How the decision to extend LeBron affects potential Westbrook trades, and future of the Lakers | News, results, highlights, stats and rumours

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LeBron James can officially sign a contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday. As usual, he holds all the papers.

A renewed commitment from James could give the Lakers the means to at least try to build a competitor properly. But James’ history with the Cleveland Cavaliers suggests he might prefer to take things one year at a time.

Soon, James’ decision will affect how willing LA is to make a deal with Russell Westbrook. Thanks to long-term assurances from James, it’s easier to forgo future draft picks (perhaps in 2027 and/or 2029) or take back the unwanted salary in the Westbrook deal.

Without a long-term commitment, the Lakers will appear stuck in the current roster, left to vastly outperform expectations. Vandel currently giving Lakers ninth best title odds.


What if James leaves?

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If James decides to move forward beyond this season, the franchise could have massive spending power headed into the 2023 season.

The Lakers could be almost $77 million In the cover space to hunt down James’ replacement if the list is narrowed down to only Anthony Davis and Max Christie. This potential flexibility is why the Lakers are reluctant to trade Westbrook for a large, multi-year salary that comes back in return.

The exact cover area number will depend on Tallinn Horton Tucker and Damien Jones, both of whom have player options. In addition, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Basketball Association (NBPA) may reach a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) before next season that could affect the salary cap.


Extension options

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James could span up to two more seasons for about $97.1 million, starting at about $47 million. That would take him through the 2024-25 season, which aligns with the end of Davis’ current deal.

This commitment would give the Lakers clarity to take on salary or forgo draft considerations in the name of “Winning Now.”

Alternatively, James may be more likely to get a one-plus-one extension, allowing him to pull out after the 2023-24 season. This may be the most likely decision, giving Los Angeles a sense of its future, but ultimately limiting the front office’s confidence in future investments surrounding James.

Assuming James gets a player option with a one-plus-one extension, that would ultimately be the equivalent of a one-year extension. It won’t give the team long-term security, but at least it will have a clear picture of its purchasing power in the summer of 2023.

If James is willing to stay below the salary cap, he will likely wait for free agency to see precisely how the team will benefit.


What if James doesn’t extend, and re-sign in 2023?

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James may choose to retain influence over how the Lakers use their resources. This is how James approached his second assignment in Cleveland.

He can wait for a free agency to see if the new CBA raises his potential earnings.

But keeping Los Angeles in limbo may backfire.

If James chooses to re-sign in 2023 on a one-year deal, the Lakers will be in an even more vulnerable position, given that Davis could also pull out and leave in 2024. Uncertainty about one star is problematic. Two-star uncertainty is a nightmare.

James could also sign for three years for approximately $151 million, starting at about $47 million. The Lakers could still hit about $31.5 million in max space with James back at the max (less with Horton Tucker, Jones and any potential guards like Austin Reeves). That might be enough room to chase down a free agent like Kyrie Irving rather than trade for him this season.

Another path (albeit unlikely) could be to sign James for a minimum $3.1 million one-year deal in 2023.

That’s a more extreme version of what James Harden appears to be doing in Philadelphia with the 76 – taking less than a year to re-sign to get more the following summer. But the Sixers under investigation For a possible rule circumvention with Harden – how this situation is resolved may determine how the Lakers progress with James.

The Lakers will have up to $76 million to spend with James if he signs at least, with re-signing rights at the latest the following season.

However, the most sensible path would be a short-term pay cut that would be enough to enable the Lakers to add a big cut or two. This also assumes that Los Angeles and James are on the same page, have mutual trust and the NBA is not trying to interfere.


finally…

The one-plus-one extension appears to be the most logical path forward, giving James two years of safety, with the ability to leave sooner – and possibly to join the team that drafted his son, Bronny James, if not the Lakers.


Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter, Tweet embed.