LeBron James announced through his agent on Sunday afternoon that he was signing a long-term deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, altering the landscape of the entire NBA with a few swipes of a pen.
After missing out on free agent targets like Paul George, and seemingly unable to trade for Kawhi Leonard, many thought this was going to be yet another lackluster offseason for the Lakers. But no. This move immediately turns the cellar-dwelling Lakers into one of the top teams in the NBA. But it also makes James’ perennial trip to the NBA Final much more tenuous.
In signing a four-year deal, James offers the Lakers what he never gave the Cleveland Cavaliers after returning: enough stability to allow the team to plan their roster construction moving forward. The obvious next (big) shoe to drop would be Kawhi Leonard, who has apparently not made it a secret that his intent is to make his way to Los Angeles as well.
Sources: As trade talks have unfolded, Kawhi Leonard’s focus is unchanged: He wants to be a Laker. https://t.co/0wZGf5MrNt— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 2, 2018
Obviously, this pretty much destroys the Cavaliers organization for the near term. They’ll be left holding the bag as James saunters out of town, leaving behind a legacy of bad contracts, including nearly $40 million each to George HIll, Tristan Thompson and approximately $30 million to JR Smith over the next two seasons.
The Lakers will offer James a shot in the West, something many have doubted he’d risk. But with the Eastern Conference tightening up, and the Cavaliers falling further and further behind, it makes a lot of sense that James would pack his bags and start over somewhere.
For the Warriors, it doesn’t seem to move the needle much, though they will face James more often now that they are in the same division — the Lakers would still seem to be a solid step or two behind both Golden State and Houston (though it remains to be seen how the Rockets will survive offseason turmoil of their own).
For now though, just this one move has shifted everything. That’s good for basketball, and a huge part of what keeps fans entertained from year to year. No one knows what exactly is going to happen next season, but it sure did just get more interesting, didn’t it?