Stephen A. Smith campaigns for the Knicks to go after LeBron James this summer

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) during the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks could position themselves as even stronger championship contenders for the next several seasons by trading for one of the game’s best ahead of the 2024-25 NBA season, as one prominent analyst sees it.

Stephen A. Smith proclaimed that the Knicks would be smart to throw a collection of first-round picks at the Los Angeles Lakers to acquire LeBron James in the trade market if James does not hit free agency this summer.

Smith had this to say on Saturday’s airing of his eponymous sports talk show, (h/t Bleacher Report’s Jack Murray):

“You have a team like the New York Knicks that has 11 picks over the next seven years,” Smith said. “You go to them and you say ‘You know what, we don’t mind. You want LeBron at the Garden? Give us a couple of first-round picks and a player. If you are the Los Angeles Lakers, you may want to consider it.”

Do the Knicks need a superstar like LeBron James to win a championship despite strong start to 2024 Playoffs?

nba: los angeles lakers at dallas mavericks, lebron james, knicks
Dec 12, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) runs back up the court during the second half against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Smith’s proposed trade could be a win-win for both parties. The Knicks have a 2-1 series lead over the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the 2024 NBA Playoffs. They look strong behind Jalen Brunson against a Sixers team led by reigning MVP Joel Embiid.

Nonetheless, the Knicks’ chances of winning this year’s championship are not as strong as they were this winter when they cemented their roster with the acquisition of Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks at the trade deadline.

All-Star Julius Randle is out for the year with a dislocated shoulder. This could work against New York should they advance to the second round and face either the Indiana Pacers — who have a surprising 2-1 series lead over the Milwaukee Bucks — or the championship-hopeful Bucks.

Even with Randle in the lineup, the No. 2-seeded Knicks have not been touted as the top dogs in the Eastern Conference, taking a back seat to the No. 1-seeded Boston Celtics.

James could give the Knicks All-NBA production and play alongside his son Bronny James at MSG

USC Trojans guard Bronny James (6), Knicks
Feb 7, 2024; Berkeley, California, USA; USC Trojans guard Bronny James (6) dribbles the ball against the California Golden Bears during the second half at Haas Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports

In comes James, who at 39 years old is still playing at an All-NBA level. The 20-time All-Star produced 25.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 8.3 assists, and 1.3 steals per game on a career-high 41 percent shooting from the three-point line in 71 games played for the Lakers this season. His 71 appearances were the most since the 2017-18 regular season.

Despite his incredible play, the Lakers are down 3-1 against the Denver Nuggets in their first-round series. Even with All-Star Anthony Davis by his side and a talented roster around him, the Lakers no longer are title favorites out West the way they were when they won the title in 2020.

Acquiring James will hang on whether he picks up his $51.4 million player option for the 2024-25 season or not. Should he remain a Lakers for the final year of his contract, the Knicks can swoop in and make a play for him with a package of their aforementioned 11 future first-round picks, eight of which are in the next three drafts alone.

James is still worth several first-round picks even at advanced age

The four-time league MVP has spoken about strongly considering the Knicks around the time of his storied “The Decision” during his 2010 free agency. He’s also been vocal about wanting to play with his son Bronny James in the Association before retiring.

If the Knicks decide to throw several first-rounders at Los Angeles for the elder James and bring the younger James on board out of USC this summer, New York could establish themselves as the clear-cut favorites in the East.

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