The Los Angeles Lakers won the biggest prize in the 2018 NBA free agency when they signed LeBron James to a four-year deal worth $153.3 million. Having arguably the best basketball player in the planet on their roster, the Lakers are finally expected to return to prominence in the post-Kobe Bryant era.
Minnesota Timberwolves Head Coach Tom Thibodeau is one of the people who believe that the Lakers are back to title contention now that LeBron James is on their side.
“Any time a player like that comes to the West, particularly him, obviously if you got LeBron, you are an instant contender,” Thibodeau said, via ESPN.
However, most people will undeniably agree that the word “instant contender” is too good to describe the Lakers. The Lakers may have signed LeBron James, but their roster, as currently constructed, is still not in a strong position to beat Western Conference powerhouse teams like the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors, and the Houston Rockets in a best-of-seven series.
Unlike most of the playoff contenders in the West, the Lakers only have one superstar, LeBron James, who is currently surrounded with young talents and role players. One Western Conference assistant coach predicted that the Lakers will be “good,” but he doesn’t think they are a top-four team in the West. A Western Conference front-office executive shared the same sentiment, saying that James and the Lakers are playoff-bound, but they are not considered as a “true contender.”
“I view the Lakers team next year as a playoff team because LeBron is still the best player in basketball but not a true championship contender for a season. But [they are] set up very well to be one in the coming years.”
Inside LeBron James’s new $8 million public school, where students get free bikes, meals, and college tuition https://t.co/TQ6uYjEXPH
— TIME (@TIME) August 1, 2018
No one can blame why most people don’t see the Lakers as a legitimate title contender. Aside from their roster, which is mostly made up of young talents, they controversially signed four players — Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson, and Michael Beasley — whose fit with LeBron James remains a big question mark. However, Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson seemed to be very confident with his team and revealed that they properly consulted James with every move they made this offseason.
As of now, the Lakers want to see how their young core of Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Lonzo Ball will perform playing alongside LeBron James. If they establish an underwhelming performance in the first half of the 2018-19 NBA season, the Lakers are expected to make a big move before the February NBA trade deadline.