LeBron James’ current deal with the Los Angeles Lakers expires at the end of the 2022-23 NBA season.
Although he could obviously re-sign with the team this summer and quell any doubts about his future, it doesn’t appear as though he has any intentions of doing so.
With the NBA Draft and free agency ahead, L.A. would obviously benefit a lot from knowing what James’ plans look like.
But they’re unlikely to get much clarity in that regard.
“The Lakers are stuck without a commitment from James, whose contract expires after the 2022-23 season,” wrote Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.
“Competing executives and agents do not expect the team to get clarity from James ahead of the draft and free agency.”
James’ future with the Lakers obviously will have massive ramifications for the front office’s approach to dealing with Russell Westbrook.
As of now, the operating assumption is that Westbrook isn’t going anywhere.
“Sources close to the team, along with several competing executives, believe the Lakers are operating as if Russell Westbrook will be on the roster to start next season,” Pincus noted.
That said, if James were to commit to being in Los Angeles for at least as long as Anthony Davis, it would likely make ownership a bit more open to sacrificing future picks and resources to win now.
“The last thing the team would want to do is eat up its 2023-24 cap space on players it doesn’t value with James leaving as an unrestricted free agent,” Pincus added.
“The fear is similar in trading draft picks. If James were guaranteed to stick around another couple of seasons, L.A. might consider bigger moves like trading picks to get out of Westbrook for viable talent.”
As things presently stand, 4 teams are interested in acquiring Westbrook.
But the cost would be steep.
If James is down to stick it out with the Lakers, then it makes sense to dump Westbrook at any price and attempt to get one of the three players the front office has its eye on.
Don’t let Klay Thompson get hot. https://t.co/uI94n86UEq
— Game 7 (@game7__) June 13, 2022
If James wants to go elsewhere, though – L.A. would be better off holding on to its picks and resources and just riding it out with Westbrook.
James could save a lot of people a whole lot of trouble by just clarifying his future plans, but it doesn’t look like that is in the cards.