It may have sounded inconceivable when the Los Angeles Lakers signed him to a lucrative four-year contract in the summer of 2018, but there have been some rumors suggesting that the team could trade LeBron James after a disappointing 2018-19 campaign marked by all sorts of turmoil. And with about a week and a half having passed since NBC Sports‘ Tom Haberstroh reported that the Philadelphia 76ers could swap superstars with the Lakers — by sending Ben Simmons to Los Angeles in exchange for James — a new report has offered a new twist on this trade idea. This time, it could involve either one of two would-be free agent Sixers forwards — Jimmy Butler or Tobias Harris.
In a report published Thursday, Todderick Hunt of NJ.com noted that a number of Lakers fans are seemingly getting “impatient” with James for a number of reasons, such as loyalty to since-retired superstar Kobe Bryant, and the team’s rough 2018-19 season in general. While Hunt opined that these reasons aren’t good enough for people to want James to be traded, he added that some league observers have noticed a “slippage” in the superstar forward’s game, particularly on defense.
Given that he believes it “makes sense on some level” for the Lakers to trade LeBron James to another team, Hunt mentioned the 76ers as one of the organizations linked to the 34-year-old star. He brought up a theoretical trade idea that would involve LeBron heading to the Sixers, with the Lakers receiving Ben Simmons and “possibly” Tobias Harris or Jimmy Butler. Hunt pointed out that either forward could be included in such a deal via sign-and-trade, as both will be eligible for free agency in the summer of 2019.
Rumors suggesting that the Lakers have considered — or might consider — trading James have swirled since March. That was when Bleacher Report‘s Ric Bucher wrote that — per an unidentified team source — the Lakers “contemplated” sending James elsewhere in the lead-up to the February trade deadline. According to Bucher, this was apparently because Lakers executives were upset with James’ agent, Rich Paul. Paul was accused of spreading trade rumors suggesting that several of LeBron’s teammates would be shipped to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for superstar big man Anthony Davis.
Meanwhile, James has denied reports alleging that there may be a rift between him and the Lakers amid the ongoing challenges the team has faced. According to a report from USA Today, James took to social media last month to share a video where he said the rumors are “not true at all.” Separately, Silver Screen and Roll quoted former Lakers president Magic Johnson, who said during his controversial appearance on ESPN’s First Take that the topic of trading James was “not even talked about” while he was still with the team.