7. LeBron James
Price: 2-year extension starting in 2021-22, $85.6mil.
What can be said about LeBron? He’s one of the two best players to have ever walked the planet, is coming off a finals MVP at age 35, and will likely retire as the all-time scoring leader in NBA history.
James continues to defy father time, but the question on everyone’s lips every year is “how long can he keep this up?” To that end, I’m not overly enthused with how costly this extension is. If LeBron somehow continues to play at this level for the next three years, he’ll be worth the money. If he wins the Lakers another title next year before his play drops off over the final two years of the contract, most fans will agree that he’s worth the money.
However, the likelihood that he remains a max-level player at age 38 is low, so this extension will retroactively be graded based on how many championships the Lakers win over the next three years, rather than his level of play.
The contract reminds me a lot of Kobe Bryant‘s last contract with the Lakers; more of a parting gift for everything he’d done for the franchise rather than an accurate representation of his current value.
The key difference in the Lakers’ favor today is that when Kobe signed his last big deal, there was no young star alongside him, and it came at a time where no marquee free agents wanted to play for the Lakers.
Conversely, immediately after the LeBron signing, the Lakers’ #1 offseason priority decided to commit long-term to the club.
Last, but certainly not least…