Now that the King himself has arrived in the sunny shores of Los Angeles expectations have shot through the roof. The Lakers who haven’t made the Playoffs since 2013 suddenly has the greatest player in the NBA.
The Lakers are expected to do much better than in the previous years and the spotlight on the squad will be brighter than ever. Each player suiting up for the Purple and Gold must now bring his A-game every night lest the fans and now, more importantly, LeBron get on their back.
Everyone expects the Lakers to do better and they surely will, but how much better will they be? Can they push the likes of Golden-State and Houston in a 7 game series or is this team not yet ready to go the distance?
I am going to lay what the best and worst scenario would be for the Lakers this season and how it could come to pass.
The Nightmare Scenario: To Miss The Playoffs
If one were to play devil's advocate, many things would have to go wrong for the best player on the planet to miss the playoffs.
Injury to the invincible body of LeBron James is one possibility. The King has dominated the court, businesses and endorsement deals. He also dominates Father Time by breaking assumptions every year about how an aging NBA All Star should decline. In fact, he showed no signs of slowing down. As with pro sports, all it takes is a career ending injury and players might not return to their prime again.
Locker room breakdown is a second possibility. This reality is closer than we thought with a pyrotechnic group that is fireworks in their own right. Luke Walton will have to walk on a tight rope balancing the egos of multiple strong headed players as well as massage the dynamics within the team that tries to integrate multiple tough players.
Uncertain roster is a third Achilles' Heel. With all new players under one-year deals, Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson are preparing themselves in the event of a mid-season team reshuffle, which have become a tradition to any LeBron team of the past. "Win now or get out" seems to be the Modus Operandi for any front office dealing with a team led by LeBron James.
Having considered all the best and worst outcome to this Lakers team, one can only be ever more excited and eager to find out the fate of this storied franchise as the season unfolds.
LeBron is 33 years old and will be 34 before the start of 2019. He has by far played the most amount of minutes out of anyone in the past 8 years thanks to him appearing in the Finals since 2011.
James is the greatest athlete in the NBA by far. He’s 6 foot 8, 240 lbs and jumps out the gym at every available opportunity, but Father Time is undefeated. Even a basketball God like LeBron will succumb to his body breaking down. The nightmare for the Lakers is if that happens this season. If LeBron gets his first ever season-ending injury then that might be the straw that broke the camel's back.
The Lakers need LeBron to be at his best to raise the game of everyone around him because at the moment they don’t exactly have much star power. Although players like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma do have potential it’s hard to see how good they can be. Lonzo can’t shoot at all and Ingram is skinnier than Kevin Durant.
The Lakers are also plagued by the presence of LaVar Ball who is trying to get more power in the Lakers organization. Lonzo could become distracted by his father’s antics and by the TV show that his family is centered around.
Veteran players like Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley are all huge wildcards and if the Lakers start of the season slow then things could get ugly. Those 4 players I just mentioned are known for being headcases and there could be some serious locker room tension if the Lakers don’t win games.
The Lakers are already looking to the summer of 2019 where they have a chance to sign another star, but if the Lakers are in chaos then that might deter anyone from signing mean LA would only have an aging LeBron to keep them significant.
The Best Scenario: To Beat The Warriors And Win The Finals
The last time the Los Angeles Lakers were in the playoffs was 2013. The long hiatus seemed an eternity for fans and owners.
Right now, the conditions are back in the favor of the Lakers. The front office has done a good job in assembling the team. The arrival of LeBron James, the best player on the planet, created positive vibes. The successful drafts that landed Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Ivica Zubac formed the young nucleus on which the young Laker team is built.
Shortly after LeBron signed, Champions Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee arrived. Tough competitors Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley then bolstered the roster. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope resigned and completed the team which make LA seem like a popular destination once again.
The team has a pedigree in its leadership, having multiple Champions as their veteran players spearheaded by LeBron. Luke Walton won Championships with Kobe Bryant as a teammate and with Golden State Warriors as an assistant coach. Magic and Rob both dealt with Championships either as players or agent.
The pure bloodline of winning has been designed to permeate the whole organization and people are picked for their ability to crack the winning code.
Owner Jeanie Buss has generously built the state of the art UCLA Health and Training facility, that is home for the Lakers training and become an offseason workout favorite spot for NBA Stars. The excellent provision of training and medical staff, coupled with premium facilities, enables the Lakers to expedite the progress of their training and recovery process.
With the first class coaching from Luke and the leadership from the veteran Champions, this promising young core has an edge over the 29 other teams. Already rising substantially in wins from 17-65 in 2015 to 26-56 in 2016 to 35-47 in 2017, the future looks extremely bright with the addition of LeBron and his tough veterans.
It is interesting to note that last season, when the Lakers duel the Warriors, the scores were really close and a few games had to go to overtime to decide the outcome. The Lakers players know their rival well and the weakness last season was a lack of a closer. This season, there are no short of closers for games with the new team. The young core can learn how to close games from LeBron, Rondo, Lance and Beasley, who legitimately have made many clutch buckets or defensive plays to win games for their teams.
It helps that both LeBron James and Luke Walton are both very familiar with the schemes and systems that Golden State runs. The two can sure put their basketball IQ to synergize strategies and tactics to slay the juggernaut in Bay Area, with the access to advice from the basketball savant in Magic Johnson.
The best scenario would be that LeBron uses his insane knowledge of basketball and his leadership skills to bring a bunch of question-mark players together and forms a very cohesive unit.
Lonzo Ball starts hitting 3s at a much-improved rate thanks to his new jump-shot and the floor space he will have. Brandon Ingram shows more and more the comparisons he has to Kevin Durant. Kyle Kuzma becomes a great swingman on the perimeter. Rajon Rondo dishes out assists left, right and center. JaVale McGee plays like Rudy Gobert and Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley play like solid role-players.
The Lakers are young and so should be able to play great defense and run the floor well with LeBron, Rondo and Lonzo handling the ball. They get out in transition and knock down open 3s leaving plenty of room for LBJ to drive to the rim.
The team bounds on and off the floor as guys who the rest of the league thought nothing off suddenly become respected members of the NBA. The Lakers win 50+ games, LeBron wins his 5th MVP and the Lakers somehow make it past the Golden-State Warriors and win the 2019 NBA Finals with LeBron winning Finals MVP after averaging a triple-double against the Boston Celtics whilst sweeping them in 4 games.