Each game brings the Los Angeles Lakers closer to their number one goal: Acquiring a superstar via free agency. At the top of their (and every other team for that matter) list sits LeBron James. Fortunately for Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and the rest of the organization, he seems to feel fairly similarly about them.
According to the Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, James has narrowed his list down to four teams at this time: The Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers and the Lakers.
It’s important to stress that this list will undoubtedly change as the season rolls along. Should the pieces that Cleveland swapped out for make a real impact and lead to a long playoff run, LeBron would have to think long and hard about leaving in the first place.
As it stands right now, Philly and Cleveland would meet in the first round. Should Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons show out in that series and legitimately impress LeBron, he would have to take that into account.
If the Rockets shock the world and topple the Golden State Warriors on their way to a title (perhaps over James, himself), that’s quite the sales pitch. Though it should be mentioned they would have to get really creative to keep the important parts of that team together and also add LeBron.
The Lakers as currently constituted are not capable of those type of sales pitches. Much of what they have to offer comes in the form of off-court earning potential and moves that could theoretically put LeBron in a better place long-term than he currently finds himself.
Could the Lakers free up enough cap space to offer both he and Paul George max deals, then swing a trade using some of their exciting young pieces to acquire a third star and hope whichever kids are left behind are capable of keeping up with the title aspirations of whoever they’re playing with? Sure. But it would take some convincing, compared to the other teams on this list.
The larger point to make here is that the Lakers are still in the running, per this latest report. That in and of itself is an accomplishment considering they’re sitting on this list next to two legitimate title contenders and one of the best young tandems the NBA has seen since Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
No, simply being considered is not what the Lakers were built on and Magic himself would be disappointed if that was what the fan base had to continue to hang their hat on. But this certainly beats the alternative of having been eliminated already.
The organization, behind Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and the rest of the young core’s development, Luke Walton’s impressive tenure thus far and an overhauled front office, has made legitimate progress this season. It’s because of that progress they have a chance at a superstar either this or next summer at all. Still, a ton of work is still left to be done.