With the Cleveland Cavaliers down 3-0 on the 2017 NBA Finals despite heroic performances by LeBron James and seemingly little obvious ways to improve the team, it would make sense for “the King” to consider other destinations.
Due to little known NBA bylaws that say that any free agent must be connected to the Lakers at some point, we now have to talk about the possibility that James could consider the Lakers.
Okay, so there is no actual bylaws that mandate that (as far as we know), but giving us our excuse to discuss LeBron to the Lakers is the latest report from Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer, who wrote that he’s spoken to “multiple league sources” who “think the Lakers or Clippers are viable destinations for King James” in 2018 when he becomes a free agent.
The Clippers seemingly make sense because of James’ residence in Los Angeles and his friendship with Chris Paul, but why the Lakers? O’Connor explains:
The Lakers are in shambles now. They’re a bad team, period. They’ve won less than 28 percent of their games (91 out of 328) over the past four seasons. On the surface, they make little sense as a home for LeBron. But LeBron is one of the most cerebral athletes in history, on and off the court. If LeBron takes a longview, it’d be easy to see the Lakers’ existing potential. Once you factor in another year of development for their young core, add their draft pick this summer, toss in signing Paul George next summer, then add LeBron, suddenly it’s a roster with a blend of impact players on cheap contracts and veterans ready to win now. A mix of vets and youth is how to build sustainable winners in the NBA.
O’Connor adds more context in his full piece, but it’s also important to note he isn’t the first to report on this possibility. The always-connected former Lakers insider and current Cavaliers scoop-master Dave McMenamin of ESPN reported almost exactly one year ago that he thought James could be heading to Los Angeles:
“I don't think it'll be this summer, but... LeBron says he wants to play with Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade. I don't think that's going to happen in Cleveland. I would say that would happen on one of those two teams in Los Angeles... But I think it will not be happening anytime soon.”
If LeBron teaming up with either his banana boat crew or Paul George in Los Angeles were a real option, it’s easy to see why L.A. could potentially be a place he’d want to play.
The downsides are easy to see as well, however, including the Golden State Warriors juggernaut he’s met in the last three NBA Finals suddenly sharing a division with him and a more difficult path towards his ninth straight Finals (let’s just assume the Cavaliers go next year because the Eastern Conference is terrible).
Are the positives of sunshine, Hollywood, potentially playing alongside Paul George and a young core who could begin to carry him as he ages enough to entice LeBron to leave Cleveland a second time? It seems like a long shot, but it’s certainly an intriguing possibility.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.