The Los Angeles Lakers had a disastrous inaugural season with LeBron James. With two guaranteed years left on his contract, many have wondered if the franchise can recover to contend with the superstar on the roster.
In the same vein, a lot of people have people have speculated that the Lakers should (and may have contemplated) trading James for a big haul while he still has value as arguably the best player in the world. While unlikely, Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports suggests that people across the league have identified at least one specific trade as something the Lakers could be interested in:
But one Western Conference executive brought up a name that could be a [Ben] Simmons trade target: LeBron James.
“I think they very well might explore that,” said a rival executive of Philadelphia.
James doesn’t have a no-trade clause, but he shares the same Klutch Sports agent with Ben Simmons in Rich Paul. James has two seasons left on his deal before he can become a free agent. After a disastrous offseason in which their president of basketball operations abruptly resigned and they struck out on their top two head coaching targets in Monty Williams and Tyronn Lue, do the Los Angeles Lakers honestly believe they can put together a championship contender in the next two seasons?
There are a few reasons why this is unlikely.
First, the CBA makes it difficult to conduct a legal trade due to the contracts of James (max deal) and Ben Simmons (still on his rookie deal) being so far apart. The 76ers would have to offload a lot of salary to be able to take on James’ contract.
Second, it would be a massive PR hit for the Lakers who are likely not ready to call their first truly successful transaction in half a decade an ultimate failure. James signing with the team, regardless of his reasons, was a massive moment for the franchise that has routinely failed to sign free agents despite all of the advantages of their locale. Trading him away after only one year would be a disappointment for everyone involved.
Finally, Simmons and James share an agent. While neither has a no-trade clause and, thus, would not be able to void a potential trade, they can make it incredibly difficult to make it go through. James presumably signed with the Lakers, at least in part, to start his future career in LA and for his children to go to school here. In all likelihood, he would not want to uproot his family and be away from his businesses once again.
It’s also important to note that this rumor is coming from other people around the league, not those within the Lakers or 76ers or either player’s camp. Nevertheless, what other people in the NBA deem possible is still a worthwhile anecdote and something to keep an eye on if things continue to go south for the Lakers.