The arrival of LeBron James is expected to make the Los Angeles Lakers a significant team in the deep Western Conference once again. The Lakers may not still be considered as a legitimate title contender, but they are in a strong position to end their five-year playoff drought in the upcoming 2018-19 NBA season.
LeBron James has been to the NBA Finals for the last eight years so it’s not a surprise why the Lakers are currently viewed as a real playoff contender. However, there are some people who think the acquisition of James won’t help the Lakers end their struggle, including Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post. Bontemps predicted the Lakers to extend their playoff drought to six next season.
“One thing that few, if any, are saying about the Lakers is that they will miss the playoffs for a sixth straight year — and see James go from making eight straight NBA Finals appearances to whiffing on the postseason entirely,” Bontemps wrote. “But that is precisely what we are saying will happen — yes, even after we watched James go supernova and lift the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals again.”
If they remain healthy throughout the season, Bontemps believes that the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the San Antonio Spurs are assured of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Lakers will be needing to compete for the final three playoff spots against Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves, Portland Trail Blazers, and the Los Angeles Clippers.
LeBron James may have ruled the Eastern Conference for eight consecutive years, but the competition in the Western Conference is on a different level. What makes his Lakers’ stint more challenging is that he is currently surrounded by young players and veterans whose fit with him remains a big question mark. In his eight consecutive appearances in the NBA Finals, James teamed up with other NBA superstars like Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love.
Another reason why Bontemps sees the Lakers missing the Western Conference Playoffs is their lack of big men. The Lakers have JaVale McGee, Ivica Zubac, and Moritz Wagner to play at center, but none of those big men are legitimate starters. Based on their preseason games, Lakers Head Coach Luke Walton could be planning to use McGee as their starting center in the upcoming 2018-19 NBA season.
It’s easy to understand why some people doubt the Lakers’ ability to earn a playoff spot in the deep Western Conference. Though they have the best basketball player on the planet, all of the Lakers’ young core and veterans should step up to help LeBron. If they fail to show massive improvements in their game and mostly rely on James, it will not be a surprise if the Lakers miss the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year.