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After LeBron James hinted at a potential retirement, the Los Angeles Lakers discussed trade options for Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young.
Jovan Buha from The Athletic reported that the Lakers had internal discussions about pursuing Young in a trade. Team owner Jeannie Buss and General Manager Rob Pelinka had a hypothetical discussion about what would it take to bring Young to Tinsel Town.
The Lakers were linked to point guard Kyrie Irving, who had a rough transition after joining the Dallas Mavericks following a trade with the Brooklyn Nets. The Mavs fell apart late in the season and failed to qualify for the Play-In Tournament, missing the postseason completely. It was a disappointing finish for the Mavs after they reached the Western Conference finals in the previous year.
The Lakers seek a point guard for next season, and Young joins Irving on their shortlist of potential off-season acquisitions.
In five seasons with the Hawks, Young made two trips to the All-Star Game. He averaged 25.5 points, 9.3 assists, and 3.7 rebounds over his career, while shooting 35.1% from 3-point range.
Young finished 10th overall in scoring during the 2022-23 season by averaging 26.2 points per game. He was ranked #2 in assists and averaged 10.2 dishes per game.
LeBron Floats Retirement After Playoff Exit
The Lakers were swept by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals. During a press conference after a disappointing loss in Game 4, James mulled retirement, which is something that he never stated publicly before.
We’ll see what happens going forward,” said James. “I don’t know. Got a lot to think about, to be honest. Just for me, personally, going forward with the game of basketball.”
James stated numerous times that wants to remain in the NBA long enough to play alongside his youngest son, Bronny, who recently accepted a scholarship to USC. James has two years remaining on his contract, including a player option for 2024-25.
A late-season foot injury kept James out of the lineup for four weeks in March. He will undergo an MRI to determine if surgery or rest will be the best option in the postseason.
If James retires, then the Lakers need to add another All-Star caliber player to keep up with the potent offenses in the Western Conference. Young would provide much-needed additional scoring, which the Lakers lacked during their four losses against the Nuggets.
If James decides to stay with the Lakers, they still need to add another scorer and playmaker to help out the team. Although James scored 40 points in an elimination game against the Nuggets, there were times this postseason when he looked mortal for the first time in his career.
The Making of a Villain
Young emerged as a high-volume scorer during his freshman season at Oklahoma, when he averaged 27.4 points and 8.7 assists per game in 2017-18. He decided to go pro after a one-and-done season.
The Mavs selected Young with the fifth overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. They traded him to the Atlanta Hawks, along with a first-round draft pick, for Slovenian wunderkind Luka Dončić, who was selected third overall by the Hawks.
Young earned a spot on the NBA All-Rookie team after he averaged 19.1 points per game in his first season with the Hawks.
In his second season in 2019-20, Young averaged a career-best 29.6 points per game and earned a spot on the All-Star team.
Young earned notoriety during the 2021 NBA playoffs when the Hawks knocked out the New York Knicks in the first round. Young emerged as a new villain in Gotham because of his showboating antics, and wasn’t shy about launching 3-point bombs from the edge of the center-court logo. He thrived and fed off the negative reaction from the rambunctious crowd at Madison Square Garden, who mercilessly teased him about his thinning hairline.
Young drew comparisons to Indiana Pacers shooting guard Reggie Miller, who tormented the Knicks in the 1990s. New York City’s media machine found its new villain with Young, who willingly stepped into the role.
Trae Young the Coach Killer
After five seasons with the Hawks, Young is currently on his third head coach. Quin Snyder took over midway through the 2022-23 season after the Hawks fired Nate McMillan. McMillan and Young clashed numerous times during his tenure with the Hawks, and McMillian suspected he would get fired in the off-season.
The Hawks dismissed McMillan during the All-Star break after a disappointing 29-30 record. McMillan was in a similar situation two seasons earlier when he replaced former Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce, who was dismissed in the middle of the 2020-21 season. Pierce lost the locker room after he sparred with Young. The Hawks responded to the coaching change, and McMillian led the Hawks to the Eastern Conference finals. That’s before the Milwaukee Bucks ended their remarkable run as a #5 seed.
A pattern developed in Atlanta, and two veteran head coaches lost their jobs after butting heads with Young.
At this season’s All-Star break, the Miami Heat held a three-game lead over the Hawks in the Southeast Division standings. The Heat were the betting favorite to win the division at -350 odds, while the Heat were at +350 odds. FiveThirtyEight predicted the Hawks would finish the regular season with a 41-41 record, which is exactly what happened.
The Hawks headed to the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament and defeated the Heat in the first game to secure the #7 seed. The pesky Hawks fell into an 0-2 hole against the #2 Boston Celtics, but put up a good fight to extend the series to six games before their elimination.
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