NBA

Channing Frye: LeBron James should retire unless Lakers make him No. 3 option

NBA

The Portland Trail Blazers were not the only Western Conference team eliminated from the postseason Thursday afternoon.

The defending NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers fell in six games to the second-seeded Phoenix Suns in a 113-100 loss at Staples Center in Game 6. 

Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports says sources told him LeBron James, who averaged 23.3 points, eight assists, 7.2 rebounds on 47 percent shooting, including 37.5 percent from 3-point range during the series, was at 85-percent health this postseason. 

After the defeat, LeBron's former teammate and Talkin' Blazers co-host Channing Frye claims the Lakers need to trade for a third star this offseason to make it worth LeBron's time to continue his career.

But not just any star, a player better than LeBron James. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon!]

"This is the summer of Rob Pelinka," said Frye on the latest Talkin' Blazers podcast. "Bron needs to say 'Of everything I've done in my career, you obviously see I can't, in today's age, take a team and win you 50 games myself. I can't do it. What I can do is provide leadership and culture and I need to take two steps back.'

 

LeBron, this is going to sound wild, needs to be your third-best player.

Channing Frye on LeBron James heading into 2021-22

Frye thinks James has played too many games to be the engine of a championship-caliber team, despite a season where he was the favorite to win MVP prior to his ankle injury and him winning a fourth Larry O'Brien Trophy and fourth NBA Finals MVP less than a year ago. 

"He can be your facilitator, your guy. You cannot rely on him to give you fifty. You cannot rely on him to give you these crazy triple-doubles," added Frye. "He's just had too many miles, the tread is almost off the tire.

"So if Rob cannot bring him a championship team, Bron, in my opinion, should say 'Thank you. I had a great career, 18, 19 years in the league... I'm going to retire on top."

How exactly can the Lakers go about executing Frye's plan? It will be extremely hard and basically impossible.

James is, at worst, a top-ten player in the NBA. He's more likely in the top-three players any NBA franchise would want for a playoff run. 

As far as assets, the Lakers have its own 2022 First-Round pick, one of its 2024 and 2025 First Round Picks, and its First-Round Picks from 2025-2028. 

Given Jrue Holiday, on an expiring contract, went for three unprotected first-round picks and two pick swaps last offseason, the price to acquire a top-ten NBA player would be out of the Lakers price range, even if Pelinka includes every first-round pick the Lakers can legally trade. 

Additionally, James has two years remaining on his current contract thanks to a two-year extension signed in December 2020 worth $41 million in 2021-22 and $44.4 million in 2022-23.

He can be an unrestricted free agent in 2023 at 38 years old when his son, Bronny James, graduates high school and has one year before he's draft-eligible per current NBA rules. However, it's possible the league lowers the age requirement to enter the draft by then paving the way for LeBron to play with his son.

"That's definitely one of my goals, but that's a long-term goal," James said in March 2021 about playing with his son. "My son right now is in high school and enjoying what being a teenager is all about. But that would be pretty cool to go on my resume."

Now, if the Lakers want to instead acquire a solid scoring option to let LeBron take a backseat during the regular season, that makes sense. But again, the Lakers lack of assets can come back to bite them.

Perhaps the Lakers can package the 2021-22 salaries of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($13 million), Kyle Kuzma ($13 million) and Montrezl Harrell ($9.7 million player option) along with multiple future first-round picks for a third scorer, but then it leaves the Lakers needing to fill all but four roster spots (plus players coming in from the trade) with minimum contracts. 

Los Angeles has bird rights on Dennis Schröder and Alex Caruso but even then, that will be an expensive roster lacking significant depth. 

 

Is it possible for Frye's vision to become reality? Maybe, but the odds are not in his favor.