LeBron James sent shockwaves through the NBA when he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers this summer without another All-Star free agent like Chris Paul or Paul George.
He could have pressured the front office to acquire another All-Star like Kawhi Leonard via the trade market, but James told Rachel Nichols of ESPN that he didn’t because he “loves the young guys.”
Should that change between now and the trade deadline in February, though, James could ask the front office to target a different All-Star in the Western Conference, because according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, James would like to play with Portland Trailblazers superstar Damian Lillard:
“LeBron wants to play with Damian Lillard. He’s one of the guys he’d like to play with and that’s chatter around the league. It has been since before LeBron signed with the Lakers, it was one of the many indicators that he was heading there.”
That interest noted, O’Connor also said he doesn’t think it is possible for the two to team-up anytime soon.
“I just don’t see, even in a theoretical world where it was an offer like that, I don’t see Portland dealing in the Western Conference.”
Getting back to James’ reported interest though, you don’t have to have inside sources to know that he is a big fan of Lillard’s. In March, James told reporters that he would not mind having the league’s self-proclaimed most underrated point guard.
“No, I don’t think (he’s underrated). I don’t think so, but he definitely uses that. I like how he uses that. If you’re a true basketball [mind] -- there’s not a lot of true basketball minds and people that understand the game -- but for me, I understand it. I know,” James said. “Give me Damian Lillard. I’ll show you how appreciated he’ll be.”
But as O’Connor notes, everything would have to be right for both sides in order for a deal to get done.
The Lakers have a handful of young talent they can offer in a trade, but they have very few large contracts they can use to match Lillard’s $27.9 million annual salary. The best they could offer Portland currently is Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but even that couldn’t be executed until after Dec. 15, when the trade restriction is lifted on Caldwell-Pope.
James has influenced his previous teams to pull off some splashy trades in the past, but the salary-matching difficulties, Portland’s reticence to deal Lillard to a Western Conference rival and the fact that Lillard has two more years left on his deal even after this season make this particular one seem highly unlikely, now matter how much James likes Lillard’s game.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.