Ever since Anthony Davis indicated his desire to be traded from New Orleans things have never been the same for both Pelicans and Lakers. Speculation around who might be included in the package for AD has caused LA’s players to loose their focus. Coupled with the fact that Lebron was sidelined for 18 games with groin injury the team went on a 6-12 during his absence and eventually fell below NBA playoff 8th spot.
Tough place to be
Since Lebron has returned to the lineup Lakers have had two incredible comebacks versus Houston and Boston. However, loses to 76s, Hawks, Pelicans and Grizzlies have literally nullified their efforts. With 3 games behind San Antonio Spurs who sit in the 8th spot Lebron is close as it gets to miss Playoffs for the first time during his career. Having achieved unprecedented record of 8 consecutive Playoff Finals appearances the King is mighty close to miss not only the Finals but Playoffs itself.
Part of a Master-plan?
Lets imagine for a moment that Anthony Davis actually signed with LA. In that case, Lakers would have lost a young core of Kuzma, Ingram and Lonzo Ball. Giving up three promising starters for an injury prone super star, who has just returned to the line up. It seems to be highly unlikely that this scenario would have resulted in Lakers standing a better chance of occupying 8th spot in highly competitive Western Conference. Effectively, whatever was the outcome of AD trade it would have negatively affected LA’s chances of qualifying for the Playoffs.
Lebron’s move to LA was orchestrated by his desire to have a transition to a post NBA player career. Having admitted that after winning vs Golden State Warriors in 2016 NBA Finals, despite being 3 to 1 down, made him the GOAT. Many would argue that winning single series does not automatically make you the greatest of all time, but taking into account that not only no team in the history of NBA Playoff Finals has ever recovered while being 3 to 1 (not even mentioning 3 to 0) down in NBA finals, but also because during that particular year Warriors have tied NBA record for the most regular season wins and won Playoffs just a year before. Under those circumstance, King James has a case, although not as strong one as winning three-peat twice as MJ has done, but still.
What’s the next move
Lebron’s decision to join Lakers was a primary indication that James wants to make a transition to his post NBA players’ career. Having confirmed himself that Space Jam 2 will be filmed during this summer, King James clearly indicated that this transition has begun. Conversely, most important decisions during off-season will be made by Lakers organization and especially by president of basketball operations Magic Johnson. Having failed to materialize Anthony Davis’s trade from Pelican during last trade window, Magic will be under tremendous pressure during the off-season to sign players that can help Lakers to become a real title condemners. Lebron’s long-term commitment to Lakers is a good selling point that can ultimately decide how the dominoes of free agency will fall. Having such players as Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart (both on 1.9 million payroll), as well as Brandon Ingram (7.2million) and Lonzo Ball (8.7 million) under contract for the 2019-2020 year provide a solid backbone to build a franchise around. Keeping in mind that salary cap for the following year will be increased it opens up wide variety of opportunities for LA’s front office to work with.
For the time being, all that Laker’s fans can do is to accept the inevitable and swallow a bitter pill of missing the Playoffs with one of the GOAT in their lineup.