The Los Angeles Lakers have struggled immensely since winning the NBA In-Season Tournament, which has only guaranteed that the team will make some kind of trade at the deadline. After all, LeBron James is already being vocal about the messages he is sending the front office.
But what if the Lakers go the other way? Instead of trading for assets to improve this year's team, what if LeBron demands that he gets dealt to a team that he could have a better chance of contending to? What if the Lakers want to maximize his value while they can?
That is the thought experiment that Bill Simmons and Howard Beck had on the latest episode of 'The Bill Simmons Podcast'. Simmons and Beck tried to land the plane of what a LeBron trade would look like and the proposed deals were certainly absurd. Granted, neither pundit is saying that LeBron will be traded, and both know that he isn't going anywhere (this season). But we still thought it would be fun to go through these trade proposals and point out just how crazy they are.
Ranking Lakers' LeBron James trades by absurdity:
1. LeBron James for Klay Thompson, Kevon Looney, Jonathan Kuminga
Kuminga is a new name on the trade market that could actually make a lot of sense as a gamble for the Lakers to take, but not in this sense. The Lakers would be trading LeBron for absolutely no future value.
In return, they would be getting a regressing Klay Thompson, a former lottery pick who doesn't have that much value and a rotational big man who doesn't change anything. This is, by far, the most absurd trade proposed. Klay is a big name, but is he even better than Austin Reaves at this point?
2. LeBron James for Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, Gary Payton, second-round picks
This mock Warriors trade is at least better than the first one because it includes one more former lottery pick, some second-round picks, and a player who is not regressing in his 30s (Wiggins). But either way, the Warriors simply do not have the pieces to even be in the conversation, even when we are just talking about fake trades.
3. LeBron James and Gabe Vincent for Kyle Lowry, Duncan Robinson, Nikola Jovic, first-round pick
The benefit of this fake LeBron trade would be that the Lakers get off of Gabe Vincent's three-year contract which already looks like a mess. Lowry is just an expiring, Robinson is a sunk-cost asset and Jovic hasn't proven anything.
The only thing that makes this fake trade better than the two Warriors' fake trades is the fact that the Lakers would at least be getting a pick.
4. LeBron James for Khris Middleton, Pat Connaughton
On paper, this trade does not seem as bad as the other fake trades because Middleton would be coming back to LA. While Middleton is a household name, he isn't someone to build around and would probably hurt the Lakers' future more than help it because of his contract and age.
Sure, the Lakers could theoretically try and bring in a third star to pair with Middleton and Anthony Davis but it probably still would not work.
5. LeBron James for Tobias Harris, salary-filler, future picks
The exact details of this fake LeBron trade weren't fully given out as Simmons was just fleshing out the idea. To make the money work, the 76ers could just attach someone like Robert Covington to the deal.
How bad this fake LeBron trade is depends on the picks that Philly would send. It is still better to get picks for the future rather than an in-between star like Middleton. But is it one pick? Two picks? That changes the calculus.
6. LeBron James for Julius Randle, picks
Julius Randle gets a bad rep and it is not hard to see why as his play can be very frustrating. But he deserves credit where it is due: he is playing well this season and as the salary cap increases, his contract won't seem as bad.
Randle and AD would be a headache pairing for floor spacing but the Lakers could at least theoretically flip Randle for more assets to go along with the picks that the Knicks would trade in this fake deal.
7. LeBron James for Tyler Herro, Jamie Jaquez Jr, Caleb Martin, picks
Once again, we all know that the Lakers are never going to actually trade LeBron James. But in this fake trade scenario, this is one of the better packages that the Lakers could get and could actually make some sense.
The Lakers will never get back the true value of LeBron but this would at least be a step in the right direction for the future. Herro, Jaquez and multiple picks is a solid foundation for the future if that is the direction the team is taking.
8. LeBron James for Donovan Mitchell, Caris LeVert
The only trade proposed that brings a star back to Los Angeles. All of these fake LeBron James trades are absurd but this proposed deal by Howard Beck is the least absurd.