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The 2024 NBA trade deadline ended up being a bit of a flop, but not for a lack of effort from buyers across the league. In the end, most big names stayed put, including LeBron James. The Los Angeles Lakers never wanted to trade the NBA's all-time leading scorer, but his cryptic messaging around the deadline led multiple teams to reach out to Jeanie Buss and Rob Pelinka to assess the situation, according to ESPN

The two teams mentioned in Wednesday's report were the Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers. While talks between Pelinka and Sixers president Daryl Morey were brief, there was a bit more substance to Buss' discussion with Warriors owner Joe Lacob. She told the Warriors to reach out to James' agent, Rich Paul, to gauge his interest. The reply indicated that James was happy in Los Angeles, and thus, no trade happened.

But will that still be the case in the summer? Even though the Lakers have played better as of late, they're still stuck in ninth place in the Western Conference, and do not appear to be a serious title contender this season. If teams were trying to get James on board now, they'll certainly make an effort again in July, especially if the Lakers crash out of the playoffs early. 

Ahead of what is sure to be a fascinating few months, here's why James joining the Warriors ahead of next season is a real possibility.

1. James has not committed to the Lakers

In the summer of 2022, James signed a two-year, $99 million extension with the Lakers that included a player option for the 2024-25 season. He could opt out of the deal and become an unrestricted free agent, with an eye on what could be the last multi-year deal of his career. 

ESPN reports that James "remains focused on returning to the Lakers in the offseason." However, when asked about the player option for 2024-25 earlier this month, James was noncommittal.

If we know anything about James, it's that winning is his primary objective, and he's not afraid to jump ship if he thinks he has a better chance to do that elsewhere. He's changed teams three times in his career, and has done so via free agency on each occasion. Should he ever leave the Lakers, doing so on his terms is always going to be more likely than a trade. 

2. Golden State has some flexibility

To that point, it's worth noting the Warriors have flexibility this summer, and will be making some changes, regardless of the James rumors. Most notably, Chris Paul's deal for next season is non-guaranteed and Klay Thompson is set to be an unrestricted free agent, with his future in the Bay Area very much in doubt. 

In a world where the Warriors let both walk, and traded Andrew Wiggins, they could create plenty of cap space, but not enough for a max deal. Whether something less than the max would be enough to convince James is another question. He has never been one to take a discount, but Marc Stein reported earlier this month that multiple clubs believe James would do so in order to play with his son, Bronny, a potential first-round pick in the 2024 NBA Draft.

The problem for the Warriors is they don't have any picks in 2024 due to prior trades, and it's unclear from Stein's report just how much less James would be willing to take. There are a whole lot of big "ifs" in this scenario, but it's worth at least keeping an eye on how the Warriors start operating once the season is over. 

3. The Steph and Draymond connection

Finally, there's the personal level to consider. James was once fierce rivals with Steph Curry and Draymond Green during the four consecutive Warriors-Cavaliers Finals, but their relationship has since changed. 

Green and James are now close friends off the court -- there is a famous photo of the two at Green's wedding -- and the Klutch Sports connection has only helped strengthen their bond. It's no surprise that Green was the one pushing the Warriors to try and trade for James, according to Adrian Wojnarowski. 

"As far as us being as tight as we are, that's my big brother. Love him to death," Green said last year when asked about James during an appearance on Paul George's podcast. "And ain't nothing changing that. Only thing changing is our relationship continues to grow."

While James and Curry are not on that same level, the two have a clear mutual respect for the others' abilities. So much so that back in 2022, James said he would like to play with him

"In today's game, shit there's some m-----f-----s in today's game, but Steph Curry," James said. "Steph Curry's the one that I wanna play with for sure, in today's game. ... I love everything about that guy. Lethal. When he get out his car, you better guard him right from the moment he pulls up to the arena. ... You might wanna guard him when he get out of the bed. Swear to god. He's serious."

Obviously, none of this guarantees that James will join the Warriors, but it certainly doesn't hurt their chances.