Last week, rumors suggested that the Los Angeles Lakers had, at one point, flirted with the idea of trading last summer’s superstar signing, LeBron James, as the February trade deadline neared and their chances of acquiring Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans dwindled. Since the trade deadline passed, the Lakers’ slump has continued unabated, as the team dropped to 31-39 on Sunday after they lost by one point to the lowly New York Knicks. That led ESPN analyst and Boston Celtics legend Paul Pierce to comment after the game that the Lakers would be better off trading James in the event they win this year’s lottery for the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
As reported by Boston.com, Pierce didn’t elaborate much when he was asked what he would do if he was in charge of the Lakers, assuming the team ended up with this year’s first overall draft selection. However, he made it clear that he would rather stick with someone like highly-regarded Duke University forward Zion Williamson, who could potentially have a long and productive career in the NBA ahead of him, instead of keeping the 34-year-old James around for the remainder of his contract.
“If the Lakers got the No. 1 pick, I would trade LeBron James,” said Pierce. “You’re talking about three years left of LeBron or 15 years left of Zion. Let’s go.”
Although the Lakers have yet to acknowledge the rumors, Bleacher Report‘s Ric Bucher wrote last week that, per sources familiar with the situation, Lakers management had “contemplated” the idea of trading James to another team. The report noted that this was largely on account of allegations that LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, had fueled the trade rumors linking Los Angeles to his other top-tier NBA client, Anthony Davis, thus leading to the distractions many have blamed for the Lakers’ ongoing slump.
While the “ill will” between Paul and Lakers owner Jeanie Buss has reportedly “dissipated” since then, Buss did issue a recent statement that accused the media of spreading “fake news” about the attempted trade for Davis, per ESPN.
At this point, it’s far from certain what the Lakers’ plans may be in the event they get lucky in the draft lottery and come away with this year’s first overall pick. However, Zion Williamson has put up numbers that have arguably justified his status as this year’s most likely No. 1 overall selection, as the 6-foot-7-inch, 285-pound forward currently sports averages of 22.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 29 games for the Duke Blue Devils, per Sports Reference.
Interestingly, Williamson has drawn his share of comparisons to LeBron James, though he downplayed these in a recent interview with GQ, saying that all-time greats such as James and Michael Jordan “didn’t become who they are because they were compared to other people.”