What would it take for the Nets to make a fairytale trade for LeBron James?￼
What would it take for the Nets to trade for LeBron James? (Mark J. Terrill/AP)
Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James walk into Barclays Center. What sounds like the makings of a bad dad joke could be a dream come true if LeBron ever forced his way to Brooklyn via trade, and “The King” got the trade wheels turning when he suggested he’d love an opportunity to play with the two Nets’ stars on social media.
It’s fun to dream about and even more fun to simulate on NBA 2K22. In reality, the cost of the Nets doing business with the Lakers would be way too steep.
A deal involving LeBron would signal a massive failure for a Lakers franchise that went all-in on his talents four years ago, which paved the way for the team to win an NBA title in the Orlando bubble in 2020.
As bad as the Lakers were last season — they failed to qualify for the Play-In Tournament with a roster headlined by three future Hall of Famers — all indications point to Russell Westbrook’s departure from the team being far more likely than a deal involving LeBron.
But it’s fun to think about.
The King gave Nets fans a reason to dream when he answered a tweet asking which teammate (past or present) he’d want on his team in a hypothetical two-on-two against Bulls legends Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in their primes. He gave three answers: the late, great Kobe Bryant, Irving and Durant. LeBron’s son, Bryce, was also recently spotted wearing a Kevin Durant jersey.
Fire up the rumor mill.
So what would it take for the Nets to add LeBron this offseason? Ben Simmons, who has three years worth about $114M left on his contract.
Simmons’ unique mix of size, athleticism and playmaking abilities drew strong enough comparisons to LeBron that his early NBA nickname was “The Prince.” Simmons, however, is not LeBron. Not even close. Becoming a consistent jump shooter supercharged LeBron’s game. Simmons, meanwhile, still struggles generating individual offense, is just coming off lower back surgery and hasn’t played in an NBA game in over a year.
So the sweeteners to that deal? The two picks the Nets received from Philly in the James Harden deal — Philly’s first-rounder this year or next year, and their top-eight protected pick in 2027 — Cam Thomas, the standout rising sophomore guard and sharpshooter Seth Curry to make the salaries match. The Lakers could use their trade exception from the Marc Gasol deal to absorb Thomas’ rookie salary whole.
Given Simmons’ history of limitations, the Nets might need another deal sweetener: their next available first-round pick in 2028. That pick is the most valuable piece of this deal behind Simmons. It comes three draft classes after Durant’s contract expires in 2026, which means there’s a higher likelihood that pick is in the lottery.
And that’s the Nets’ best offer. Simmons, Curry, Thomas, both Philly picks and their own 2028 first-rounder. They can add a top-three or top-four protection on that 2028 pick, but this is the cost of doing business. If the Nets want to add LeBron to a team that already includes Durant and Irving, they’ll have to pay top dollar.
This hypothetical scenario also assumes LeBron would want to be in Brooklyn in the first place.
Imagine for a second what that would look like.
LeBron would assume the point guard position, moving Irving back off the ball into his natural role as a flat-out scorer. Durant would play that point forward spot, equally capable of creating his own shot out of the high post or initiating offense bringing the ball up the floor. The Nets would still have Joe Harris under contract and Nic Claxton is a restricted free agent, meaning the Nets reserve the right to match any offer he receives this offseason.
That’s a tough starting five, and if Patty Mills opts in, you’ve still got him coming off the bench.
It’s worth noting, however, that James is 37 years old and entering the final year of his contract. If you thought age would slow him down, you’re only half right. James averaged 30 points, eight rebounds, six assists, a steal and a block per game last season in L.A., but for the third year in four seasons with the Lakers, nagging injuries limited him to less than 60 games played.
Is it worth further mortgaging the franchise’s future to put LeBron, KD, and Kyrie on the same team? LeBron happens to think he and any one of the Nets’ stars can beat prime MJ and Scottie Pippen. If you put him on the floor with both of them, there’s no telling what the Nets can win in a season … or beyond.