Friday, July 12, 2024

Lakers Must Make Trade Soon after LeBron James Voted Best USA Player amid NBA Rumors

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LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 10:  LeBron James #6 of Team USA looks on during the game against Team Canada on July 10, 2024 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2024 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

LeBron James isn’t actually ageless.

He just appears that way by remaining unimaginably close to the peak of his powers while approaching his age-40 NBA season, the 22nd of his career.

While longevity is nothing new for the league’s all-time leading scorer, it’s still a marvel to witness this sustained excellence up close. Especially when he’s still hooping at such a high level that Team USA training camp participants recently voted James as the best performer in camp, per The Athletic’s Joe Vardon and Sam Amick.

“That’s what I told my brother after the first day, I was like dude’s 40 and he’s the best player on the court,” Houston Rockets swingman and select team member Amen Thompson said.

That’s a testament to James’ commitment to his craft.

Team USA is overloaded with talent. James is one of four former league MVPs on the roster (along with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Joel Embiid) and one of nine players to earn All-NBA honors this past season.

For James to still stand out in as star-studded of a crowd as this is truly remarkable.

It’s a feat that frankly should have the full attention of the Los Angeles Lakers’ front office.

James maybe can’t sustain this greatness like he once did—he was an All-NBA first-team lock until the past few seasons—but the fact he can still summon it is why his team always gets at least a passing mention in championship conversations. Regardless what kind of roster is around him, it’s hard to say he doesn’t have at least a puncher’s chance in any series.

Yet, shouldn’t L.A. be trying to give him better odds than that? If he can carry a good-not-great supporting cast to the Western Conference finals—like he and Anthony Davis did last year—then imagine the kind of damage James would do with a deeper talent pool around him.

The Lakers have explored some options this summer, but are they pushing hard enough for upgrades? That feels debatable, from the outside looking in at least. For as often as they were mentioned in the DeMar DeRozan sweepstakes, they actually “never went beyond expressing just simple interest,” per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

Now, one can quibble with the fit of DeRozan in L.A. If new coach JJ Redick plans on pushing this attack out past the perimeter (and it sure sounds like he does), DeRozan wouldn’t have helped with that. Still, one can also argue the boosts in scoring and secondary playmaking would have been worth it.

This discussion is less about DeRozan specifically, though, and more about the lack of external activity in general.

Some really interesting names have bounced around the trade rumor mill, yet L.A. hasn’t added any of them. Remember, part of the reason the Lakers weren’t active at the trade deadline was that waiting to make an aggressive move this summer opened the possibility of putting three first-rounders on the table. Or, as vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka put it, to take “potentially a greater or bigger swing” this offseason.

So, when are these home-run hacks coming?

James can’t maintain this level forever. He hasn’t actually figured out a way to stop the aging process.

His window to win is right now. He still has the dominance to do it, so long as the roster is up for the challenge.

The Lakers’ isn’t at the moment, but there are trade targets who could change that. It’s time to start pursuing them with more urgency.

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