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NBA teams preparing for LeBron James to request a trade: Look at 3 landing spots

Despite the Los Angeles Lakers’ current five-game winning streak, it’s not a stretch to say that LeBron James is unhappy about the trajectory of the organization.

The four-time NBA champion has talked about this a lot on a public forum since Los Angeles’ losing ways started a season ago. He has not been shy about it in recent weeks, either.

“I don’t want to finish my career playing at this level, from a team aspect. I want to still be able to compete for championships because I know what I can still bring to any ballclub with the right pieces.”

LeBron James back in late-December

Prior to signing a two-year extension this past summer, the 38-year-old James had expressed frustration over Los Angeles’ direction. That included general manager Rob Pelinka and Co. remaining inactive ahead of the in-season NBA trade deadline last February.

It now appears that some around the Association are preparing for James to request a trade this coming summer.

“It’s in the background, if you think you have a chance at him. There are preparations being made, just in case—you have to make them, like the Boy Scouts used to say, ‘Be Prepared.’ It will not be an easy thing to do, and there are a lot of factors. There’s still a chance the Lakers make a trade this year, or that something clicks and they go on a run.”

Unnamed NBA general manager on LeBron James, via Sean Deveney of Heavy Sports

James’ contract extension calls for a player option following the 2023-24 season, meaning he’s not necessarily locked in to the Lakers’ long-term. Despite his advanced age, the future Hall of Famer continues to play at a high level.

If he were to request a trade, a number of contending teams would have interest. With that said, James would likely be able to dictate his next stop. It’s why the options we have listed below are somewhat limited.

Related: Sportsnaut’s updated NBA power rankings

LeBron James heads to the New York Knicks

lebron james trade new york knicks
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

If Los Angeles were forced to trade King James, it stands to reason the team would start anew with a rebuild. Given the Knicks’ surplus of draft picks and young players, a move of this ilk would make sense.

The likes of Immanuel Quickley, Mitchell Robinson, Quentin Grimes and/or Miles McBride could be used as core pieces headed to Los Angeles. Add in multiple future first-round picks, and the Lakers would be set up for success moving forward.

From New York’s perspective, this is an absolute no-brainer. The long-downtrodden franchise missed out on the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving package during the summer of 2019. It has not been able to land that generational star. The idea of bringing James to the Mecca of the basketball world would make sense. And in reality, he would love existing in North America’s largest media market while showing up randomly at Rucker Park.

Related: LeBron James and the top 2022-23 NBA MVP candidates

King James and Gregg Popovich ride off into the sunset together

lebron james trade san antonio spurs
Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

James is not alone in respecting one of the greatest head coaches in NBA history. The legendary forward played under Pop multiple times for the U.S. Men’s National team when the latter was an assistant and has thrown a ton of praise in his direction.

“I think he’s the greatest coach of all time,” James said back in 2017.

Now, San Antonio is in a full-scale rebuild mode. It has not made the playoffs since the 2018-19 season and currently boasts the second-worst record in the Western Conference at 13-27.

None of this means a James and Pop pairing could not work. Star players would still love to play with this iteration of King James. San Antonio has draft pick assets and young players to offer up in order to bring in another star or two. It could reasonably be a match made in heaven as these two larger-than-life figures finish up their Hall-worthy careers.

Related: Sportsnaut’s updated NBA Playoff and Finals predictions

LeBron James joins Stephen Curry with the Golden State Warriors

lebron james trade golden state warriors
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

James would receive a ton of criticism from naysayers if he were to navigate his way to the Bay Area. Teaming up with a dude in Curry who defeated him three times in the NBA Finals during a four-year span might not be the best of looks. With that said, James himself has touched on this as a possibility in the not-so-distant past.

“Steph Curry is the one I want to play with, for sure, in today’s game. (He’s) lethal, man. When he gets out his car, you better guard him right from the moment he pulls up to the arena. Soon as he gets out of his car, you better guard his a**. You might want to guard him when he gets out of bed. Swear to God.”

LeBron James on playing with Stephen Curry (April, 2022)

With both Curry and James in the back end of their primes, this is a marriage that could actually work out. Just look at how well both are playing thus far this season.

  • Stephen Curry stats (2022-23): 30.0 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 6.8 APG, 50% shooting, 43% 3-point
  • LeBron James stats (2022-23): 29.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 6.7 APG, 51% shooting

The two Akron natives teaming up together would be all sorts of epic. As for a potential trade, Golden State has the assets in terms of young players, draft picks and salaries to make this work.