Jeff Van Gundy: LeBron James Trade Needs to Be Explored by Lakers in Offseason

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2019

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James, front, is pressured by Boston Celtics' Kyrie Irving during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Celtics won 120-107. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Jeff Van Gundy is apparently ready to cut bait on the LeBron James-Lakers experiment already.

The ESPN broadcaster and former coach posited the idea of trading James this offseason during Saturday's game between the Lakers and Boston Celtics (transcript via Jack Baer of Yahoo Sports):

Van Gundy: I think in the offseason, they need to rebuild this roster, right? And to me, it could be a trade for an Anthony Davis, or I think they need to explore trading LeBron for getting as much as they can.

Analyst Mark Jackson: What are you doing, seriously? No, seriously, what are you doing?

Van Gundy: You've got to get on the right timeline. I'm going to say, if I could trade him for the Clippers into cap space, which would give me a better chance to get Durant or Kawhi Leonard, would I not do that?

Jackson: OK, LeBron James is not getting traded. OK?

Van Gundy: You've got to put everything on the table.

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Jackson: No, you can't.

This is one of those situations where you acknowledge people are entitled to their own opinion and move on.

From a marketing, basketball and optics standpoint, there is no logical reason to trade LeBron or even explore the possibility. Even in what most would acknowledge is his worst professional season since his rookie year, LeBron is putting up the 10th season in NBA history of 27 points, eight rebounds and eight assists per game.

For all of the justifiable hand-wringing about his at-times lax defensive efforts, LeBron is still the best offensive player in basketball. His defense has probably slipped to the point he's no longer the NBA's unquestioned best player, but he's still very much in the conversation. 

You don't trade those guys.

You especially do not trade those players a year after signing them in the first major coup your franchise has seen in more than a half decade. LeBron didn't save Lakers basketball yet as intended, but they would have been a playoff team had James not missed a career-worst 17 games due to a groin injury. Nearly every net-positive contributor on the roster has missed time.

Plus, LeBron is the single most powerful team-sport athlete in the world. If he says you're not trading him, you're not trading him—regardless of whether he has a no-trade clause in his contract. 

The only way it'd be worth exploring a LeBron trade is if the Bucks called and offered Giannis Antetokounmpo. Given this isn't a fantasy land or NBA 2K19, odds are the Lakers will be just fine with the greatest or second-greatest player to ever play basketball continuing to wear their uniform.