Stiles & Watkins’ Big Fish List: Should the Kings pursue LeBron James?

May 6, 2024, 8:47 AM

LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands on the court before their game against the Sacram...

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 13: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands on the court before their game against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on March 13, 2024 in Sacramento, California. 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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

As the NBA offseason approaches, the Sacramento Kings are at somewhat of a crossroads heading into free agency and trade season.

What can Kings general manager Monte McNair do to push this team to the next level?

This week on Stiles & Watkins with hosts Allen Stiles and Chris Watkins, the guys broke down players that could be on Sacramento’s offseason wishlist.

Today, let’s dive into the next player on Chris’ ‘Big Fish’ list: New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram.

YouTube video

LeBron James | Los Angeles Lakers | SF/PF | Age: 39 | 2024-25 Salary: $51.4 million (player option)

LeBron James has a legitimate argument for being the best basketball player ever. Anyone who watches the NBA knows about James and the many skills he provides to an organization, both on and off the floor.

With a player option for next season, his future is in question. His son, Bronny James, has entered the 2024 NBA Draft, and James has publicly claimed his desire to play with his son in the past. Who knows if those feelings have changed as time has passed?

For the Kings to be involved in any potential LeBron James deal, the 20-time All-Star would have to pick up his hefty option and request a trade, with Sacramento as an acceptable destination in his mind. I know it’s already an unlikely scenario, but Mike Brown has coached James before, and he could look at Sacramento as an opportunity to win — believe it or not.

At age 39, he still was an exceptional contributor. The Akron native averaged 25.7 points, 8.3 assists, and 7.3 rebounds on 54.0 percent from the field, a career-high 41.0 percent from three on 5.1 attempts per game, and 75.0 percent from the free-throw line. That’s elite production in his 21st season, where he appeared in all but 11 games.

Concerns about his immediate future seem to be primarily determined by how long LeBron James prefers to keep going (because he can still play). But, from Sacramento’s perspective, James could benefit them instantly while young players continue to improve and bolster the roster’s future.

That’s where Keegan Murray comes into play. General manager Monte McNair and seemingly every member of Sacramento’s staff are incredibly high on the former third-overall pick’s long-term projection. So, while the young forward comes into his own, James could shoulder a larger responsibility before passing the baton down.

It’s a similar idea financially. Murray has two years left on his rookie deal, providing production significantly above his financial cost. James has one year remaining on his deal, a player option for $51.4 million.

The Kings would likely have to be all-in on a ‘Big Four’ of Fox, Sabonis, James, and (eventually) Murray being good enough. Good enough to compete for a Western Conference championship and the Larry O’Brien afterward. Maybe it could be with the right surrounding pieces. If Malik Monk stuck around and they capitalized on their mid-level and bi-annual exceptions this offseason, the blueprint could be there.

Their 2024 pick fell with the lottery and, therefore, was not conveyed to Atlanta. This left their 2025 and 2026 first-rounders untradeable as they remained locked up in that deal—although teams have been able to remove future restrictions in the past.

On draft night, they could select a prospect for another team with a handshake deal in place—if that’s something Los Angeles (or any team) would prefer.

Some would need to be made into swaps due to the Stepien rule, which prevents teams from trading away consecutive draft picks. The all-in offer could include the (likely) 13th pick in 2024, two unprotected first (2028 and 2030), and first-round swaps in 2027 and 2029. Three first, two swaps, two middle-of-the-pack (or potentially lower) staters, and a former 2021 lottery pick.

To match James’s hefty $51.4 million salary, Harrison Barnes ($18.0 million) and Kevin Huerter ($16.8 million) would need to be included. After that, Davion Mitchell seems like a candidate to sweeten the pot (given their lack of a traditional point guard) and a bunch of draft picks. Including the 2024 pick (13th in lottery odds), the Kings have five first-rounders to work with.

However, additional trades would be tough after acquiring James, given the recent track record of NBA stars who hit the trade block. Assuming Murray would be off the table in any deal, the Kings would likely need to fork over significant draft capital to present the best offer. However, including Murray in deals shouldn’t be out of the question, despite their clear optimism regarding the ceiling in the NBA.

McNair and his group clearly loved Tyrese Haliburton as well, and they elected to include him to preserve their future draft capital. Something similar could happen with the former fourth-overall pick, but it’s certainly not the expected route.

Finding a way to complete that deal (without including Murray) could elevate this roster into instant contention for the Western Conference Finals. Of course, it’s up to McNair to decide if it’s worth the price.

When is the next Sacramento Kings offseason date of interest?

For the first time in two years, the Sacramento Kings will be crossing its fingers for luck during the upcoming NBA Draft Lottery.

The 2024 NBA Draft Lottery will be held on Sunday, May 12, 2024, in Chicago, where Sacramento will have the 13th-best odds of securing the top pick.

How the Lottery works: The 14 teams that missed out on the NBA playoffs are eligible for the Draft Lottery. The final odds were determined after the regular season, and tie breaks were settled between teams with identical regular season records.

NBA Offseason Schedule

  • Sunday, May 12 – NBA Draft Lottery
  • Wednesday, June 26-Thursday, June 27th – 2024 NBA Draft
  • Sunday, June 30th – Free Agent negotiating window opens (3 PM PST)
  • Saturday, July 6th – Free Agents can officially sign contracts
  • July 12-22nd – Las Vegas Summer League
  • July 27-August 11th – 2024 Olympic Games
  • Friday, September 27th – NBA training camps begin

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