Trade Packages to Land Lakers a Star, Keep LeBron James Out of Retirement
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LeBron JamesAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Less than an hour after the Denver Nuggets secured their first NBA Finals appearance by sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James redirected the media's attention back to him with a introspective and somewhat cryptic postgame press conference.
"Just personally, with me moving forward with the game of basketball, I got a lot to think about," James told reporters.
Bleacher Report's Chris Haynes and ESPN's Dave McMenamin later confirmed that LeBron was indeed alluding to retirement, and that had the internet stewing over possible reasons for the message.
Every move is calculated with LeBron, including much of what he says to the media. Is he really going to consider retiring? Is he just trying to apply pressure to the front office to go get him another star teammate? Could he take a gap year to watch his son play at USC and then return to the league, as suggested by Rob Perez?
For today's purposes, let's assume it's the leverage play. If that's the case, who are some potential stars L.A. could go after? And what would those deals look like?
General frameworks (that you're free to quibble over) can be found below.
Give a Star to Get a Star in Trae Young
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Trae YoungKevin C. Cox/Getty Images
The Deal: Anthony Davis and Rui Hachimura (sign-and-trade) for Trae Young, Onyeka Okongwu and De'Andre Hunter
The idea of Trae Young joining the Lakers is already in the ether. The fit between him and Dejounte Murray wasn't great in Year 1, and The Athletic's Jovan Buha reported that L.A. has already had "internal discussions" about acquiring him.
Atlanta Hawks writers like Hawks.com's Kevin Chouinard have understandably pooh-poohed the notion of such a deal, but what if the Lakers got really serious and put Anthony Davis on the table?
The Ringer's Bill Simmons kicked around the idea of an AD-Young swap on a recent episode of his Bill Simmons Podcast with Buha appearing as a guest.
Of course, this wouldn't accomplish LeBron's potential goal of upgrading from two stars to three, but Young doesn't turn 25 till September. That alone could keep the Lakers' window to contend open a bit longer, and Young's averages of 27.4 points and 9.7 assists over the last four seasons suggest he's more capable of alleviating LeBron's responsibilities than Davis is.
In the closeout game against Denver, LeBron played 48 minutes, scored 40 points and was seemingly running on fumes by the end of the game. AD wasn't able to carry enough of that load. Young could spare LeBron performances like that and potentially preserve whatever he has left in the tank over the next few years.
This deal also lands L.A. another potential defensive anchor in Onyeka Okongwu. He's certainly not on Davis' level on that end right now, but he's eight years younger. He's also one of the game's more mobile bigs on the perimeter defensively, and he'd get plenty of open dunks playing with Young and LeBron.
Hawks fans will surely quibble over the addition of De'Andre Hunter as well (and I could probably be talked out of it), but they're the ones acquiring a top 75 all-time player in his prime (even if it's the tail end of his prime).
AD and Dejounte Murray would give Atlanta one of the best defensive foundations in the NBA. Rui Hachimura, who averaged double-figures and shot 48.7 percent from deep in the playoffs, Jalen Johnson or Saddiq Bey is ready to step into Hunter's role. And keeping John Collins means the Hawks still have plenty of firepower (or another potential trade to make).
The LeBron and Kyrie Irving Reunion
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LeBron James and Kyrie IrvingKevork Djansezian/Getty Images
The Deal: D'Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura and a 2029 first-round pick for Kyrie Irving
This one would take a lot of convincing all around. For starters, all three of the players involved are heading into free agency, so this would be a triple sign-and-trade.
And just this month, a source told Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus that Kyrie and the Dallas Mavericks may have had a "handshake deal" on his re-signing before the trade that sent him West.
Of course, Irving's as prone to change his mind as anyone. And in an Instagram Live video on Wednesday, he said, "I am in no rush to make a decision."
That doesn't mean the Mavericks are out, but it can't make them feel any better about their chances to keep Kyrie.
And if he winds up determined to go to Los Angeles, Dallas would surely prefer to get something in return for him than to lose him for nothing.
Russell is far from a perfect fit alongside Luka Dončić, but the Mavericks will need a guard if Irving leaves (Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie aren't walking through that door).
And despite a catastrophic conference finals in which he averaged 6.3 points and was routinely dusted on defense. Russell had a solid regular season with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lakers. He put up 17.8 points and 6.2 assists, while shooting 39.6 percent from deep. And at least in theory, his shooting allows him to operate as an off-ball option when on the floor with Luka.
The bigger prize for Dallas might be Hachimura, whose size and switchability could provide a nice boost to the Mavs' defense. On the other end, he'd get tons of open catch-and-shoot opportunities from Dončić, and he just thrived in that role during this Lakers postseason run.
Recouping a first-round pick after losing one in the Kyrie trade is a nice consolation too.
For the Lakers, this deal accomplishes multiple goals. According to Buha, LeBron has pushed for the acquisition of Irving at least twice. And this deal obviously doesn't cost them Davis either.
Losing Hachimura and a first hurts, but there's no doubt an engaged Kyrie (assuming he can stay engaged) raises this group's ceiling.
The Banana Boat Reunion
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LeBron James and Chris PaulChristian Petersen/Getty Images
The Deal: D'Angelo Russell (sign-and-trade) for Chris Paul
It's hard to decide which side of this deal might have to send some draft compensation (or a young-ish player).
Chris Paul turned 38 this month, and he just capped another playoff run that ended with injury. The degree to which Russell was exposed by Denver's defense was alarming.
There are very real downsides with both point guards. So for now, we'll default to just a straight-up swap.
LeBron and CP3 have famously been friends for years. This would be their opportunity to finally assemble their version of the banana boat team. And Paul's playmaking would give James more open shots manufactured by someone other than himself.
Having to create your own buckets over and over is hard, especially as you approach 40. LeBron and Paul could help each other on that front.
And though this tandem wouldn't have a long runway, LeBron's individual timeline isn't sprawling either. Paul makes the team better than Russell does in the short term.
For the Suns, Russell is 11 years younger than CP3, friends with Devin Booker and probably a better off-ball operator for a lineup with Booker and Kevin Durant thanks to his three-point shooting.
Playing with those two wouldn't mean Russell would never get opportunities to create, but it would more often be against defenses scrambled by initial actions from Booker or KD.
What did Lebron say about retirement? ›
At the 2022 All-Star Game, James indicated he would not retire before the 2024-05 season. “My last year will be played with my son,” James, then 36, told The Athletic. “Wherever Bronny is at, that's where I'll be. I would do whatever it takes to play with my son for one year.Did the Lakers make any trade moves? ›
The Lakers sent a top-four protected 2027 first-round pick to Utah and a 2024 second-round pick to Minnesota. The Lakers also sent reserves Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damian Jones to the Timberwolves, who get veteran guard Mike Conley Jr. and a pick from the Jazz. The trade was made official Thursday afternoon.Why did Lebron leave Cleveland for heat? ›
When superstar James left the Clevelandavaliers for the Miami Heat in 2010, it was the first time a star of his caliber had left their team to join a new one. After failing to bring a championship to Cleveland,Lebron decided to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.When did Lebron go to the Lakers? ›
James joined the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018.