Los Angeles Lakers: Why LeBron James is still the best player in the NBA

NBA Los Angeles Lakers LeBron James Rajon Rondo (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
NBA Los Angeles Lakers LeBron James Rajon Rondo (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

LeBron James appeared to have an off-year during his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers. However, he will come out and remind the league of his dominance this season

"“I saw what I saw last year…an aging superstar.” – Skip Bayless, known LeBron hater."

Skip Bayless has always been a LeBron James hater, but this time it’s not just him who has joined in on the recent criticism on James’ “supposed” decline. Everyone around the league has put their input on LeBron this offseason and it has not been positive.

Sports Illustrated recently placed LeBron No. 3 on their top 100 players in the NBA list. For the first time since 2013, the start date of the ranking, James is not on top. It’s not a coincidence.

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Last season, LeBron suffered a groin injury holding him out 17 games. He returned to play a handful of games before being shutdown for the season, holding him to miss another six games, 27 games total. LeBron James groin injury was the first time in his career that he had an injury that held him out a serious amount of time.

The Los Angeles Lakers finished 37-45 finishing 10th in the Western Conference. They obviously missed the playoffs, marking only the second time in James’ 16 year career that he wouldn’t participate in the postseason. Missing the playoffs is central to many of LeBron’s critiques from this season. However, it’s important to notice the Lakers were 20-14 sitting in the 4th-seed in the Western Conference at the time of James’ injury. The team was finally gelling and the Lakers’ youth looked like nice complements to James. However, the injury bug came spoiling the momentum.

Another interesting storyline began to emerge during James’ absence, the Anthony Davis trade rumor saga. The infamous Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted on February 2 about the Lakers’ first offer for the New Orleans Pelicans forward, that included Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo, Michael Beasley, and a few picks.

A media-thunderstorm of rumors started to reign over the league until the trade actually came to fruition in June. For nearly five months, a dark cloud hung over the Lakers’ young players. Nearly all the Lakers’ young core heard their names included in potential hauls for the superstar forward.

The most scary part of these months was the reason why these offers were even being found out by the media. One reason could point to the Pelicans trying to sabotage the Lakers’ season or another could be a potential leak in the Lakers’ organization. Despite the true reason of why these leaks were occurring, the point is that it showed the dysfunction in the Lakers’ front office. The organization was willing to trade their whole team for Davis, and yes they eventually did this offseason.

Magic Johnson‘s unexpected resignation, as the team’s President of Basketball Operations, in April revealed itself as another sign of chaos within the organization. More red flags came with his announcement and to this day nobody has any idea on what is going on with Rob Pelinka, Jeanie Buss, and the rest of the Lakers’ front office.

Back to LeBron.

James did return later in the season with a chance to bring the Lakers back into the playoff race after their 6-11 slide in his absence. Yet, James was not enough to overcome his groin injury, the damage the media-storm had brought about on the Lakers’ roster, and the dysfunction within the team’s front office.

LeBron’s inability to overcome these adversities shouldn’t be a knock on him, because there’s not a single NBA player that could ever had overcome these circumstances.

Statistically and visually, LeBron put together another amazing year. He averaged 27.4 points, 8.3 assists, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.3 steals. For the people who have become numb to James’ greatness, they don’t see anything impressive at this stat-line. This stat-line is not normal for a player in their 16th season in the league. James continues to put together impressive stats, games, and seasons. This season’s stat-line is just a continuation on his dominant reign over the league. However, some people are just used to these types of numbers for LeBron and fail to recognize his consistent greatness.

Adding to that, before the injury, James had the Lakers primed for a top seed in the crowed Western Conference and possibly a successful playoff run. Successful LeBron-led teams have also become another normal thing for people to notice. It’s rare a player of any talent could continue to lead multiple teams of different talent and dynamics to good seasons and playoff-runs every year, but LeBron continues to do so.

Another thing to notice is that it was only James’ first season with the team. Anyone who knows basketball recognizes the challenge of joining a new team and immediately finding success. It takes time for a team to grow and gel. Time is especially important when you have a team filtered with young players only in their first few seasons. The Lakers key talent was made up of players under 24 and then LeBron James.

Young players need a lot of time to get better and get more experience. Add the pressure of playing with LeBron and that definently takes more time. LeBron and the Lakers’ youth certainly struggled to grow or gel due to James’ injury and the media storms surrounding the team.

Going into this next season, keep an eye out for a complete destruction of the league handed out by LeBron James. He has finally had enough of his name continued to be slandered in the media. This season, he will get help from one of league’s top-10 players in Anthony Davis and a few other talented players. Most importantly, he has finally gotten rest this summer. James has played deep into the playoffs for the previous 15 seasons. Not to mention he has played in the Finals for the previous eight seasons which had to have taken a toll on his body.

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So don’t be surprised when a well-rested LeBron James and his replenished Los Lakers take over the league. LeBron will remind everyone why he “continues” to be the best player in the league.