Whether you liked it or not, LeBron James’ free agency decision was the gossip of the NBA immediately following the conclusion of the NBA Finals, a series in which James saw the Golden State Warriors sweep his (then) Cleveland Cavaliers. As soon as the final buzzer sounded in Game 4, speculation began to grow as to where James would take his talents to this summer. Was there any chance he’d stay in Cleveland? Would he go to an up-and-coming Eastern Conference powerhouse such as the Boston Celtics or Philadelphia 76ers? What about the Houston Rockets, who were just one game away from reaching the Finals last season? Although all of those options (yes, even Cleveland) each had tremendous advantages to them, it was announced yesterday evening that James agreed to a contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.
— Klutch Sports Group (@KlutchSports) July 2, 2018
There you have it. Without a Kawhi Leonard trade in place and just one night after Paul George re-upped with the Oklahoma City Thunder for a few more years, the general consensus best player in the world decided to join the Lakers organization. It appears Magic Johnson played just as huge of a role in the recruiting process as one would expect, spending multiple hours at one of James’ two Los Angeles homes on Saturday. The meeting helped seal the deal and undoubtedly gave James a look into Johnson’s plan for the Lakers’ future. Speaking of the future, what’s in store for The King, his family and the Lakers?
Why did he choose LA?
I’m not LeBron James. I don’t know exactly why he decided to relocate to Los Angeles and play there for the next few years. However, I can think of plenty of reasons why James might have done what he did.
First and foremost, it had been reported for quite a while that this time around, James’ family would play a much larger role in the decision-making process than in 2010 and 2014. James’ oldest son, LeBron James Jr., will be an 8th-grader this year. Following this season, he’ll be ready to play against high school-level competition. Although it’s early, it appears that ‘Bronny’ could possibly have a future in the NBA. What better place to prepare for college or the NBA than LA?
The James Gang 👑 turned UP in Miami this weekend as Bronny and Bryce took over South Beach! 🏝
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) June 25, 2018
Having a pair of houses in Los Angeles also helps a bit. It was evident that LeBron James enjoyed nearly every minute he’s spent in LA since purchasing property there. Not having to move to an unfamiliar area, find a home and adapt to a whole new environment certainly played a factor in this decision.
We’ve covered his family. What about the city of Los Angeles itself and the business opportunities? Being that James is one of the biggest investors and financially-literate people in the NBA, rumors all along have tied back to business and lifestyle. Family comfortable with the living environment? Check. Home(s) purchased? Check. Opportunity for children to face the best competition? Check. More prevalent than all of the above: relocating to ‘The Land of Opportunity’ could be the best business move James ever makes in his life. The Lakers are the first thing many think of when the letters N, B and A are put together in a sentence. Magic Johnson, a person James has the utmost respect for and admires tremendously, is a living example of what avenues can present themselves for a current or former NBA player in the city of Los Angeles. The possibilities are endless. Enough about off-the-court ventures, let’s talk about what the on-court Lakers look like.
What does this mean for the Lakers?
I can see it now. “LeBron is joining a 35-win team, what the heck is he thinking!?” Not so fast, calm down. 35-47 is the worst record a team has ever had with LeBron James on its roster. Oh yeah, that was James’ rookie year. 14 years ago. When James joined the Cleveland Cavaliers again in 2014, the team’s win total went from 33 to 53. A 20-win increase is quite significant, but we have to factor in that Kevin Love also joined James on that team. Nonetheless, there are many reasons the Lakers should expect a playoff appearance this year:
- The addition of LeBron James has been proven to drastically improve teams’ win totals. Even if another star doesn’t join him this year, having the best player in the league added into the fold should help you win 5-10 more games.
- Lonzo Ball missed 30 games last season as a rookie. Brandon Ingram missed 23 throughout his sophomore campaign. Not only will improved health from those two pieces contribute to the team’s success this year, but growth from two young players (along with now second-year Kyle Kuzma) makes an improvement in the win department even more likely.
- Although they’re not world-beating acquisitions, signing Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee to one-year deals Sunday night adds a pair of veteran pieces who can either start or come off the bench at various points throughout the year. Stephenson has playoff experience and McGee is a two-time NBA champion.
- There are almost certainly more moves on the horizon that will bolster this roster. Whether that’s a Kawhi Leonard acquisition or something like what you’ll see below, things are not set in stone:
ESPN Sources: Free agent guard Tyreke Evans meeting with the Lakers today. He met with Oklahoma City last night in Los Angeles.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 2, 2018
You get my point. This team’s cement is still very wet. Lots of things can change. While this can be viewed as a blessing, it could also limit the immediate ceiling of the franchise. Despite the Lakers now having the second-highest odds of winning a championship this upcoming season at 7/2, it isn’t very realistic to expect a team led by LeBron James and Lonzo Ball to come out of the gauntlet that is the Western Conference and make the NBA Finals in year one. Could the Lakers win ~50 games and be a 3-6 seed in the West this year? That’s more like it.
All of this is assuming the worst-case scenario: no Kawhi Leonard, Boogie Cousins or anyone of the like. At least for 2018-19. Adding a superstar to an already solid and relatively promising young team raises both its floor and ceiling immediately. Whether it’s an offseason acquisition or a midseason trade, every move the Lakers make likely has the future in mind, not so much the present. LeBron James joined a team that he knows isn’t star-studded and might need some time to develop its young talent. As the roster currently stands, expect a rocky start, an awesome maturation period and a finish that leaves you wanting more this upcoming season. Then again, betting against LeBron has always been risky. Nonetheless, it will be lots of fun watching plenty of this come October, except LeBron will be on the receiving end of things:
Lonzo Ball full court passing is damn good pic.twitter.com/KoA2dSDMmE
— Mo (@SouthBayMo) October 21, 2017
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