A report surfaced several days after the NBA trade deadline that Golden State Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob reached out to his Los Angeles Lakers’ counterpart, Jeanie Buss, looking to make a deal for LeBron James.

The Lakers were reportedly not interested. Should they have been?

That was the question posed by FOX Sports to a cross-section of NBA GMs, executives and scouts. After all, while James can, on any given night, even at 39, be one of the league’s best offensive players, the Lakers hit the All-Star break sitting in ninth place in the Western Conference. They have had their share of injuries, but James has been relatively healthy all season, as has co-star Anthony Davis, who is having one of his best all-around seasons. And yet they are a mere four games over .500, ranked 19th on offense and 14th on defense, per Basketball Reference, and don’t have any young franchise-players-in-waiting on the roster.

It’s why one Western Conference scout suggested the Warriors may not have been the only team to inquire about James’ availability. “Are we sure that they didn’t receive calls from other teams whose owners are not as relentlessly PR-driven as Joe Lacob?” he asked. “There are teams who still try to do business without trumpeting their own genius.”

There are teams with championship aspirations other than the Warriors — Cleveland, New York, Minnesota — that would bolster their chances by adding James and have the potential trade assets to do it. James, of course, has made it clear he’s not looking to leave LA, but veteran stars have changed their minds before when faced with the prospect of finishing their career on a rebuilding team. 

Still, the answer from every GM, executive or scout, if they would’ve put James on the trading block: No. For a host of different reasons. The prevailing one being that James is worth more to the Lakers than anything they could get for him.

“The assets they would have gotten wouldn’t have exceeded the on- and off-court value LeBron provides,” one Eastern Conference executive said. “Golden State doesn’t have their first-round pick this year and I doubt a package of Klay Thompson, Jonathan Kuminga and something else would have gotten it done.”

Despite their current record, one Western Conference executive said he’d stick with James because he believes the Lakers are one move away from keeping their championship window open.  

“I would ride it out,” he said. “They can beat anyone and anyone can beat them. But they are a player away from being champs. LeBron is just different and the Lakers will always find a way to get stars. They are not like any other team. In the next two years, they need one more quality guy and they have a chance.”

A Western Conference GM agreed that he’d take one more swing at a ring, regardless of the cost. “I’d use all my assets to try to get another championship,” he said. “LeBron is still good enough that he can be the best player on a championship team, so just go all out. Use your cap space to rebuild when he retires. You are in LA, the easiest place to get free agents.”

Does LeBron or Steph Curry need to make the playoffs more? | First Things First

Does LeBron or Steph Curry need to make the playoffs more? | First Things First

The challenge facing Lakers GM Rob Pelinka is that there are teams that could be looking to add one more quality piece this summer who have a deeper trove of trade assets and an owner less fiscally conservative than Jeanie Buss.

With the draft-pick cost of acquiring Davis from the New Orleans nearly fulfilled, the Lakers could have as many as three first-round picks to dangle as trade bait this summer. One of their targets, league sources say, is Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell, who could be a free agent after next season and allegedly plans to explore his options. The problem? The New York Knicks made a strong bid to acquire him from the Utah Jazz before they dealt him to the Cavs and Mitchell has admitted he expected to be joining his hometown team.

“Their problem is that they’re just going to get outbid for the really good players that might be available,” he said. “Cleveland’s got to figure something out with Donovan Mitchell, but the Lakers are not getting him for three firsts. The Knicks will just offer six.”

The Chicago Bulls were reportedly willing to make a trade deadline deal for shooting guard Zach LaVine who, like James and Davis, is represented by the Klutch Agency, but the Lakers blanched at the three years and nearly $140 million remaining on LaVine’s contract. The Lakers are currently over the luxury tax but short of the two aprons that come with penalties that restrict a team’s ability to acquire players. If James plays beyond next season, he would be eligible for a $60-million-plus per year contract. His contract, coupled with Lavine and Davis, would almost assure the Lakers of reaching the second apron.

“(LaVine) is good enough to elevate them, but that’s the exact type of deal they won’t do, because they’re going to just look at it as being too economically punitive,” the Western Conference GM said. “They’re going to have to try and get a guy who’s maybe a little worse than LaVine, give two firsts for him, maybe even three, but he makes 20 million. I don’t know who that player is, but that’s a deal that might make some sense for them.”

[Related: What if the Warriors actually paired Steph Curry with LeBron James?]

Players currently with salaries in the $20 million to $30 million range that are with teams that could be looking to shake up their roster this summer: Malcolm Brogdon (Trail Blazers), DeAndre Hunter (Hawks), Andrew Wiggins (Warriors), Cam Johnson (Nets), Jerami Grant (Blazers), Jordan Poole (Wizards) and DeMar DeRozan (Bulls).

“What team comes up short that might be willing to move a guy?” the GM said. “It’s not going to be a player like Lauri Markkanen. It’s not going to be a guy who is potentially a franchise player. It’s not going to be a guy that good. It’s going to be more like the 35th to 50th-best player in the league, not a top 20 player.”

While the Western Conference scout agreed with the idea of holding onto James, he’s not sold that the Lakers have another championship in them. At least not under the current regime.

“The Lakers are stuck with an aging, patchwork roster,” he said, “but they have the face of the NBA. LeBron keeps them relevant until Jeanie Buss and family sell the franchise. For 5 or 6 billion dollars. She’s too smart not to cash out at some point.”

Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously wrote for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post and has written two books, “Rebound,” on NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with young onset Parkinson’s, and “Yao: A Life In Two Worlds.” He also has a weekly podcast, “On The Ball with Ric Bucher.” Follow him on Twitter @RicBucher.

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