Within a month of becoming eligible, LeBron James agreed to a two-year extension with the Los Angeles Lakers worth $97.1 million. It kicks in after this upcoming season and will keep the 18-time NBA All-Star with the Lakers at least until the end of the ‘24-’25 campaign.
This new deal makes James the highest earning player in NBA history, surpassing Kevin Durant, as he has now earned $532 million in guaranteed money since he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2003 NBA Draft.
James signing this deal with still two months to go before the start of the regular season is crucial for Los Angeles.
It gives the front office a firm idea of their future as James and fellow superstar Anthony Davis are under contract for the next three seasons. This clarity gives them the flexibility to dangle their future first round picks as trade assets knowing that their current window of opportunity to win a championship is still wide open.
Though the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player James will turn 38 years old by the end of this calendar year, he remains one of the best players in the world as evidenced by his per-game averages of 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.1 blocks in 56 games last year.
If surrounded by the right pieces, there is no doubt that he can still lead a team to the NBA title. This makes it essential that the Lakers utilize all the tools at their disposal to build a winning team.
The Lakers can currently trade their 2027 and 2029 first rounders which should be attractive for opportunistic teams given that James is likely to have retired by then and the picks have a strong chance of being in the lottery.
These have reportedly been offered in a trade for Kyrie Irving that the Brooklyn Nets promptly refused. This is unsurprising given the massive haul of picks that the Utah Jazz commanded in last month’s blockbuster Rudy Gobert trade. The Nets are also said to be uninterested in a direct Irving-Russell Westbrook swap, something that should not come as a surprise given how much the latter has regressed in recent years.
It remains to be seen whether Los Angeles will be willing to trade at least one of the picks and Westbrook to reunite James with his sidekick from his 2016 title run with the Cavaliers. James and Irving fit seamlessly with one another, as proven by the championship that they won together, which should only entice the Lakers to find a way to pull this deal off.
Meanwhile, there have also been reports that Los Angeles is interested in acquiring Buddy Hield and Myles Turner from the Indiana Pacers. It can be recalled that the Lakers were also inquiring about Hield while he was still with the Sacramento Kings last offseason, but they decided on using the assets that they were dangling for the sharpshooter from the Bahamas as part of the misguided trade that brought in Westbrook.
The Pacers are said to have set the asking price for these two useful role players at both of Los Angeles’ 2027 and 2029 first rounders which the Lakers have reportedly declined.
Although adding these two to the current Los Angeles roster will not immediately transform them into contenders, they are two useful pieces whose arrival would signify a step in the right direction. If they can somehow find a way to get all three of Irving, Hield, and Turner onboard without giving up much from their current rotation beyond Westbrook, then they should at least be considered as a team that is in the mix for the title this coming season.
It is crucial that the Lakers nail each and every one of their moves over these next few months, given that they have already wasted two years of the backend of James’ prime since winning the NBA title in 2020. James has rewarded them with the confidence that he will stay for the next few years and now, it is time for Los Angeles to do its part and build one last winning team around one of the greatest players to have ever played the game.