LeBron James is keeping the NBA in the news this summer. He is doing so, as it has not been a secret that he is thinking about leaving Cleveland this free agency season.
I will likely spend some time over the next few columns laying out some possible landing areas for James, as we will likely know something around the first of July.
I will start out addressing the chance that James joins the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers seem to be the favorites. He already has two houses in LA. If he happens to turn the Lakers’ franchise around, he would be able to add that to his legacy. James is talking more and more of his legacy in recent years so transforming the Lakers would likely appeal to him.
The Lakers entered the 2018 offseason in great shape. They have a nice young core, lots of salary cap space, Magic Johnson running the front office, an up-and-coming head coach in Luke Walton. One has to think this would interest James.
It likely does interest LeBron. What we know also interests him is moving to teams and bringing his buddies within the league with him. I am a NBA fan but I am not a fan of stars teaming up to make super teams. This is why, if James moves to LA, I would like to see him blend in with the current Lakers’ roster. I would like to see Magic not tear up his young and talented roster to bring in Kawhi Leonard and/or Paul George to team up with LeBron.
I wonder if LeBron believes winning a title with himself joining the current Lakers’ roster would really add to his legacy. I think it would.
The Lakers currently have four young players they absolutely should not move. Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Julius Randle should be untouchable. All four players showed flashes of being outstanding NBA players last season, while Kuzma and Ingram were two of the best young players in the league. Hart and Randle came on strong at the end of the season. There is no reason to ship two or more of those players to get one All-Star.
Trading for Leonard or signing George in free agency would likely mean the Lakers would lose two of their young rising stars. Both Leonard and George are seeking max contracts. Leonard is worth it but he is not a free agent. The Lakers would have to pull off a trade with San Antonio to get him. I would wait until next summer when Leonard is a free agent. If you win a title with LeBron, you do not need him. If you come up short, Leonard would be the final piece.
George, in my eyes, is not worth a max deal. His numbers were down last year and both Ingram and Kouzma have similar talents.
LeBron should recognize that the super-team concept is no longer working. The Golden State Warriors have broken that model because they cracked the code to get four All-Stars and a number of quality bench players. The same Golden State Warriors that James has lost three NBA Finals Series to over the past four years. The same Golden State Warriors that employed Lakers head coach Luke Walton.
Golden State and the Houston Rockets are likely to own the West next season no matter who the Lakers bring in this summer. Still, it would be fun to watch James put up a challenge next season and perhaps surpass them in a few years.
I would like the Lakers and LeBron to show some patience over the next few weeks.