In a move that was predicted by many, the former Cleveland Cavalier megastar signed a 4-year, 156 million dollar contract with the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, moving him from the shallow Eastern Conference to the highly-competitive Western Conference. After Cleveland was swept by the Golden State Warriors (making it three titles in four seasons for the Warriors), it was shown that LeBron needed to move on from the depleted Cavs roster that he’s called his own for the past four years.
LeBron joining the Lakers gives them a formidable starting lineup
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Brandon Ingram
SF: LeBron James
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: Brook Lopez
This is a great lineup to have: it provides athleticism, mid-range scoring, and defense. Having the length of Lonzo Ball at the 1, Brandon Ingram at the 2, and LeBron at the 3 will provide great defense and offensive athleticism. Another key upside with this signing will be fast break opportunities. James and the Lakers must take advantage of Ball’s superior court vision and passing to truly succeed in an up-tempo league.
What this lineup lacks is shooting, however. A key feature in today’s NBA is to have at least one consistent 3-point shooter to space the floor on offense. Their most consistent 3-point shooter is arguably James, which isn’t much to be fearful of as he’s a career 35% shooter from long-distance, although that improved this year. Arguably, the only notable 3-point shooters on the entire Lakers roster are Isaiah Thomas, Josh Hart, and G-League veteran Andre Ingram. Without a pure spot-up shooter, it will be tough for the Lakers to compete for a Finals spot out of the West in the short-term, especially against Golden State and Houston.
James gives the Lakers an immediate boost for a Finals spot, or at least a Conference Finals spot.
The Lakers opened with 20/1 odds to win the 2019 NBA Finals, which was tied for the sixth highest chance with the Miami Heat. Now, with this signing, the Lakers have skyrocketed up to a tie for 2nd-best odds with the Boston Celtics at 7/2. They are both behind the back-to-back champions Golden State Warriors (10/11). The Cavs on the other hand, dropped to an astounding 500/1 playoff odds without James.
NBA Championship updated
Trail Blazers 100/1
— Jeff Sherman (@golfodds) July 2, 2018
A reasonable prediction would put the Lakers at 3rd in the West next season, behind Houston and Golden State at the top. A 50+ win season is highly likely for this team, though there’s enough talent to battle for second place with Houston for most of the year.
In the East, the Celtics are now the heavy favorites to win the conference and reach the Finals now that the Cavs will most likely slip out of the playoff race completely. The 76ers will grab look poised to grab the No. 2 seed as Boston’s lineup of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford will be too much for the 76ers to overcome.
Coming out of the West will be the Golden State Warriors. Although narrowly beating the Houston Rockets last year in the Conference Finals in seven games, the Warriors are the most superior team in the West. They will take down the “LABron” Lakers in six games and will contend for their fourth championship in five years.
Out of the East will be the Boston Celtics. After a heap of injuries dismantled the Celtics’ chance for a Finals trip this past season, a fully healthy lineup shouldn’t have a problem beating the 76ers in a 7-game series. It is possible for a long series of six or even seven games, but the Celtics’ depth is overpowering compared to the 76ers’ more shallow lineup.
In a shocking defeat, the Boston Celtics will defeat the Golden State Warriors and be presented with their 18th banner in franchise history. These two teams are very similar, stacked with a slew of shooters to space the floor, as well as length at all positions. The X-Factor of this series will be Al Horford, as his all-around offensive game will be too much for the weak centers that GSW has on their roster.