Grade the Trade: Warriors reconvene with rival in proposed all-time blockbuster deal

NBA fans will get their wish of seeing Stephen Curry and LeBron James play together when they feature for Team USA this summer, yet for many it may just be the appetizer of things to come for the current Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers’ superstars.

James joined Curry on the sidelines when the Lakers were eliminated from the first-round of the playoffs on Monday, making for just the second time since 2005 where neither player has made the second-round of the postseason.

Could the Golden State Warriors reconvene with the Los Angeles Lakers on a potential LeBron James trade this offseason?

With the potential of opting out of his $51.4 million player option and becoming an unrestricted free agent, speculation on James’ future has run riot since the Lakers’ elimination. The four-time MVP moved to quash discussion in a post on X/Twitter on Tuesday, but probably only added fuel to the conversation by reiterating that he doesn’t know what the future holds.

What is known is that the Warriors made what was supposed to be a secret play for James at February’s deadline, though the franchise were denied by the Lakers and even more so the 39-year-old and his management.

That doesn’t mean Golden State won’t try again, particularly given their need for a Curry co-star and the added potential of James being a free agent. The Warriors wouldn’t be able to sign the four-time champion unless he were willing to sign a low-level contract, but they could reconvene with the Lakers on a trade were James to express a desire in moving to the Bay.

Following the Lakers’ elimination at the hands of the Denver Nuggets, Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey proposed four potential trades for the franchise to explore during the offseason. One of them featured James being dealt to the Warriors, so let’s evaluate what it looks like and if both franchises would give it thought.

Assuming James opted into his player option or agreed to a sign-and-trade at a similar number, the Warriors would need to send out considerable salary along with young and future assets. Bailey has proposed the following deal to bring LeBron to Golden State:

Golden State Warriors Logo

Making such a move would require the Warriors to guarantee all of Chris Paul’s $30 million team option for next season, meaning their aspirations of getting under the second-tax apron becomes all but impossible. That doesn’t really matter given that adding one of the greatest players of all-time would provide an indication of the franchise’s continued willingness to spend big.

Would the Lakers make the trade?

Essentially helping out a direct pacific rival certainly wouldn’t be on the Lakers offseason wish list, but they may have little choice if James signals his intention or threatens to depart for nothing via free agency.

Given that potential situation, this is a fair return for a player entering his 22nd NBA season and who will be 40 by the end of the year. Adding Paul and Wiggins could maintain some relevance of competitiveness for the Lakers next season, or they could rehabilitate their value in the hopes of extracting further assets by the trade deadline.

If Los Angeles do choose to go into rebuild mode, acquiring Kuminga and this haul of picks is a nice place to start. The 21-year-old displayed All-Star potential in an impressive third season, and would garner even more opportunity to thrive as one of the faces of arguably the league’s biggest franchise.

Losing James would be a disappointing outcome for the Lakers regardless of the return, but this is far from a disastrous result if the options are limited. Assuming Los Angeles accepted the deal, would Golden State also be willing to complete it?

Would the Warriors make the trade?

The sticking point would certainly be Kuminga who the franchise finally let loose over the second-half of the season. The former seventh overall pick averaged 18.6 points on over 54% shooting from January onwards, developing as the Warriors’ second-best scorer behind Curry.

While Kuminga was impressive and perhaps the biggest positive to emanate from Golden State’s season, the reality is that he’s also young with no promises that he’ll ever become an All-Star let alone during Curry’s window.

James may be entering rare territory in terms of age and years played, but he remains one of the league’s most dominant players after averaging 25.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.3 assists while shooting a career-high 41% from three-point range this season

Further from it just being cool to see the two faces of the league play together, James’ downhill force and playmaking combined with Curry’s shooting should make for a perfect fit on the floor. The combination with Klay Thompson should also be seamless supposing the veteran sharpshooter re-signs, and although the offensive fit of James and Draymond Green may be more challenging, the latter will nonetheless remain incredibly important to the Warrior defense.

Even if Golden State give up a large stake of their future in this deal, they would at least retain the trio of Moses Moody, Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis, each of whom would play significant roles in the revamped roster unless they were flipped for further veteran help.

Summary

Assuming the Warriors can re-sign Thompson and attract quality veteran free agents to fill out the roster, then this is a deal they should consider making given James is still a top 15 player in the league.

It is a big price to pay for one or two years of contention, and the franchise should certainly explore James signing as a free agent instead if possible, but perhaps Golden State would pull the trigger in the hope of maximizing the remainder of Curry’s prime.

Grade: B-

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