The ever-star-hunting Los Angeles Lakers are in a similar position the Cleveland Cavaliers were in just a half-decade ago: tasked with putting good players around LeBron James to compete for a championship. With James mum on his future with the Lakers after this season, in which he can opt out of his contract, Los Angeles will be looking for stars to keep him in town. One of those players appears to be from James’ hometown Cavs.
According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the Lakers have discussed internally trading for a star like Donovan Mitchell this summer when the team has more first-round picks. Los Angeles could have up to three first-rounders available, depending on if the New Orleans Pelicans opt to swap picks with them as part of the Anthony Davis trade several years back. McMenamin also named Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young as another target for the Lakers this offseason, another bona fide star for James to play alongside.
The Lakers, much like those Cavs teams from 2014-2018, are on a particular timeline for winning. Los Angeles currently sits at 22-22, scraping the edge of the playoffs despite James and co-star Anthony Davis having relatively good health. They are keeping all options open in the summer whether James decides to leave Los Angeles or commit to the franchise for a few more years. Acquiring a player like Mitchell or Young could be a contingency plan should James bolt for another organization just as much as an addition to a star-studded lineup. The key, of course, will be if the Cavs entertain such an offer.
Discourse surrounding Mitchell’s happiness in Cleveland has been questioned over and over, with the same response from the Cavs front office: they have no interest in trading him. That sentiment could change in the summer, however, if Mitchell says he will not sign an extension with the organization. That would force the Cavs to course-correct their championship aspirations and look to deal him for a reasonable haul. The Lakers could offer 2029, 2031, and either 2024 or 2025 first-round picks to the Cavs along with matching salary players (such as D’Angelo Russell and Rui Hachimura) to make it work. Right now, that would not be enticing to the Cavs. But in the summer, if Mitchell asks out, that could be a viable return depending on any potential pick protections.
The reality is that any team that wants to be good would and should be interested in acquiring Mitchell. He is averaging 27.8 points, 5.4 rebounds (career-high), and 6.1 assists (career-high) per game this season on 46% shooting. Those are star numbers through and through. The Lakers are always interested in hunting for stars and using their organizational and geographical allure. The report from ESPN is also not concrete, as they indicated that the Lakers have internally discussed such a trade as a “possibility”. Again, the Lakers have to consider these things to either maintain James’ happiness with the organization or pivot to something else.
The Cavs, as it has been reported all season, are not looking to trade Donovan Mitchell this season. And considering how well the team is playing without Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, the ceiling appears to be high. Another bad playoff run may change things, but as of right now, the Cavs are in a good position to keep Mitchell this season and beyond.