Could LeBron James Be a Laker Next Year?
Now I've never been one to spread gossip, but this particular item deserved a little attention.
Smith acknowledges that the Lakers, owners of the NBA's highest payroll, do not have the sufficient cap space to sign LeBron outright. His rationale is that if LeBron has his heart set on going to the Lakers then the Cavs would have no choice but to accommodate his majesty, or risk getting nothing for him in return.
To make matters even more complicated, Smith writes "I’ve heard this scenario from some NBA people, though I’ve heard every other one as well..."
Well, that last part I agree with. If James did plan on leaving town the Cavs would be much better off at least getting one building block for him.
Here's what Smith writes about the particulars of the deal:
"If [the Cavs] don’t accommodate him, he’s going to New York or Miami and they get nothing. But if they do in a sign-and-trade to save the franchise, they get a young, potential All-Star center in Andrew Bynum. Maybe Lamar Odom as well or Ron Artest. Draft picks, some pieces like Jordan Farmar."
Now I don't know if Smith knows this, but Farmar is going to be a free agent next summer. And while I don't think the Lakers would hesitate to pull the trigger on either a Bynum and Odom or a Bynum and Artest for LeBron trade, Lakers first-round draft picks are useless when you consider that for at least the next four years they are not going to be that much better than second-round picks.
So here's the question, if you're a Cavs fan and you know LeBron is leaving, is Bynum the type of centerpiece you'd be looking to get back in a trade for James?
Odom has two more guaranteed years after this one on his current deal (with a team option for a fourth year) and Artest is signed for four more years.
Bynum is under contract for two more years after this one with a team option for a third.
If you're a Lakers fan, do you make either trade and give up on the promising Bynum while he's still healthy and you've got the chance?
I should let you all know that Smith is a bit of rumor-monger who has been throwing out hypothetical trades long before ESPN's Trade Machine and RealGM's TradeChecker™ came into existence.
I don't take anything he says that serious so I suggest neither should you.
If you asked me today where I thought James would go next summer I would tell you that I think he's going to re-sign with the Cavs for three years. James turns 25 in December and will still be 28 if he does as I suspect.
I just don't think that the teams that will have cap space next summer have enough, even with James, to be any better than the squad James is currently on. Not the Knicks, the Nets, or even the Heat with Dwyane Wade.
The lone exception would be the Bulls.
But if Smith, who lives in Chicago, doesn't seem to think the Bulls are an option, then why should I?
Smith kind of contradicts himself a little when he first writes "The general consensus seems to be LeBron stays in Cleveland given you can be a star from anywhere...," yet he follows that later saying "James has often talked about expanding his empire, and lately has been involved with books and movies. So where else but in L.A. would you want to be to be involved in the entertainment industry?"
So let me get this straight: You can be a star from anywhere, but you can only write books and make movies in L.A.?
I'd give the Lakers less than a five-percent chance of landing LeBron next summer? I'd give him a 50/50 shot in 2013 if he only signs with the Cavs for three more years.
Until then, get used to these types of articles from guys like Smith because there's going to be another just like it popping up every week until July 1, 2010.
Andrew Ungvari is a senior writer and featured columnist for Bleacher Report as well as co-lead blogger for the basketball website, SirCharlesInCharge.com.
For up to the minute news on all things basketball and occasionally brilliant thoughts and observations, follow him on Twitter.
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