Talk of trading LeBron James as a means of escape from years of decline for the Los Angeles Lakers is utter nonsense because if there is one thing any team needs to set itself up for great things, it is the foundational piece.
With football’s top leagues, a team can buy its way to get a foundational piece. In other sports leagues like the NFL and NBA, a team has to either draft and develop an athlete to become that foundational piece or trade for that piece.
Thanks to the changing dynamics in player-club relationships, athletes in recent years are able to free themselves from contractual obligations in short years and negotiate with new ones with new teams. The Cleveland Browns have been perpetual stinkers in the NFL close to 20 years but that is set to change following the slew of big decisions team management has made lately.
Trading for Odell Beckham Jnr., Olivier Vernon and signing Kareem Hunt and Jarvis Landry is great and is sure to end the team’s 17 year playoff drought next season. However, those moves were made possible largely thanks to the outstanding play of first year quarterback Baker Mayfield. His strong campaign almost got Cleveland into the playoffs and he proved to be the foundation piece they team had searched several years for.
It so happens, LeBron is the best foundational piece any team in the world of basketball can get.
But winning it all goes beyond that and this is where the Lakers have fallen short since signing him in July 2018. The team wasn’t built to get the best out of James in winning situations and this season has proven it so.
For starters, his core running mates were too young, injury prone and without any playoff experience. Though the team signed veterans like Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and Tyson Chandler, the heavy minutes and lifting were to be undertaken by Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart.
However, all four players have missed games this season to injuries with Ingram and Ball ruled out for the season with 15 games remaining. James missed 18 games causing a Lakers slip from fourth in the Western Conference standings to 11th.Injuries do play significant roles in a team’s success or failure; a look at New Orleans Pelicans major reason for consistently fail to live up to expectations is a clear example. Lakers medical staff has its work cut out for them going forward.
Per the promise shown by the young core, Lakers should expect in house development to expedite its climb to the top. Young players developing into well rounded athletes fast tracks every rebuilding processes. Golden State Warriors became great and won three of the last four NBA titles after Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green became All Star players.
Ball, Ingram and Kuzma are not far off All Star production next seasons and once they get all that talent into consistent production and effort on the court, LeBron will get the help he needs even if Lakers end up with no star free agent signing this offseason. Most pay little attention to the importance of the young quartet’s growth but it is a key component in the Leakers realization of its grand plan to recapture the NBA title.
Thanks to Kevin Durant’s insight, star players in the league are likely not to sign to play with LeBron because of the “toxic” nature that surrounds him. Trade target Anthony Davis is reportedly set to be elusive again since New Orleans still aren’t interested in sending the All Star Forward to Los Angeles.
The NBA is star driven and often it is star players who get teams over the line and which teams end up with wins or otherwise. However, coaching is still important and plays a vital role in the sport but in his 16 year career, LeBron has had just a handful of good coaches and nothing in terms of a great coach. The best of the best had great Coaches on the sideline.
Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan won when they played for Phil Jackson, Bill Russell won all those rings bar one with Red Auerbach and present Lakers President Magic Johnson won under Pat Riley. LeBron hasn’t played under a great coach and LA Lakers need to get him one. Management missed out on Mike Budenholzer by keeping Luke Walton but could make amends by doing everything possible to get San Antonio Spurs Great Gregg Popovich.
LeBron and Co are going to miss the playoffs and the benefit in that is a shot at drafting high in this years draft which enriches Lakers asset haul to make a trade. Should the Lakers land a stud in the draft who contributes immediately like Donovan Mitchell, that gives James more depth to call on for help.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter