“I think the Los Angeles Lakers should strongly consider trading LeBron James,” said Smith. “That is what I believe.”
.@stephenasmith has a solution for the Lakers 👀
“I think the Los Angeles Lakers should strongly consider trading LeBron James. That is what I believe.” pic.twitter.com/CI3l7lAqJ7
— First Take (@FirstTake) May 4, 2022
This isn’t a novel concept. It is actually the smart basketball and business decision. But it goes against how the Lakers operate as a franchise.
Since 1979, when the late Dr. Jerry Buss purchased the franchise, the Lakers have been a superstar organization. Basketball is entertainment and you need the best and brightest in the “purple and gold.”
They’ve won 11 titles since being owned by Buss and now the Buss Family Trust. But it’s feast or famine. They’re either competing for titles or languishing at the bottom of the league.
In the last 10 seasons the Lakers have made the playoffs three times, advancing past the first round once in 2020, when they won the title in the bubble. In those seven non-playoff seasons, they finished below .500 in all of them.
Contrast the Lakers to the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that over the same time period made the playoffs eight times, advancing past the first round four times, and winning the title last season. They only had three sub .500 seasons during that same time span.
The Lakers have three players in James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook that combine for $129 million in salary. The NBA’s max salary cap is $122 million and they still have 12 additional roster spots to which they owe money. Going over the salary cap for a sub .500 club is bad business.
James and Davis would shed salary, and allow more cap flexibility. They would also bring back young talent and draft capital, something the team desperately needs. But it would require a fundamental shift in vision, mission and management style.
Nothing the Lakers have done over the past two decades suggests they would do that.
The fact that former coach Phil Jackson will be aiding in the search for a new coach tells us what we need to know.
Team governor Jeanie Buss is her father’s daughter. She is loyal, arguably to a fault, to the names that helped created a dynasty. Kurt and Linda Rambis have immense power and influence and none of the other NBA teams would hire either.
Jeanie Buss empowered Rob Pelinka as head of the font office because he was Kobe Bryant’s agent, despite Pelinka’s lack of experience.
But this is the price of selling out for superstars. When times are good, you win titles. But as those stars age out, and you have no way to rebuild because you gave up your young talent and draft capital, you wind up in the wilderness of the NBA.
The Lakers still have the city of Los Angeles going for them. When James and Westbrook’s salaries come off the books they can potentially sell the next big time free agent on the idea of playing in sunny southern California with Anthony Davis.