The Los Angeles Lakers may be widely expected to improve significantly with LeBron James on board, perhaps even more so if the team gets to add another free agent — such as Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, or Jimmy Butler — in the 2019 offseason. However, the latest predictions suggest that the team’s prospects might actually be worse five years from now if the team doesn’t make the right roster moves in the coming years.
In a Bleacher Report article about all 30 NBA teams and whether they might be better — or worse — off than they currently are five years from now, Dan Favale warned that James, who turns 34 in December, might not be willing to “embrace the long view” and patiently wait for a championship with the Lakers for the duration of his four-year contract. While this could point to the Lakers acquiring a top free agent like Leonard or Durant next summer, Favale suggested that making a championship run could also mean sacrificing one or more of the team’s young core players in order to acquire another superstar.
“Surrendering any part of the future puts the Lakers at risk of a shorter-lived title window,” Favale continued.
“James will hit free agency again after his age-36 (player option) or age-37 seasons. He could leave before this half-decade is up or be ebbing into his twilight on a cap-crimping salary.”
Assuming that the Los Angeles Lakers become championship contenders with LeBron James alongside another superstar acquisition or two, Bleacher Report’s Favale predicted that the team will only have late first-round picks in the coming NBA drafts. Favale continued, suggesting that the Lakers might have to trade those picks for proven veterans if they want to make the most out of them. Regardless, the Lakers might not have an “obvious avenue toward significant talent infusions” once they make another big signing and establish themselves in the league’s upper echelon.
While it might sound far-fetched for the Lakers, who finished 35-47 in the 2017-18 season, to be worse off five years from now, something similar happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers — a team that drafted James first overall in 2003 and finished with a 50-32 regular season record in 2005-06. Five seasons later, with James having just left for the Miami Heat via free agency, the Cavs compiled a 19-63 win-loss record in 2010-11 without the eventual four-time MVP to lead the team.
Despite the grim forecast for the 2023-24 season going forward, Favale said that there’s a chance the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James end up “in lockstep” and focus on the bigger picture, with young players like Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball remaining with the team and potentially becoming All-NBA-caliber superstars. However, he added that this might only be contingent on the Lakers having a lot of patience and luck in the coming five years.