Los Angeles Lakers: With LeBron James, LA’s young core will blossom

NBA Los Angeles Lakers Brandon Ingram (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
NBA Los Angeles Lakers Brandon Ingram (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Player movement is fluid and a necessity in the modern NBA, and the Los Angeles Lakers, while adding LeBron James to their young core, will excel in that aspect this season

Gone are D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Nick Young and Larry Nance Jr. All of them. Just a year or two ago, that was your new Los Angeles Lakers, circa Kobe Bryant’s farewell NBA tour.

Maybe that had a lot to do with not getting those guys playing like they should have been from the get go. Maybe it was Magic Johnson finally taking over the GM chores.

Your Los Angeles Lakers of this coming season has attracted the King himself, LeBron James, three-ring winner from Cleveland (1) and Miami (2), to end his storied NBA career with the Showtime Lakers. Fastbreaking run-and-gun NBA basketball with coach Luke Walton reconfiguring his playbook for the bulldozing 6-foot-10 All-Star, power guard.

LeBron doesn’t come to a team that has no stars of its own, though.

D’Angelo Russell became expendable because of his locker room antics, his frustration at wasting a year during the Kobe farewell tour, and because the point guard of the future, Lonzo Ball, a sweet-shooting, speedy point guard came on board during last year’s lottery draft.

That’s the guy who’ll be LeBron’s Kyrie Irving, whether you’re willing to believe it or not. Back-up at the playmaking chores is Rajon Rondo, a sign that this team may at least make the second round of the play-offs with his smart ball distribution and push the ball mindset.

That’s 3 push-the-ball guys manning the backcourt for Team Showtime.

In this guard-driven offense, where the frontcourt is expected to play multi-role positions instead of strictly being James Worthy or Sam Perkins of old school, the Lakers have a winning player in first round pick Moritz Wagner, a 6-foot-11 center who can defend the perimeter and passing lanes, run out on offense, and he has an unguardable spin-move in the paint where he only needs a step-and-a-half to put the ball into the rim.

Wagner won two straight Division championships for Michigan, with less than stellar teammates.  He single-handedly defeated this year’s Final Four Cinderella team, Loyola-Chicago all by himself, doing everything on defense and carrying the team on offense. LeBron can count on this young stud at the stretch-five position.

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And the veteran who helped stop James in this year’s championship run from the Golden State Warriors will now be his teammate, athletic center Javale McGee. He brings fast twitch shotblocking and lane defense to the Lakers, plus he fits the team better than slow-footed Brook Lopez. Both offer a stronger and taller post presence to the team than Nance Jr. or even Julius Randle.

Opposite the point guards are some of the best up-and-coming athletic scoring off-guards/forwards – Brandon Ingram, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Summer-League standout Josh Hart and even rookie Svi Mykhailiuk, whom the Lakers really like.

You could even throw Lance Stephenson into that group, when he’s on his game.

You also can’t forget about Kyle Kuzma, who was tied for being the team’s leading scorer last season.

By the way the 2018 Summer League has been going, the Lakers look to be a stronger build with the new young guys. And the new veteran sign-ups, all fit around LeBron James for a quicker frontcourt and one of the most lethal potential guard offenses in the NBA if Ingram, Stephenson and Hart find chemistry gunning the ball and sharing it with each other too.

There’s no question that this team needs time to gel, but if they can hit their stride this season, there’s no real debate. This team is better than the Cleveland Cavaliers team that won the East last season, but fell at the hands of the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

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If what we see on paper and in Summer League, the Los Angeles Lakers look like a team that is only going to improve as the season unwinds. And hopefully, King James’ farewell tour with all that young talent will be all about winning at least one more championship ring.