LeBron James signed a whopping, two-year, $97.1 million contract on Wednesday that will keep the future Hall of Famer with the Los Angeles Lakers through 2024-25 (player option). It’s an incredible contract when you consider that James will be 40 in 2024, but if anyone can maintain an elite level of play at that age, it will be him.
Now, there will be ramifications of the James deal felt around the league, and there may not be a team that feels it more than the Utah Jazz.
First, the odds of Cleveland Cavalier shooting guard Collin Sexton being acquired by the Jazz via sign-and-trade will take a hit.
Sexton is a restricted free agent and Cleveland can match any offer on the table.
It’s still unclear if the Cavaliers think Sexton is worth the contract their young star is seeking, but closing James’ future puts Cleveland in a better position to match if they choose.
What about the likelihood of former MVP Russell Westbrook being traded to Utah as a salary dump? If you believe the rumors that James doesn’t want Westbrook signed up as a Laker in 2022-23, it could happen.
ESPN insider David McMenamin publicly states he doesn’t believe Westbrook is wanted in Los Angeles
“It’s very clear that LeBron has seen enough and has no interest in entering another year with Russ as his teammate,” McMenamin reported.
Westbrook’s future has surely been discussed at the bargaining table. A three-year commitment to James has a pre-season Westbrook trade written all over it.
If the Jazz decide to end the 2022-23 season, a deal with the Lakers makes a lot of sense.
Bojan Bogdanovic, Patrick Beverley and Malik Beasley would be the main candidates for the exchange. They have the salaries to match Westbrook’s contract, and all three are playing at a high enough level to keep the Lakers competitive this year.
Importantly, they all have expiring contracts where the Lakers could reload in next year’s free agent market. This would give James one last chance to play GM in his quest for more rings.
Westbrook would be bought out or given up by Utah, and the tank would be on.
It would come at a cost, but James will be long gone when it’s time to pay. The future capital draft would come Utah’s way, and the Jazz could cash in when it’s the Lakers’ turn to rebuild.
Keep in mind that Utah could tank with or without Donovan Mitchell on the roster. Plus, not having Sexton as an option to build around their All-Star guard would be another reason to bite the bullet in 2022-23.
Closing of these matters is coming soon, with the season only two months away.
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