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Lebron and the Lakers

By Jon Jensen - 6 years ago in NBA News

Are Lebron and the Lakers ready for a title run in 2018?  

Lebron James has now changed teams for the third time in his 15 year career.  James has shown that everytime he switches teams he instantly propels that organization into becoming a  title contender.  The King of the NBA has gone to the finals for eight straight years, but this time it might be a little different with the Lakers.  The Lakers signed Lebron to a 4 year $153M deal which is his longest contract in years.   That contract is a great thing for the Lakers because it relieves some of the pressure of reaching the Finals in his first year in L.A..  Right after the Lebron signing the Lakers signed multiple free agents to one year contracts to begin filling out their roster.  With Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope all signing one year deals it clearly opens the door for a possible max contract signing in 2019 free agency.  If that scenario I expressed in L.A. with only signing one year deals holds true for this upcoming season, and the Lakers can somehow get rid of Luol Deng’s contract by 2019 that would free up close to $37M in cap space for 2019.

Kawhi Leonard has made it clearly apparent that he wants to sign with the Lakers, and with the way things have unfolded for the Lakers with multiple one year deals has clearly reduced an urgency to trade for Leonard.  This allows L.A. to be much more patient and possibly keep some of their young key talented pieces in Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart.  This also has its downside in the fact that Leonard could go elsewhere this upcoming NBA season, like the new situation he is in, and re-sign with that team like Paul George did in OKC.  On the other hand there is value if the Lakers do complete a trade giving up players and picks to acquire Leonard this season. Even then I’d probably take my chances and wait on Leonard in the fact that even with Leonard on the roster this season the Lakers would unlikely win a championship having to go through the Western Conference.

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After all Leonard isn’t the only option for the Lakers future.  If they wait until next year then Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, and many other top tier players will be on the free agent block with Leonard as well.  Adding a max free agent next summer is not certain for the Lakers, but it would allow them to do so while retaining their young talent alongside Lebron. Allowing Lebron to help develop the Lakers core youth this season with quit possibly the best NBA player ever is a huge bonus.  That option clearly remains their best chances of building a championship contending team.

So how good will the Lakers be next season with the new additions and current roster?

So what can we really expect from Lebron and the Lakers.?  Let’s take a look at ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus (RPM) stats on the new additions and current roster.  When looking at this model below it clearly shows that the Lakers would have an offensive rating of 3.6 points better per 100 possessions than the league average.  It also shows that the Lakers defense will possibly be just below the league average.  Any team with this type of offensive and defensive (RPM) rating  in the league would figure to win around 50 games in a season, which puts the Lakers roughly third or fourth in the Western Conference.

There is still some improvements that the Lakers can make this season as well.  Losing Julius Randle will hurt them at the Center position in which they are very thin at.  I also expect Lebron to play more minutes than usual at the Center position this season just for this reason. At least until they can find a solid C to go along with McGee who can really only play about 20 mins max before running out of gas.

The Lakers really don’t have a chance to challenging the Warriors this upcoming season, even with Lebron.  But they should be able to compete at a much higher level after spending the last five seasons in the lottery draft.  The Lakers will make the playoffs and probably win a series or possibly two while molding their youth and getting experience for something bigger and better for the future.

2018-19 Lakers RPM Projection

Lonzo Ball     77         32               -0.2               2.1
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope     78         32                1.0               0.2
Brandon Ingram     77         34                0.1              -0.5
LeBron James     78         36                4.6               0.4
JaVale McGee     78         18               -0.3               0.1
Kyle Kuzma     78         28                0.6              -0.7
Rajon Rondo     76         24               -1.1              -0.7
Josh Hart     78         20                0.9              -0.3
Lance Stephenson     78         18               -0.3              -1.8
Ivica Zubac     78         12               -1.0               0.9
Total                3.6               0.1

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