The Los Angeles Lakers season was nothing short of a disappointment. Between injuries and the rumblings of internal strife, the Lakers stumbled to a 33-49 record on the season and missed the play-in tournament in the Western Conference, leading to the firing of head coach Frank Vogel and a number of questions about what the team can do to improve heading into next season.
While the Lakers lack the kinds of players and picks that could give them a new and improved core around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, much has been made of a potential Russell Westbrook trade now that the team can include an unprotected first-round pick in the 2029 NBA Draft. On Wednesday’s episode of First Take, Stephen A Smith presented a different idea: What if the team just traded LeBron?
Smith stressed that he means it to be a compliment and a testament to James’ excellence on the court that is advocating for this, then dove into his argument.
“He’s the only person that has extreme value,” Smith said. “You’ll never get equitable compensation for his greatness. But it’s the only chance you have to be immediately respectable, if you’re the Los Angeles Lakers.”
Smith laid out all the teams ahead of the Lakers in the Western Conference, then suggested calling teams that have younger star players (the Cavaliers and the Heat) or potentially disgruntled stars (the Jazz and the Blazers) to gauge their interest in a move for James, all with the hopes that they can fid someone willing to “sacrifice my youth … sacrifice picks to make a two-year run at the title.”
“If I’m the Lakers, I know I ain’t going nowhere,” Smith said. “What I got to do is prevent from falling off the cliff entirely and completely stinking up the joint for years to come, because the reality is that I can’t move Russ, in all likelihood — I’ma try, but I don’t think I can pull it off. Anthony Davis, I can’t get equitable compensation, because everybody is telling me he’s too injured, so we not gonna give up a piece for a dude that’s missed half the season two years in a row.”
J.J. Redick, as he is wont to do, broke down all the ways that this “crazy take” is not something he could ever imagine coming.
“Everything you’re talking about is teams, essentially, operating the way the Lakers have operated for decades,” Redick said. “Teams don’t wanna operate that way anymore, and that’s the problem with the Lakers: They have refused to modernize how they operate.”