The face of the Lakers has successfully transitioned from one start to another. If you look back in history, George Mikan was the first face of the Lakers. After Mikan, Clyde Lovellette took over. Then, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West enjoyed duties together. Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar enjoyed a decade of success. Shaquille O’Neal was the man, while Kobe Bryant went from Robin to Batman. Then, after a brief hiatus, LeBron James came to town and has been the face of the Lakers since 2018.
James, who helped the Lakers win a title in 2020, is entering the final year of his contract. With his age, and the latest terrible season L.A. displayed this last season, there is a belief that he could be out. With the possibility of playing with his son later in his career, combined with the chance the Lakers are not a contender, James could be gone after this or next season.
The Lakers are seen as a top team among all brands in the game of basketball. There are plenty of young stars in the game today that could be the successor to James if he truly leaves. The question is who is the most realistic and who is not. These 8 stars are the most realistic and unrealistic candidates as we dive into the replacements for the post-LeBron era.
Trae Young - Unrealistic
If you watch closely how Young conducts himself on the court, one would think that Young has the right attitude for handling the pressure of playing in Los Angeles. With that said, his emotions are sometimes his downfall, as he presses too hard and takes horrible shots. His shot percentage in games is so bad sometimes that one could make a valid argument that it is the reason a game is lost.
Now, Young is a prolific scorer and playmaker. He is putting up primetime John Wall numbers. He would draw comparisons to Magic Johnson if he was in Los Angeles. However, coming up short in Atlanta and coming up short in Los Angeles are two different things. Is Young ready to take on that kind of expectation? It seems like an unrealistic deal in the end.
Anthony Edwards - Realistic
If you look back in history, we have seen star players start with a smaller market and blossom into a star. Shaquille O’Neal did it with the Magic. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it with the Bucks. If you want to be technical, LeBron started in Cleveland before heading to Miami and then joined the Lakers because of its history.
Anthony Edwards looks like a real star and he is just 20 years old. He has at least two more seasons with the Timberwolves, which would see LeBron at 39 years old if he stays. Edwards could look to make some real money in Los Angeles, where his talents would be widely accepted in California.
LaMelo Ball - Unrealistic
The player with the game that matches the Showtime Lakers is LaMelo Ball. How he scores at the basket, drives to the lane, and finds the open man. It all resembles the gameplay of Magic Johnson. The Lakers would be foolish to not try and poach Ball off the Charlotte Hornets like they poached Shaq off the Magic all those years ago.
With that said, Ball’s father, LaVar, has been public about how he doesn’t see his son ever playing for the Lakers. There were some hurt feelings after the Lakers traded Lonzo Ball with Ingram for Davis a few years back. LaVar proclaimed the Lakers would never win a title without Lonzo. He was wrong on that proclamation and now it’s probably a pride thing at this point. He also said he would rather see him play in New York than in Los Angeles.
Ja Morant - Realistic
Ja Morant is in the same boat as Anthony Edwards, Shaq, and Kareem. He is a young star that is captivating the nation. Morant plays for the Memphis Grizzlies, a team that has never made an NBA Finals and owns just one Conference Finals appearance in their franchise history. Morant is 22 years old. He was a kid growing up watching Kobe Bryant make the Finals three straight years and win two championships from 2008 to 2010.
You have to think that Morant was mesmerized by Bryant and once thought about playing in the same building as him. If Morant continues to carry Memphis up the ladder, it’s going to cost the team big money. Can the Grizzlies play Morant down the line? That’s another question that needs to be answered, but if he feels he can’t bring a title to Memphis, he could bolt for the stardom and fame of being a true superstar.
Zion Williamson - Unrealistic
What does Zion Williamson truly want these days? We thought he wanted to come back and play, but he has not played a game in the playoffs. There were rumors that he was not satisfied with the core around him and then in the offseason, the Pelicans made moves. In reality, Williamson needs to prove himself that he is a true star of a team.
When healthy, Williamson was named an All-Star starter and was the type of player that could get you 27 points a night. He is also one of the few players that can run the floor with his size and speed. What has gone on in the last two seasons with his health, would make fans in Los Angeles irate? He would need to be on the floor at all times, and right now, you can’t trust him to do that.
Brandon Ingram - Realistic
Ingram was the No. 2 overall pick by the Lakers in 2016. He was one of the foundational pieces that helped the Lakers land Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans. If James retired or left, could the Lakers look to scoop Ingram's backup? When the Lakers had Ingram, they thought he could be talented. The problem was they got him at an early age when he was still developing.
Now, Ingram is an All-Star and the face of the Pelicans with Zion Williamson sitting out. Next year will be an interesting season. If the Pelicans fail with Williamson, they could look to blow it up. The team could look to reacquire their former lottery pick, who is now playing up to his draft status.
Jayson Tatum - Unrealistic
With the way the Celtics have been playing, three is no way the team is going to let Tatum go unless the Lakers trade away five first-round picks and two superstars. The Lakers don’t have the draft capital anyways, so there is nothing to worry about here. It appears that Tatum is fine with shining in the Boston market.
Tatum is entering a path towards being the next Kevin Durant. His scoring has taken off. His defense is substantially better. The Celtics have him locked up for a long time. There is no way that he will be a Laker anytime soon.
Luka Doncic - Realistic
Talk about a box office ticket. Doncic is 23 years old and will make $35 million for his past efforts to land himself this max contract. He would have the Staples Center full even if the Lakers were a bad team. The reason that this is realistic is because of what is going on in Dallas with his current team. The Mavericks have never made it past the first round with Doncic leading the way and now sit with a 2-2 tie with the Jazz.
It’s not unbelievable to think that Doncic would get Chris Paul or Anthony Davis syndrome and want out of the place that drafted them because the franchise failed to put a team around him. Kristaps Porzingis didn’t work. It was supposed to be a dynamic duo for the ages and it wasn’t. If the Mavericks can’t make a deep run with Doncic, he could look to be a star in Los Angeles, where fans would glorify him.