in the future.

Everything the Lakers have done and continue to do is in large part to keep LeBron happy. From the JJ Redick head coaching hire to rumors about drafting Bronny James with the No. 55 overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft, the priority of keeping LeBron fully engaged and invested is obvious.

Amick remarked that league sources said, “if the franchise cornerstones had their way, the Lakers would prove their desire to win this week by going all-in for another elite player.”

What Does Holding Reaves Say About the Lakers Belief Moving Forward?

Jovan Buha of The Athletic recently reported on coach Redick’s introductory press conference, and specifically addressed general manager Rob Pelinka’s comments on trades. He noted that the Lakers stance has been that Reaves would only be available for a legitimate current All-Star, but they had that opportunity with Murray and passed. Instead, the Lakers are more likely looking at smaller trades to make little improvements.

It goes without saying that the Lakers as an organization are all about winning championships. They believe in reloading as opposed to rebuilding and after 17 championships, it’s hard to argue with their strategy.

However, the Lakers refusing to deal Reaves feels like an uncharacteristically conservative move. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard out of Oklahoma is just 26 years old, he’s continuing to develop and he’s in the midst of a very team-friendly 4-year, $53.8 million contract, with a player option in 2026-27.

Holding onto Reaves is a way of the Lakers saying they don’t want to mortgage the future for the next year or two, or in a much more blunt way, they don’t believe the current roster makeup is going to be good enough to win a championship and they’re concerned what a post-LeBron Lakers team will look like.

Although unusual for this specific franchise, it’s a smart play, as LeBron is treading in uncharted waters. He’ll turn 40 in December and although his 2023-24 averages of 25.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.3 assists show otherwise, a dropoff is inevitable (this has been said for about five years now, it’s bound to be true eventually).

When the team turns the reins over to Davis, he’ll be pushing his mid-30’s and his history of injuries will always be a factor.

Can the Lakers Get an Elite Player Without Trading Reaves?

In a word, no. Yes, the Lakers have three first-round picks that they can dangle and yes, they have some reasonable contracts to use between Rui Hachimura ($17 million), Gabe Vincent ($11 million) and potentially D’Angelo Russell ($18.6 million) if he opts in, but what can that land?

The Lakers can’t get Paul George for that. The Atlanta Hawks have requested Reaves in any trade for Dejounte Murray. Jimmy Butler would be productive, but at 36 years old, the miles are showing and he’s no longer elite. Donovan Mitchell would be a boon, but the Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t giving him up for role players and middling first-rounders, which can also be said for Trae Young.

As it stands, the Lakers are going to have to make do with what they have, hoping the addition of a Jonas Valanciunas or Jerami Grant paired with the No. 17 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft will be enough to push them over the top.


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