Lakers' Hypothetical Blockbuster Trades to Shake Up NBA Offseason
In fact, next season could be it, since the 37-year-old has nothing else remaining on his current contract.
While James continues holding court with the Association's elite, the rest of this roster needs to catch up. Well, that or it has to be flipped for players who can.
If L.A. goes for broke this summer, the following three blockbuster trades—presented as concepts, not dollar-for-dollar finalized offers—are worth consideration.
Sacrificing Two Firsts for Pacers Shooters
If the Lakers are going to deal Russell Westbrook this summer, it will strictly be a salary dump. His $47.1 million player option, per Spotrac, is one of the biggest overpays in sports, so any team taking it on would do so strictly for the additional assets—and would probably buy out Westbrook right after the swap.
Hence the sacrifice of both future firsts the Lakers can legally trade (2027 and 2029). Given how dramatically different L.A. could look by then, these picks could prove ultra-valuable, enough so that even a Pacers team that doesn't want to rebuild might have to consider it.
That's a steep price for the Purple and Gold, but if it best positions James for success, that may be all the incentive this front office needs.
The Lakers need spacers, and Buddy Hield is one of the best in the business. For his career, he has averaged 3.0 triples per outing and splashed them at a 39.8 percent clip. Malcolm Brogdon is plenty accurate from three as well (career 37.6 percent), and if he can stay healthy, he could be the ideal point guard for a James-led offense, since Brogdon works on or off the ball and adds just as much value defensively.
Gambling on Gordon Hayward
Blockbuster Idea: Russell Westbrook, Talen Horton-Tucker and future first-round pick to the Charlotte Hornets for Gordon Hayward and Kelly Oubre Jr.
Charlotte, of course, already has its floor general of the present and future in LaMelo Ball, so there's no reason to give Westbrook actual run. The draw for the Hornets, rather, seems to be that Westbrook's deal only has one season left, while the oft-injured Gordon Hayward is still owed $61.6 million over this season and next, per Spotrac.
Ducking out of Hayward's deal would deny Charlotte a second first-round pick in this swap, but the addition of Talen Horton-Tucker could cushion the blow. If he bounces back from a disappointing 2021-22 season, he could still claim a core spot alongside the likes of Ball and Miles Bridges.
As for the Lakers, they'd be shedding Westbrook while sacrificing only a single pick and getting back two helpful wings. Hayward must stay healthy to qualify as such, but if he does, he could scratch itches for scoring, shooting and secondary playmaking. Kelly Oubre Jr. could beef up the perimeter defense and potentially up his efficiency by playing off of James as a cutter and spot-up shooter.
Lakers Deal AD for Better Balance
Blockbuster Idea: Anthony Davis to the Atlanta Hawks for John Collins, Kevin Huerter and 2023 first-round pick
For all of the twists and turns this offseason could take in L.A., the idea of an Anthony Davis deal still feels too dramatic to bring to reality.
As a mental exercise, though, it's an intriguing option for the Lakers to expand their talent base and still have assets left over for other exchanges. Between the pick added here, the two future firsts at their disposal and Talen Horton-Tucker, they would still have enough in the arsenal to broker a second or even third megadeal.
Not to mention, they'd add two highly productive players in John Collins and Kevin Huerter. They collectively contributed better than 28 points per game this past season, while also each clearing 36 percent from range. Plus, neither carries the same injury risk as Davis, who has played just 76 games over the past two seasons combined.
As for Atlanta, this would get Trae Young a true co-star and potentially put Atlanta's 26th-ranked defense, per NBA.com, much closer to where it must be to truly contend for a title.