Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

Ric Bucher

FOX Sports activities NBA Analyst

Maybe this shouldn’t come as a shock, however followers aren’t the one ones who get pleasure from enjoying what-if. NBA executives and scouts do as effectively. 

And with each the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets on tempo to overlook the playoffs, the front-office hypothesis across the league is whether or not this might encourage a fantasy league-type alternate of discounted superstars. Not simply Russell Westbrook for Kyrie Irving — which was rumored final summer season — however Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant added to the combination.

Sound farfetched? Whereas nobody within the league is satisfied it’ll occur, a number of GMs consider that it may.

“Who would try this? All events concerned,” an Japanese Convention GM mentioned.

There’s no indication that both workforce has reached out to the opposite at this level, however the Lakers, league sources say, have recognized since final summer season that their present roster isn’t able to competing for one more championship. They had been extremely , these sources say, in swapping level guards, however the Nets by no means “engaged,” mentioned one supply.

The query now’s — with Irving embroiled in one other distraction courtesy of a social media put up seen as antisemitic and a contentious alternate with a media member due to it — are the Nets now receptive?

“Method too early to name,” a second Japanese Convention GM mentioned. “It makes some sense for each, however Kyrie is such a wild card proper now.”

One query is whether or not the Lakers are determined sufficient to incorporate their two obtainable future first-round picks in 2027 and 2029. Whereas the Lakers would look like the far worse workforce (league-low two wins, twenty ninth in internet score) in comparison with the Nets (4-7, 18th in internet score), a Western Convention scout believes the Nets needs to be extra wanting to make a change.

“The Nets needs to be extremely motivated to maneuver the albatross of the fashionable NBA and obtain worth,” the scout mentioned, referring to Irving. “In any other case, he walks this summer season and the Nets get nothing. The Nets want measurement, and so they have urgency for this season. I feel the Lakers are trying a yr down the street.”

One other Japanese Convention GM believes the Nets solely interact the Lakers if Durant reiterates the commerce demand he made final summer season after which rescinded. Early indications are that Durant has no points with Jacque Vaughn being named the full-time head coach and seems content material to stay a Web — for now.

“Any rebuild,” the GM mentioned, “would start if and when KD desires out.”

Each the Lakers and Nets are among the many prime 5 groups in participant payroll this season. Each are additionally topic to a hefty luxurious tax for having repeatedly gone over the brink the previous few years. That’s why the Nets, league sources mentioned, additionally hope to maneuver long-range shooter Joe Harris, who is ready to make $18 million this yr and $19 million subsequent season. The Lakers including Patrick Beverley and his expiring $13 million wage to a Westbrook-Davis deal would fulfill salary-cap commerce necessities, however it might carry the deal to almost $200 million in contracts being moved, simply a league report for a single commerce.

For that purpose, an Japanese Convention assistant GM is skeptical that the Nets and Lakers truly get something performed. Doing a little a part of the bigger deal doesn’t make sufficient of an affect and doing the blockbuster model has too many transferring elements. 

“Too many obstacles,” he mentioned. “I don’t see it taking place.”

WHAT ABOUT LEBRON? LeBron James signed a two-year, $97.1 million extension in August that ties him to the Lakers not less than by means of the 2023-24 season, with a participant possibility for the next yr. However contemplating how this season goes to date, the Lakers’ restricted assets to enhance subsequent yr, and James’ infamous restlessness enjoying for groups that aren’t title contenders, the query has been raised in NBA circles whether or not James would endure by means of one more season like this one or demand to be traded. 

And if he did ask to be moved, what vacation spot would take advantage of sense?

There’s been loads of hypothesis already about James probably returning to Cleveland since he truly mentioned, “Don’t shut the door on that,” final February, and the Cavs are as soon as once more seen as one of many higher groups within the Japanese Convention.

Most executives, although, don’t see James straying that removed from his household or his enterprise pursuits on the West Coast. The Cavs additionally used chunk of their future draft capital in buying Donovan Mitchell, sending the Utah Jazz three first-round picks and the rights to swap two others. 

If the Lakers had been to maneuver James, it presumably could be to amass the treasure trove of future picks they at the moment lack.

A Western Convention scout pointed to the Phoenix Suns as a much more best candidate ought to they discover themselves as soon as once more falling quick this season of their quest for the franchise’s first championship, after reaching the Finals two years in the past after which getting knocked out in a seven-game, second-round sequence by Luka Dončić and the Dallas Mavericks final yr.

“The Suns have proved themselves fairly able to getting shut, however I feel they want a bit bit extra in the event that they wish to get to the place they need,” the scout mentioned. “Yet one more ball handler and playmaker.”

The presence of considered one of LeBron’s greatest mates, Chris Paul, would make it particularly interesting. 

“It’s the one place he’d be welcome with open arms,” the scout mentioned. “In Phoenix, with LeBron, I feel Chris would lastly get his ring.”

The Suns, in contrast to the Cavs, have all of their draft picks obtainable to spend. James signing an extension that may pay him practically $47 million subsequent season makes transferring him — or him asking to be moved — extra problematic, however not not possible. The perspective amongst executives is that there is no such thing as a such factor as an unmovable contract nowadays.

Even when James doesn’t broach the topic of going elsewhere to chase one other ring and end his profession, the scout believes the Lakers ought to.

“They want to consider transferring LeBron and Anthony Davis,” he mentioned. “They simply have too many holes to fill.”

UDOKA’S FUTURE: Had been the Nets former disgraced Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka’s greatest final likelihood to land one other teaching job? 

The league consensus is that the Nets did have curiosity in Udoka at one level earlier than giving the full-time job to Jacque Vaughn final week. However with the workforce already embroiled within the controversies sparked by Irving, hiring a coach suspended for alleged sexual harassment was inviting much more public and media outcry.

“There isn’t any doubt it was an excessive amount of for the local weather there to soak up,” one Japanese Convention GM mentioned.

A workforce seeking to make a training change that isn’t already coping with a poisonous atmosphere, nonetheless, won’t be as fazed by the circumstances that led to Udoka’s suspension in Boston. Actually, one workforce apparently wasn’t. 

An Japanese Convention GM declined to determine the workforce however mentioned, “I do know for a truth a workforce was gathering background intel on Ime per week after every little thing occurred in Boston,” he mentioned. “Ime was going to be their man in the event that they fired their present coach.”

Learn extra:

Ric Bucher is an NBA author for FOX Sports activities. He beforehand wrote for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Journal and The Washington Put up and has written two books, “Rebound,” on NBA ahead Brian Grant’s battle with younger onset Parkinson’s, and “Yao: A Life In Two Worlds.” He additionally has a each day podcast, “On The Ball with Ric Bucher.” Observe him on Twitter @RicBucher.

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