Thursday is the first day that Lakers forward LeBron James is eligible to sign a contract extension with Los Angeles. Although both parties are under no obligation to rush into a new deal, it is a crucial piece of the Lakers present, and future.
There's plenty of factors affecting whether or not LeBron decides to ink a one-year extension, a two-year extension with a player option for the second year, or decides to play out the rest of his contract and hit free agency next summer. Bronny James, LeBron's oldest son, is definitely part of the equation.
LeBron has noted numerous times that playing with Bronny in the NBA is a career goal of his. Bronny isn't a top 25 recruit according to ESPN in his high school class (2023), but the prep guard could wind up developing into a player worthy of a first-round selection.
Which could be, a big problem for the Lakers.
If LeBron is on the Lakers, LA may or may not have a first-round pick. If the pick is a Marvel infinity stone, Pelicans GM David Griffin has the gauntlet. Due to the terms of the 2020 Anthony Davis trade between the two teams, Griffin has the right to defer the pick to 2025.
Griffin served as the GM of the Cavs from 2014 to 2017 and helped build a roster around LeBron that won it all in 2016. The two are reportedly still "close" to this day.
The Athletic's Joe Vardon noted in a recent article the ironic Griffin twist and how it could factor into LeBron's willingness to extend with the Lakers.
"But the Lakers don’t have a first-round pick in that draft right now, unless the Pelicans OK it. Who would make that decision? New Orleans vice president David Griffin, who is close to and won a championship with LeBron when the two worked together in Cleveland."
Before LeBron came to the Lakers, the franchise was awash in a sea of mediocrity. James brought something that the Buss family, Magic Johnson, the Rambii, and Rob Pelinka failed time and time again to deliver - credibility.
Although the last two years have been far from standout, LeBron, alongside fellow superstar Anthony Davis, brought LA its 17th NBA championship in 2020.
Whether some Lakers fans want to hear it or not, LeBron leaving threatens to push LA back into the New York Knicks area code. A big brand in a big city with little tangible results.
Griffin might very well hold the key to both the Lakers future and LeBron's.