LeBron James spent very little time making Decision 3.0 and has once again shaken-up the league. By signing James, the Los Angeles Lakers have abruptly stopped their rebuild and have once again become the center of the NBA Universe.
Teams in the Western Conference have seen their lives become much more difficult as teams in the East now see a newly opened window to contention. Let’s look at some of the teams affected.
The New-Look Lakers
Following the retirement of Kobe Bryant, the Lakers undertook a slow but successful rebuild. The young talent the team has stockpiled: Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and Julius Randle, will either stay and learn from LeBron or be dealt for veteran star level players.
The Lakers also quickly added veterans along with James, resigning Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and signing Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee. Stephenson and McGee have the kind of playoff experience needed to move the team forward.
The lingering question is what other superstar will they add?
The aforementioned young players may be involved in a deal for a player like Kawhi Leonard. The Lakers can also look to sign free agent DeMarcus Cousins.
The Western Conference
The Western Conference, which already featured the Golden State Juggernaut, has just become even more competitive. The Warriors, who have rarely been challenged in the regular season, now have a reason to play every game at max effort.
The Houston Rockets had hoped to lure James to their side, not have to regroup. The team resigned Chris Paul but lost Trevor Ariza to the Suns and hope to bring back developing Center Clint Capela. Has their window just slammed shut?
Last offseason, the Rockets were fixated on making a deal for Carmelo Anthony. Ultimately the need for the Knicks to take back Ryan Anderson’s bad contract was a deal-breaker and Anthony was dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder. That move may work out in the Rockets favor as they put on a full-court press for James this summer.
The Spurs has hoped Gregg Popovich’s relationship with James may have made them a destination. Now they have a messy Kawhi Leonard situation to figure out and must decide to rebuild or reload.
While Popovich would have gotten the best out of James, the Spurs also have quite a talented roster. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have reached the end of their careers, but quality players like LaMarcus Aldridge, Dejounte Murray and Danny Green remain.
The Eastern Conference
The one team who is not happy about James leaving the conference is the Cleveland Cavaliers. They made 3 straight finals, winning one, but now look like a squad that must rebuild. Owner Dan Gilbert’s prickly relationship with James was certainly a factor in him leaving.
The Philadelphia 76ers had hoped to sign James, but now settle for the consolation prize of having the best player in the league out of the conference. The team has the cap room to add additional stars and set themselves up for years to come.
Not so long ago, the city of Philadelphia was a basketball wasteland. The team was a consistent loser, stockpiling picks and hoping for the best. Well, the best has happened as the Sixers went deep into the playoffs with young players like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
The team is primed to be in the East Coast Finals picture for a while with their players being young and affordable, even without LeBron.
And of course the Boston Celtics must be overjoyed. They were never a contender to sign James, but now must be considered the favorites to win the East. With young talent like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to go with vets like Al Horford, Gordon Heyward and Kyrie Irving, they seem like a lock for next years finals.
The Effect On The NBA
The NBA for one, must be thrilled for James to be playing in a major market. If the Lakers could somehow get past the Warriors, a Celtics vs. Lakers final would be a dream scenario for the league. The league is simply more interesting when The Lakers are good, and LeBron virtually guarantees that.