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Report: LeBron James not expected to commit to Lakers before draft, free agency

Lakers star LeBron James

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - MARCH 27: LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to a call during the fourth quarter of an NBA game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center on March 27, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans Pelicans won the game 116 - 108. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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The Cavaliers reportedly would’ve traded for Paul George if LeBron James committed long-term in 2018. Perhaps already planning to leave, LeBron didn’t commit then actually left for the Lakers the next year.

Now, Los Angeles is facing a similar predicament.

LeBron will be eligible for a contract extension Aug. 4. Don’t expect an early decision.

Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:

Competing executives and agents do not expect the team to get clarity from James ahead of the draft and free agency.

Pincus’ sources might just be speculating based on LeBron’s history with Cleveland. That wouldn’t mean much. LeBron signed a long-term deal in Los Angeles then signed a contract extension as soon as he could, even forgoing a player option. He has operated significantly differently with the Lakers than with the Cavs.

But it’s also possible the Lakers – or even LeBron’s camp – have shared word of his plan that’s trickling through other teams. That possibility than makes this report intriguing.

It’d be easier for the Lakers to trade for a good player in a contract year, take unwanted multi-year salary and/or deal future draft picks if knowing LeBron is staying. Los Angeles doesn’t want to get caught with a miserable long-term outlook if LeBron leaves. Better to ride out the final year of Russell Westbrook’s contract then make a clean break next year.

Unlike the Cavaliers, the Lakers aren’t necessarily totally screwed if LeBron leaves. Anthony Davis is locked in through 2024. Los Angeles remains a premier market that can attract top talent.

Still, the Lakers could win a championship next year with LeBron. Even if he leaves next summer, Los Angeles can accomplish plenty before then. Plus, winning a title would probably make LeBron more likely to stay.

Though it’d be helpful to have clarity, the Lakers should mostly operate under the assumption LeBron will re-up then just hope for the best.