Athletic’s Shams Charania brought news On Monday, Kyrie Irving contacted LeBron James to find out if the Lakers star would join the Mavericks. This predictably triggered a flurry of speculation, but underestimated how difficult this situation would be to pull through.
There are a lot of reasons why a LeBron-to-Dallas scenario would be virtually impossible. Here are some of the best.
Four reasons why LeBron James is (probably) not joining the Mavericks
LeBron is still under contract with the Lakers
James recently signed a two-year extension with the Lakers that gives him $46.9 million in the 2023-24 season and a $50.7 million player option in the 2024-25 season.
Simply put, he cannot move teams without the help of his current team. And why would the Lakers want to sell him to the Mavericks?
The Mavericks are nowhere near worth enough to trade for LeBron
The Mavericks could theoretically trade for James’ contract. The problem is that they already gave up a large part of their fortune for the transfer to Irving last season. That haul included most of their useful roleplayers, a first-round pick from 2029, and the two remaining second-round picks. They don’t have enough left to care about the Lakers.
As for draft assets, the Mavericks can only trade their 2027 first-round pick and the 2023 NBA draft #10 pick after making that pick.
Considering the four first-round picks other weaker players have gotten over the past year, two first-round picks for James is a ridiculously low price that a host of other teams could surpass. While the Mavericks have some promising young players like Jaden Hardy and Josh Green to add, that’s still nowhere near fair for James.
The Mavericks would also have to give up a lot of salary for a James trade to work. Making this possible might require even more design assets that they don’t have. You could sell that salary filler straight to the Lakers, but why would the Lakers want players like Davis Bertans or Tim Hardaway Jr. in exchange for James, who was still good enough to make an All-NBA team last season ?
MORE: Insight into LeBron James’ relationships with Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic
A buyout scenario for LeBron is pure fantasy
Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes wrote, “The easiest — and most unlikely — way to sign James this offseason would be for him to orchestrate a buyout.”
While that route is technically possible, the prospect of a move to the Lakers is less than mine.
For a buyout to work, the Lakers would have to put James on waivers and hope no other team would claim him. Spoiler alert: every team in the league would want to pick up James’ contract for free if given the chance.
While teams need cap space to claim a waiver on James, there are many teams that have that space. There’s absolutely nothing stopping a team like the Rockets from taking the opportunity to free James from the waivers. Then he would be on their roster for the next two seasons with his current $97.6 million deal.
There’s no reason LeBron would want to play in Dallas
The Mavericks were pretty messed up last year and didn’t even make it to the play-in tournament. Meanwhile, the Lakers reached the Western Conference Finals. If James’ goal is to win, then he’s already closer to that goal.
The Mavericks would also be in salary cap hell if they added James to a core of Luka Doncic and Irving. It would be extremely difficult to complete this list under the new collective agreement.
James’ son Bronny recently signed on to play college basketball at USC. The James family seems very comfortable in Los Angeles. He has no ties to the Dallas area, so it seems far-fetched to think he would be willing to move there.
There seems to be a legitimate interest in James and Irving playing together. James expressed disappointment that the Lakers failed to bring in Irving given last season’s trade deadline. But bringing James to Dallas would be unrealistic for many different reasons.
The opposite – bringing Irving to Los Angeles as a free agent – is still unlikely, but at least possible.