During another Lakers loss this past Saturday night, Jeff Van Gundy made news on the call saying the Lakers need to explore trading LeBron James this summer. Van Gundy’s reasoning stems from the belief they need to rebuild their roster and the return for LeBron would put them on their way to a successful future. Most, if not all, laughed and mocked this take. And while, yes, it sounded mockable at first, the closer you look, the more you will agree with Van Gundy’s take.
Let’s first hear it again:
The Lakers are in all likelihood not making the playoffs this season. As bad as that reality is for such a hyped season and team, it looks like it is just the beginning. That second star that the Lakers so badly need may not be coming before LeBron’s game seriously enters a decline. It has been reported for months neither Jimmy Butler nor Kawhi Leonard want to play with LeBron. Nobody expects Kevin Durant to want to do so after some brutal but honest quotes on what it is like playing with LeBron. It is hard to imagine Kyrie Irving wanting to go back to that environment. And all indications are the Pelicans don’t want to send Anthony Davis to the Lakers in exchange for what the Lakers can offer. This likely leaves the Lakers only shot of adding a superstar for LeBron being in the summer of 2021 when Davis becomes a free agent. Mark me down as a “no” that he picks them by then. It would be foolish to assume he would given the drama surrounding this team and Davis’ other options like the Celtics, Clippers, and Knicks.
And even in the best case scenario, Davis becomes LeBron’s teammate in 2021, is not that great, either. It would come as LeBron is months ways from becoming 36 years old. Oh, and Davis and LeBron together now would not even make this team a championship contender. All this adds up to the combination of the Lakers and LeBron easily looking like the biggest disappointment of the decade. Oh, and there is still all the detrimental nonsense LeBron creates each and every time he talks about his teammates or tries getting a coach fired.
So, perhaps Van Gundy is on to something. “Exploring” trading away one of the best players of all-time is not that crazy here. The Lakers are on the fast track to nowhere and a shift back to a rebuild does, in fact, look like a better option at the moment. Despite his antics, age, and projected decline in play, the assets they would get back for LeBron would be significant. Yet, that is just a small part of it. As Van Gundy speculated, if they were to move LeBron, all of a sudden the Lakers are an attractive free agent destination. Leonard wants to be in Los Angeles, but not with LeBron. Perhaps this hypothetical results in the Lakers adding the younger Leonard with the team assembled plus the assets in return for LeBron. This then makes them a serious option for players like Durant, Butler, Irving, and the next wave of NBA superstars that don’t want to deal with LeBron.
A younger superstar with LeBron’s trade assets with the Lakers as a more attractive free agent destination sure looks greener than just LeBron. There is a case that some of these players are already better than LeBron as we sit here today.
I agree they should “explore” this move. LeBron does not have a no-trade clause. There is certainly downside here such as LeBron catching wind of it and refusing to play for other teams and killing his trade value. But the more you look into Van Gundy’s comments, the more you must sit back and process how well trading LeBron James could work out for the Los Angeles Lakers.