When LeBron James first signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, I was furious (for selfish reasons).
LeBron had been to the NBA Finals for eight straight seasons, and he decided to sign with the 35-47 Lakers in the much tougher Western Conference. At the time, I didn’t think the young rebuilding Lakers were good enough to make the Finals, even with LeBron. I just wanted to keep seeing LeBron in the Finals, is that too much to ask? I thought he was giving up his Finals streak just to live in Los Angeles and let his tummy get mushy. Overall, I thought it wasn’t a good choice for LeBron, and he could have signed with a roster in a better position to compete.
I was right, in that LeBron’s Finals streak ended, but I was wrong thinking the Lakers were a bad place to sign. In an abrupt change in strategy, LeBron decided his path back to the Finals would be from scratch, and he joined a rebuilding team with money and young assets to play with.
During the 2018-2019 season, with LeBron, the Lakers didn’t even make the playoffs. LeBron missed 27 games with injury, the most of his career. The Lakers finished 37-45, a two-win improvement over 2017-18, to grab the 10th seed. The Lakers were a full 11 games behind the 8th seed Clippers and did not come close to sniffing a playoff spot.
I’m not sure what LeBron was expecting from the Lakers last season. They had a lot of young talent (Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavios Caldwell-Pope, Josh Hart) and solid role players (Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee) but clearly lacked the roster pedigree for a deep playoff run. In the past, when LeBron would decide what team he wanted to play for, he would surround himself with established elite talent (Dwayne Wade/Chris Bosh and Kevin Love/Kyrie Irving). This time, no other established elite talents joined him, and LeBron missed the playoffs.
However, this offseason, the Lakers packaged some of their young assets for elite talent Anthony Davis. They traded Lonzo, Ingram, Hart, and three first-round picks, including the #4 pick in the 2019 draft, to team up LeBron with Davis. Two of the best players in the entire NBA now play for the same team, holy crap.
Not to take away from any of the legends LeBron has played with in the past, but Anthony Davis is the best teammate LeBron has ever had. Davis is 26 years old, in the prime of his career, and is arguably the best big man in the entire NBA. Had LeBron tried to go the free-agent route, the best player he could’ve ended up with was 33 year old Chris Paul or torn Achilles DeMarcus Cousins. LeBron knew his best option to accumulate talent wasn’t going to be via free agency, so he chose a team with enough resources and money available to acquire talent via trade.
Now that LeBron is teamed up with Anthony Davis this upcoming season, things are looking much more intriguing for the Lakers. With Davis on the fold, this could be the best team LeBron has ever played for. The 2012-2013 Miami Heat team went 66-16 and won the NBA Finals, and while the Lakers probably won’t win 66 games next season, it is hard to imagine any team having as high of a ceiling as the Lakers. Based on potential, this Lakers team can do anything.
The biggest obstacle in LeBron’s way is the insanely competitive Western Conference. The Warriors, Nuggets, and Rockets should have no problem being at the top of the conference next season, and the Clippers getting Kawhi Leonard and Paul George should turn them into legit contenders as well. It won’t be as easy gaining a top seed in the West like it is the East, but LeBron’s got enough talent on his team to make the playoffs.
I was wrong about LeBron. The Lakers were the best team for LeBron to join, and the one that put him in the best long term position to make the finals every year. He may have had to take a year off to do it, but LeBron James paired up with Anthony Davis is incomprehensibly amazing, and should propel the Lakers into legit contention next season. The NBA was missing something last playoffs, and everyone should feel at peace knowing that LeBron is making moves to return. The rest of the NBA must be freaking out, knowing that LeBron is playing with Anthony Davis. If you are currently a prospective team trying to make the Finals, good luck because you will probably need to get past Lebron James and Anthony Davis.
Click here for more NBA content from Sports Are From Venus.