When the Los Angeles Lakers signed LeBron James, it marked the first big name free agent the Lakers had signed since Dwight Howard (and we all know how that turned out). Adding the best player in the world to a young core that was destined to break out, seemed like a lock for the playoffs. Although the Lakers got out to a shaky start, a strong November and December had them sitting at 4th in the West and a 19-14 going into Christmas day. As we all know, LeBron James suffered a groin injury that day, yet the Lakers still managed an impressive win over the Warriors. Since that day, the Lakers have gone 8-15, including a 42 point blow out by the Oladipo-less Pacers, and now sit at 10th in the West. The Lakers’ season has taken a turn for the worse, and we might be far from the end due to recent trades, and the Lakers lack of success on drawing in free agents.
When the Lakers were at their best, LeBron James was carrying most of the work load. However, often times he would be provided with solid contribution from the Lakers young core. Kyle Kuzma was shaping up to be a solid second option, as he has improved upon his scoring abilities. Lonzo Ball was stepping up at times, recording multiple triple doubles on the season. Along with these young stars, key veteran players were stepping up. Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were all making contributions. This all came together Christmas day when the Lakers played the Warriors. Although Lebron was taken to the locker room during the 3rd quarter, the Lakers’ mix of young players and veterans were able to sustain a Warriors run, and eventually win 127-101. Lakers management has forgotten what this team is capable of. The recent acquisitions of Mike Muscala and Reggie Bullock are evidence of that. These two moves do not make the Lakers any better than they were a week ago. These moves will not make the Lakers anymore of a championship contender than if they did not make them. All these moves do is clear up a roster spot for the potential signing of free agent Carmelo Anthony, and get rid of a young productive big man, Ivica Zubac. The Lakers’ management has gone all in on the potential of singing a big name free agent over the summer, and completely forgot the team’s success when healthy.
Furthermore, the Lakers banking on signing a super star free agent is a risky move. As mentioned earlier, the Lakers success at signing big names during the offseason has been marginal at best. Players such as Lamarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant, and Paul George have all chosen other teams in recent history. Add that to fact that some super stars are reluctant to team up with Lebron, and the Lakers could come up empty during the 2019 offseason. Big names such as Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant will be available, but will any one of those players give the Lakers the time of day. Teams such as the Knicks, and Clippers are two other enticing locations looking to land big name talent this offseason. Will the Lakers be able to compete with these teams, or will they fail to sign an all star free agent yet again? That has yet to be determined, but one thing is for certain, what started out as a promising season for the Lakers, has now hit a terrible slump.
Heading into the back half of the season post all-star break, it is going to be an uphill battle for the Lakers. They will be facing one of the leagues most challenging schedules, still having to go up against teams such as the Bucks, Warriors, Thunder, and Celtics. Sitting three games out of the playoffs, and under .500 for the first time since November, this will be one of Lebron’s toughest challenges. With Lebron still recovering from injury, the young core of the Lakers will have to step up. I still cannot see a Lebron James lead team not making the playoffs, but if the Lakers do not turn it around soon, it is a real possibility.