According to a report by ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James are discussing a possible contract extension. Those talks could have league-altering ramifications since James, who’s still one of the five best players in the NBA, will be a free agent after next season.
If the Los Angeles Lakers can’t convince him to extend, then there’s a strong chance that he leaves, forcing a popular franchise into a rebuild. Things haven’t gone according to plan since the Los Angeles Lakers signed James four years ago; they’ve missed the playoffs twice, and lost in the first round, though they did win a championship in 2020.
Those results are all over the place and that lack of consistency might convince James to move on, especially with his plan to form a father-son duo when his son enters the NBA.
The Los Angeles Lakers can convince James to stay but maybe they shouldn’t
Fortunately for the Lakers, Bronny James isn’t eligible to be drafted until 2024 so LeBron James could technically agree to a one-year extension and then son-chase. Or, maybe they could convince him to sign a two-year extension, the longest such contract a player his age can sign, with assurances that they can build around him.
It seems clear that James wants the team to acquire former teammate and former All-Star Kyrie Irving and that would likely convince him to stay. Of course, it’s not that simple. To land Irving, they’d have to find a taker for Russell Westbrook and his massive contract and that would probably cost the Lakers their only two tradeable first-round picks.
If James agrees to a two-year extension then, as a condition, the Lakers may have to agree to trade for Irving. Unfortunately, they’d be risking the team’s long-term future. After all, the Anthony Davis trade sapped the Lakers of most of their future assets. Also, even with Irving on board, there’s no guarantee that the Lakers will be any good in the near future.
Irving is an upgrade over Westbrook, for sure, but he’s a diva who often misses a huge chunk of games every year. Unfortunately, Davis does too, and more recently, James. Even if all three are mostly healthy, they don’t exactly have a great supporting cast outside of some intriguing young pieces.
In the best-case scenario, they can scrape together enough wins to be a play-in team next season. That doesn’t seem worth it to the Lakers, and they’re probably not going to be much better in subsequent seasons when James finally starts slipping. Then what?
The Lakers would have to rebuild around a talented but injury-prone Davis, who’ll be in his 30s. Having their 2027 and 2029 first-rounders would help, especially if the Lakers are a lottery team by then, but moving those picks is probably how they keep James for the rest of his career. Catch-22.
Ultimately, I expect the Lakers to make a Westbrook trade, but not for Irving, and for James to still sign a one-year extension before leaving in the summer of 2024.