ESPN‘s hot-take artist Stephen A. Smith just did what he does and kicked the hornet’s nest. On a recent segment of First TakeSmith laid out why the Los Angeles Lakers should trade superstar LeBron James and pounded the table for the Utah Jazz to pick up the phone and explore that as a possibility.
“I’m calling Cleveland, I’m calling Miami … I’m calling Utah. Donovan Mitchell, you want out? D-Wade, little minority owner up in there — Utah. I’m calling Utah … [LeBron] doesn’t have a no-trade clause. They eradicated that. He might not want it but guess what? Unless he’s going to retire, you don’t make those calls anymore. You’ve got Portland. Damian Lillard — I’m making these calls. I’m taking all options. All I’m doing is throwing out teams for you because if I’m the Lakers, I know I ain’t going nowhere. What I’ve got to do is prevent from falling off the cliff entirely and completely stinking up the joint for years to come. Because the reality is, I can’t move [Russell Westbrook] in all likelihood. I’m going to try but I don’t think I can pull it off. Anthony Davis, I can’t get equitable compensation because everybody is telling me he’s too injured so we’re not going to give up a piece for a dude that’s missed half the season two years in a row. So if I’ve got that, all I’ve got is LeBron. So LeBron’s greatness, his box-office appeal, if you’ve got a team that says, ‘I’m willing to sacrifice my youth, I’m willing to sacrifice picks to make a two-year run at a title?’ ”
Sans a no-trade clause in his contract, the Lakers could trade James to whatever destination they wanted without him signing off per se. However, for any prospective suitor – like the Jazz, in Smith’s scenario – that’s not a deal you’re going to make unless you have assurances that the superstar player in question is on board because of the king’s ransom that’d be involved.
The Lakers struggled mightily in 2021-22, going 33-49 and missing the playoffs, but James once again turned in an All-Star campaign, averaging 30.3 points, 6.2 assists, and 8.2 rebounds per game. It was only the third time in his illustrious 19-year career that it averaged north of 30 points per game.
Scroll to Continue
At 37 years old, that level of production is still eye-opening and in the right system, with the right supporting cast of characters, James could lead a team to yet another title, just like he did with the Lakers in 2020-21.
What would it cost the Jazz to acquire an all-timer like James? It’s hard to say but it’d be a pretty penny undoubtedly. Multiple picks and players.
Smith’s bold plan for the LeBron is nothing but Network fodder right now but with the Jazz embroiled in rumors and poised to make some tectonic changes to the roster, perhaps we shouldn’t completely rule out such a possibility. But, again, the odds are so minuscule, LeBron landing in small-market Utah is not worth Jazz fans even entertaining it in their wildest dreams.
Smith gets paid to concoct wild theories and hot takes. Let’s leave this LeBron morsel in that category for now.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.