The #23 purple and gold jerseys are rapidly being produced on the assembly line, season ticket prices are soaring through the roof and the economic value of downtown L.A. just increased by the tune of a cool billion. Yes, LeBron James is a Los Angeles Laker. The basketball world has been upended, again, with the exact outcome still very uncertain.
What Does the Future Hold for James Lebron & the Lakers
As the fervor subsides over the next few days it leaves us with more questions than answers really. Namely, will this be enough to knock off a dominant Warriors team that shows no signs of releasing its grip on the league? At 33 years of age, James will be writing the final chapter or two of his storied career. Will this move define him as a player, will this be how he’s remembered? Will a big name in Magic Johnson, but inexperienced GM team be able to assemble a supporting cast worthy of being on the same court as the one they simply call King?
The answer to many of these questions are running through San Antonio and Spurs General Manager, R.C. Buford. If he smells a good deal for his team’s future, he may release Kawhi Leonard from the last year of his contract. He could be that perfect piece needed–the “Pippen” to LeBron’s “Jordan”. With that team just 500 miles north in the Bay Area boasting of a “Big Four,” they better bring nothing less. A repeat of the disaster that was Cleveland’s 2017-18 season cannot be an option. Guys like Iman Shumpert or Richard Jefferson play too big a role for the talents they brought. Tristan Thompson never lived up to his potential despite demanding to be paid like he would. Kevin Love has put up good numbers, always willing to put in a solid 16-10 game (when he’s healthy), but let’s be honest, was never really that force he was in Minnesota. And JR, well, we’ll be here for hours if we go down that rabbit hole.
Lakers Build a Deep Bench
For now, it seems co-GM’s Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are building the team to win in two years rather than next year. This may be a savvy move because as we have seen in the past just throwing superstars together on the same team doesn’t guarantee championships. They need to assemble a deep bench, retain a versatile big man, and establish a defensive presence, especially on the wings (think guarding Curry one-on-one from beyond the arc). At the time of this writing, Lakers already picked up JaVale McGee, Lance Stevenson and Rajon Rondo, giving up Julius Randle to the unrestricted free agency. But will these moves be enough? Could it create the perfect blend of veteran leadership and youthful gusto? Magic would certainly know a little something about that, but can he fit this all under the salary cap?
LeBron’s Four-Year Contract – What’s Next
LeBron’s four-year, $154 million dollar contract will make him the best-paid NBA player ever over his career. Regardless, it leaves the Lakers with room to negotiate other critical contracts. But in order to get the pieces they need like Kawhi, they will most likely have to deal away some of their young talents. That means all options are on the table, including Lonzo.
Most likely, Kuzuma and Ingram are seen as ascending players to lock in one of those big names. Possibly even Clint Capela in Houston. Which would also deny a playoff rival a major low-post presence. Trevor Ariza would have been a nice pickup, but he was quickly nabbed by Phoenix with a 1-year $15 million deal. With Paul George, surprisingly, electing to stay, and DeAndre Jordan going to Dallas, the landscape is shifting daily, hourly even. Before this piece was even complete, the bombshell deal of DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins was announced.
All-Star Joins the Golden State Warriors
The two-time All-Star Forward/Center will join the Golden State Warriors for a 1-year deal worth $5.4 million. It seems almost implausible how this already historic team could add more talent but they have. Commissioner Silver may want to take a look at this one to maintain balance and fair play in the league. For now, the mountain the Lakers organization must climb just got that much steeper.
None-the-less, it is only July. Summertime is mid-season for the front office. Many more negotiations, rumors, and three-way deals are in the works. With a few at home visits and Twitter battles just for good measure. One thing now is certain, the gravitational force toward L.A. has just increased exponentially, adjust accordingly.