LeBron James signed a massive two-year, $97.1 million contract on Wednesday that will keep the future Hall-of-Famer with the Los Angeles Lakers through 2024-25 (player option). That’s an incredible contract when you consider that James will be 40 years old in 2024, but if anyone can sustain an elite level of play at that age, it will be him.
Now, there will be ramifications of the James deal felt around the league, and there might not be a team that feels it more than the Utah Jazz.
First, the odds of Cleveland Cavalier shooting guard Collin Sexton being acquired by the Jazz via a sign-and-trade are going to take a hit.
Sexton is a restricted free agent, and Cleveland can match any offer on the table.
It’s still uncertain whether the Cavaliers feel Sexton is worth the contract their young star is seeking, but getting closure on James’ future puts Cleveland in a better position to match if it so chooses.
What about the likelihood of former MVP Russell Westbrook being traded to Utah as a salary dump? If you believe the rumors that James doesn’t want Westbrook rostered as a Laker in 2022-23, it could happen.
ESPN insider David McMenamin is on the record stating that he doesn’t think Westbrook is wanted in L.A.
“It’s pretty darn clear that LeBron has seen enough and he has no interest going into another year with Russ as his teammate," McMenamin reported.
Westbrook’s future surely came up at the negotiating table. A three-year commitment to James has a Westbrook trade before the season written all over it.
If the Jazz decide they’re tanking the 2022-23 season, a deal with the Lakers makes a ton of sense.
Bojan Bogdanovic, Patrick Beverley, and Malik Beasley would be prime candidates to be traded. They have the salaries to match Westbrook's contract, and all three are playing at a high enough level to keep the Lakers competitive this year.
But most importantly, they all have expiring contracts where the Lakers could reload on next year's free-agent market. This would give James one last opportunity to play GM in his quest for more rings.
Westbrook would be bought out or waived by Utah, and the tank would be on.
It would come at a cost, but James will be long gone when it’s time to pay up. Future draft capital would come Utah’s way, and the Jazz could cash in when it’s the Lakers' turn to rebuild.
Keep in mind that Utah could tank with or without Donovan Mitchell on the roster. Also, not having Sexton as an option to build around their All-Star guard would be another reason to bite the bullet in 2022-23.
Closure on these matters is coming soon, with the season only two months away.
Follow Patrick on Twitter @pbyrnesNBA.