LeBron James’ path to the Lakers is complicated but possible

By GREGORY MELICK | May 3, 2018

LeBron_James
KEITH ALLISON/CC BY-SA 2.0 LeBron James will have a decision to make this summer.

As a Los Angeles sports fan, I have high expectations for the teams I support. Because I am a fan of the Lakers, Angels and Chargers, I have been thoroughly disappointed by my favorite teams over the last couple of years. With that being said, there is hope for all three of my favorite teams going forward. 

The Chargers started their season with four straight losses but ended the season as one of the hottest teams in the entire NFL, winning nine of their last 12 games to narrowly miss the playoffs.

The Angels had their best start in franchise history through 16 games with a 13-3 record, and though they have slowed down their torrid pace, they have already set themselves up well for a Wild Card spot at the very least. The team is surrounded by talent from the best baseball player in the world to the potential modern-day Babe Ruth.

While both of these teams show potential, the team I am most excited about is the Lakers. Though the record does not reflect it, they have one of the most loaded rosters in the NBA when it comes to youth and talent. Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle vastly improved their production, both showing the potential to become regular NBA All-Stars if they continue to grow. Meanwhile, amid all the individual rookie showings, the Lakers probably had the best rookie class as a whole.

Kyle Kuzma will score in the NBA. Do not be surprised if he leads the NBA in scoring at least once by the time his career is over. Lonzo Ball is a playmaker, even when he struggles shooting, and makes the players around him better, reflected in his 7.2 assists and 1.7 steals per game this past year. In this triple-double era we are currently experiencing in the NBA, Lonzo Ball will be the next player to flirt with a triple-double every night.

To round out their stellar rookie class is Josh Hart, who is just a tough player and will be a solid starter in the NBA for years because he rebounds and plays shutdown defense. His scoring also improved as the year went on, exemplified by his last four games of the year, in which he averaged 23.8 points per game, including a 30-point game in his final game of the year. 

While these young stars provide a lot of future potential, Lakers fans are not ones for waiting. The new front office of President Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka has made it clear they are looking to win now, and they plan on doing that by signing two max contract players this coming offseason, and it has all been explicitly stated that the two players they will be going after are Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder and LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

I may have a slightly biased position, but I think Paul George has all but signed his contract with the Lakers, in lieu of the Thunder’s first-round playoff loss to the Utah Jazz. The Thunder superteam of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and George was supposed to compete with the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets but could not even get by the rookie-led Jazz.

Additionally, Carmelo has said he will not take a backseat going forward, despite his atrocious efficiency in recent years. There is no reason for George to stay, as he has voiced in the past that he would love to play in his hometown of Los Angeles for the team he cheered for growing up, the Lakers. This past season in Oklahoma City did not even come close to persuading him to give up that dream, and therefore he will be in the purple and gold next year.

The tough part will be wooing LeBron James, the greatest player of our generation, who has gone to seven consecutive NBA Finals and won four MVP awards. LeBron can opt out of his contract after this season, and many believe he will test free agency once again. The top possible landing spots for LeBron are, according to multiple sources, including ESPN, the Lakers, the Cavaliers, the Houston Rockets and the Philadelphia 76ers.

There is a very clear path (at least in my mind) where LeBron ends up on the Lakers, but it will take a very specific combination of playoff outcomes. 

Additionally, if the Cavaliers do not make the NBA Finals, he will not stay with Cleveland. This team he is currently on is simply just not good, and he is carrying them to whatever success they get. If he does not even make it to the Finals, it is not worth the amount of effort he has to put in.

The final step will be the Rockets winning the NBA championship. This is the most unrealistic expectation in my opinion, as I do not see a way where the Rockets beat the Warriors to even make it to the NBA Finals. If they do find a way to make it and win, LeBron would not go to the Rockets, because it would again be seen as a cop out similar to when Durant went to the Warriors. The Rockets are already a super team, and LeBron would not be able to add at all to his legacy by joining a pre-existing super team.

With all of those options eliminated, I see him joining a Lakers team with loads of young talent and probably Paul George on top of that. With Paul George on the team, the Lakers could remind LeBron of the Indiana Pacers teams he faced in the Eastern Conference Finals when he was a member of the Miami Heat. That type of team with LeBron James could contest with the other super teams in the League and give him the best chance at getting more NBA championships.

I know this may seemed far-fetched, but hey, a fan has to dream, and when you are from the City of Angels, the name of the game is go big or go home.

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