Not long after becoming eligible for a two-year / $97.1M contract extension, Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James has officially agreed to remain with the Lakers through 2024, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Entering the final year of his current contract, LeBron agreed to the full two-year extension he was eligible for; however, it includes a player option for the 2024-25 season.
With the player option included in this deal, LeBron’s contract now aligns with his teammate Anthony Davis, who also has a player option for the 2024-25 campaign. This is certainly a significant development, but there are other angles to break down when looking at what this contract means for LeBron and the Lakers.
The Player Option
As previously noted, LeBron’s new extension contains a player option for the 2024-25 season. LeBron will turn 40-years-old midway through that season, and the current expectation around the league is that he will look to team up with his son Bronny James for what could be the last year of his career. Currently on track to become draft eligible in 2024, Bronny could be entering the league the same year LeBron can opt-out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent.
While there is no indication that Anthony Davis does not intend to remain with the Lakers beyond his current deal, his 2024-25 player option puts pressure on the organization to remain competitive. Should they continue struggling the way they have since the bubble, the possibility of losing both LeBron James and Anthony Davis in 2024 does exist.
LA’s path to improvement
As just noted, the Lakers are under pressure to improve their trajectory in the next two seasons. Having now extended LeBron James, the team has their two best players under contract for at least two more seasons. More importantly, those two stars are the only two Lakers players with significant guaranteed money beyond next season.
With Russell Westbrook coming off the books after this season, the Lakers will have cap space to work with next summer. With Talen Horton-Tucker’s $11M player option in 2023-24 as the only notable guaranteed money beyond next summer, the Lakers could potentially generate an additional max slot for the 2024-25 season.
The ability to generate a third max-slot in the summer of 2024 is vital for the Lakers if they seek to improve their team, and subsequently convince LeBron James and Anthony Davis to stick around. They will have to at a minimum begin that process once Russell Westbrook comes off the books, but Los Angeles will have an opportunity to do that on even greater scale in 2024.
While there are several future developments to follow as it pertains to LeBron James and the Lakers, the immediate impact is undeniable. With two more guaranteed years of their franchise star, the Lakers can operate without the imminent possibility of losing LeBron James. That alone is significant, and while it may not outweigh their current subpar roster construction, it is a step in the right direction.