ESPN: Lakers 'Looking at the Finality' of LeBron James' Career When Assessing Trades

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 15, 2023

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 07: LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers warms up before the game against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on January 07, 2023 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Lakers plan to build a contender around LeBron James before he retires, although they could still be patient ahead of the Feb. 9 trade deadline, as ESPN's Dave McMenamin explains (7:20 in video):

"If the right deal emerges that will make them in their eyes a better team over the next like three years, that's their priority," McMenamin said (h/t HoopsHype). "They want the team to get to the best level it can get while LeBron James is still on the roster. But if that means not making that deal in February and playing out the rest of the season with the group that they have and knowing that they feel like there's going to be a better deal in July in the offseason, they'll do that because they they are looking at the finality of LeBron as a whole."

James, 38, agreed to a two-year contract extension in the offseason that could keep him on the team through 2024-25. Though he's in his 20th NBA season, he continues to produce at a high level with averages of 29.0 points, 8.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game.

The rest of the team hasn't provided enough help, however, especially with Anthony Davis out with a foot injury. The squad entered Sunday with a 19-23 record, good for 13th of 15 Western Conference teams.

The right trade could help the Lakers get back into playoff contention. Despite the struggles, they are just one game away from the play-in tournament and two games away from the No. 6 seed.

On the other hand, Los Angeles might be better off waiting until it finds a true game-changer in the offseason. Adding a top talent could get the most out of the roster as James tries to make another deep run before his career is over.

If the squad's goal is to compete for titles, a half-measure before the trade deadline might not be enough.