The Ringer CEO and avowed Lakers loather Bill Simmons has many thoughts when it comes to LeBron James’s lucrative new extension.
View the original article to see embedded media.
In a podcast conversation with The Ringer’s NBA writers Wosny Lambre and Rob Mahoney (snippet below), Simmons discusses the 37-year-old All-Star forward’s recently-inked maximum-salary, two-year extension. The deal is said to be worth $97,133,373. Minimally, James will be under contract with Los Angeles through the 2023/24 NBA season. He has a player option for his age-40 2024/25 season, projected to be worth $50,434,636.
Simmons, who lives in L.A., notes that the Lakers fans in his circles are ambivalent about the deal. James’s Los Angeles phase has been the most injury-plagued of his career, though of course he did win a title and net Finals MVP honors in 2020. His Lakers teams have also missed the playoffs during two of his four seasons in Los Angeles thus far.
As Simmons notes, James’s eldest son, LeBron “Bronny” James Jr., will become NBA-eligible ahead of the 2024/25 season, meaning the senior James could opt out of the final year of his deal with the Lakers and join whatever team opts to draft his son. Though Bronny is currently projected as a second-round draft pick or worse, Lambry is deeply skeptical. Simmons notes that the deal locks in James and injury-prone All-Star big man Anthony Davis on massive contracts through the 2024 season. Simmons specifically mentioned his frustration with the player option, which he felt wasn’t a definitive enough commitment from the James camp.
AD will earn $40,600,080 in 2023-24, after which he has a $43,219,440 player option for 2024-25, meaning he could hit free agency ahead of his age-31 season. This pod was recorded prior to the news that the Lakers had traded for Patrick Beverley, but Simmons notes that other Western Conference clubs were significantly deeper than the pre-Beverley iteration of the club. Mahoney notes that the Lakers, traditionally one of the NBA’s starriest franchises, may feel backed into a corner, and compelled to retain two of the league’s luminaries despite their deals throttling the team’s roster flexibility.
During a subsequent podcast conversation with Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated following the Beverley deal, Simmons remains fairly lukewarm on L.A.’s prospects.
Mannix speculates that, due to the choppy on-court and off-court history of incumbent starting point guard Russell Westbrook and future starting point guard Patrick Beverley, he anticipated that the Lakers were at least nearing a deal to flip the former nine-time All-Star and 2017 MVP. Mannix considers the much-discussed hypothetical deal of Westbrook and two first-round picks (in 2027 and 2029, and perhaps the rights to swap other selections) for Indiana Pacers veterans Myles Turner and Buddy Hield as the best available option for L.A.s front office brain trust, led by Rob Pelinka.
Simmons counters by voicing his curiosity as to why the Pacers would settle for such a package. Mannix notes that 7’2″ French big man Victor Wembanyama, the top prospect in the 2023 draft, has such mouth-watering potential that he’s worth downgrading a team’s present-day roster so drastically for a full season-long tank. The loss of Turner, and to a lesser extend Hield, would go a long way towards guaranteeing that the Pacers sink deep into the lottery this year.
Both Simmons and Mannix concede that Beverley is a much better fit with the Lakers, primarily as a massive improvement on defense. They also wonder just which team would actually want to add Westbrook, given his clear reticence to adapt to a bench role or adjust his game in any way, assuming he is dealt away from the Lakers and bought out of the last year of his current contract, set to pay him a whopping $47,063,478.