What does LeBron James want? When does he want it? Since 2010, the year of The Decision, these are questions that have not only plagued the teams he’s played on, but the NBA as a whole. More than any player in the modern era, LeBron has had the power to control the landscape of the league—or at the very least, his own situation in it. LeBron has earned this clout and the power that comes with it: He is one of the two best players of all time, he changes not just franchises but cities, and he can carry tattered rosters to the Finals.
LeBron’s wish list has evolved over the years when it comes to players he wants to team up with. First, he got his wish to play with two other stars when he joined up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Then his tweet compliments of Shabazz Napier sparked the Heat to draft the UConn guard only to see LeBron leave Miami that very summer. When LeBron returned home to Cleveland, he got the help he needed in the form of J.R. Smith, had the Cavs sign Wade for half a season, and also reportedly wanted the team to go after Damian Lillard and/or Paul George in the wake of Kyrie Irving’s trade request. The latter nearly happened in a moment that will go down in what-if history and reportedly upset LeBron.
With LeBron in L.A. for at least the next three seasons and the team displaying some growing pains, we’re now hearing the first inklings of LeBron’s wish list as a Laker. When Carmelo Anthony became available in November, LeBron swatted away questions about him joining the Lakers. But Tuesday night, he said he’d love it, though there are “some things that need to be worked out on both sides.” It wasn’t a secret either that the Lakers and LeBron wanted Trevor Ariza, who ended up on the Wizards last week. And the cherry on top is a big one, even if it is not in the least bit surprising: LeBron wants to play with Anthony Davis.
”That would be amazing, like, duh. That would be incredible,” he told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin on Tuesday night. Aside from the fact that I can’t stop reading this quote in a Valley girl accent, this is notable for myriad reasons. The obvious, of course, is that Davis could turn down a supermax extension from the Pelicans this summer, which would basically force the Pelicans to trade him sooner rather than later. The race for Davis has already begun, given that New Orleans is a below-.500 team that needs supernatural performances from Davis to stay in games. Every loss seems like another blow to the chances of him staying in town. And can you imagine LeBron and Davis playing next to each other? Even if this quote from LeBron is boilerplate (what was he supposed to say, that he doesn’t want play with Davis?), the idea of those two sharing the court is too compelling to not take a moment to dream about it.
Davis is the next white whale of pre-agency—he’s 25, already arguably one of the five best players in the league, and certainly one of the best defenders. His wingspan and athletic abilities alone are otherworldly, and his skill as both a stretch big and an immovable force in the paint would make him 100 times better than JaVale McGee, the center LeBron is playing with now. Davis is the perfect LeBron companion, both on the court, and in a figurative, torch-passing sense.
LeBron’s wish list has evolved much like his career. It’s clear that this version of the Lakers isn’t bound to last as is, full of young players and without a clear second star. This is LeBron, who once made sure the Cavs traded for Kevin Love and sent rookie Andrew Wiggins to Minnesota to build a win-now team. He knows he needs less of a project and more of a group of players who will help him age (and win) gracefully. The price, of course, will be steep. The Pelicans would demand a right arm and a leg for their prized center, and as of now the race appears to be a heat between the Celtics—who can’t trade for Davis until this offseason because the Celtics already traded for Kyrie Irving, activating a weird CBA rule, but have assets to spare—and the Lakers, who have a glut of young players with unknown ceilings.
It seems strange and a little off-putting to be treating the Davis sweepstakes so matter-of-factly already. We’re just over half a year removed from the Pelicans sweeping the Blazers and looking like a team that could at least give the Warriors some trouble. But at the same time, if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last few seasons, it’s that it’s never too early to start thinking about a star player’s availability. Funnily enough, no one knows that better than the guy who is starting the conversation about Davis to L.A. Advantage, LeBron.