Christmas came early for the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday afternoon.
There was no televised “decision”, no waiting game, and no surprise as LeBron James announced he’ll be taking his talents to Venice Beach this season.
After weeks of speculation, the circus came to an abrupt end with James signing a cool four-year, $153 million deal. The switch from Cleveland to LA marks James’ fourth team switch in his 15-year career, but after the Lakers continued to sign fellow free agents for fun, suddenly these rebuilders look a serious championship threat.
If you’ve been keeping an eye on the odds, you would’ve noticed a serious fluctuation in the NBA Futures market from Monday morning onward. Prior to LeBron’s blockbuster deal, the Lakers sat at $8.00 to win the NBA Finals, but after ‘The King’ made his mind up, Los Angeles have now firmed into a tidy $6.50.
With the NBA world abuzz, LeBron’s signing, along with Lance Stephenson’s, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo’s, really makes the Lakers a chance. This is a previously 35-47 squad turned dream team overnight, and punters will be looking to jump all over Los Angeles to hoist their 17th championship banner this time next year.
So is that a safe bet? Or risky business?
Here’s a look…
LeBron First Up
In case you missed it, we’ve done this a couple times before. LeBron famously ditched Cleveland following the 2009/10 season in favour of the Miami Heat, a move that gifted ‘The King’ his first NBA championship two seasons later.
LeBron would stay in South Beach for a total of four seasons, before reuniting and eventually, feeling so good, with the Cavs from 2014 onward. Again, two years later he brought the city of Cleveland their first sports title since 1964, as well as the Cavs’ first in franchise history.
With all of that in mind, it’s no wonder LeBron’s move to LA is such a huge deal. It’s brought up mixed feelings from lifelong Cavs fans, diehard NBA nuts longing for the days of loyalty, and of course, celebrities.
Fortunately, if you fall into either of those categories, there’s good news: LeBron isn’t quite the hero he’s made out to be.
Okay, three NBA championships and four MVP trophies say otherwise, but the stats don’t lie – LeBron certainly hasn’t transformed his newfound homes into winners straight away.
When James first moved to Miami, he was pegged to accomplish great things. Obviously he did just that, but if you’ll recall, the Heat’s dream-team of James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade were the favourites to win the title as soon as LeBron signed the dotted line.
That trio no doubt gave us some great moments, but LeBron statistically had one of his worst years as a professional. He averaged just 26.7 points per-game, a career low for him at the time, and also averaged just 7.0 assists.
Since it was LeBron, Miami of course made the Finals that year, but they were no match for the Dallas Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki in his prime, falling 4-2.
Fast forward to 2014, and LeBron has just arrived off the plane back in Cleveland – the Cavs have this in the bag, right?
Wrong. Cleveland lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Golden State Warriors in the finals that year, and not for the first time, James had another so-so season statistically.
Averaging just 25.3 points-per-game, a severe drop off from his 27.1 the year prior in Miami, James’ path to success in Cleveland certainly featured plenty of bumps.
At age 33 now, LeBron has showed no signs of slowing down, but we’ve seen plenty of dream teams, just like the one the Lakers have compiled, fall flat on their face.
Can the Lakers really gel from the get-go and get this juggernaut rolling? We wait and see.
The Wild West
The most fun part of this whole LeBron thing is the shakeup effect it has on the league in general.
James leaving the Cavs makes the Boston Celtics the hands down favourites in the East, while LeBron moving to the Pacific Division in the West should give the Golden State Warriors a hard run for their money.
There’s a high chance the NBA Finals will look a little different now, but that isn’t to say the Warriors won’t be involved. LeBron’s path to his fourth championship will run straight through the Bay Area, and as we’ve seen over the last four years, the lone talent of James isn’t enough to derail both Steph Curry and more importantly, Kevin Durant.
Although James is obviously surrounded by a higher class of talent in LA than he ever was in Cleveland, the Warriors have a stranglehold on the Pacific division. Golden State remain one of the top field goal and rebounding teams in the league, and that’s not even mentioning the recent signing of DeMarcus Cousins.
Unless the likes of Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma turn it up a notch in their second seasons, the Lakers could still struggle to take this dynasty down.
MVP? Let’s See…
James to win his fifth MVP title? At $5.00 odds it looks like a pretty enticing bet, but after James Harden’s dominance last season, The King is no sure-thing to capture the trophy.
It’s been a while in between drinks for James, having last won the MVP award back in 2013. It’s always a controversial subject, and you could argue James deserved it after his lead up to the Finals last season, but with younger talent beginning to rise to the top, it’s hard to ignore other names.
Harden is one of the favourites to go back-to-back, but don’t look past Anthony Davis or even Giannis Antetokounmpo this year.
When it comes to James and the MVP trophy, a lot of his shortcomings were due to the Cavs’ inability to play defence. Since the Lakers allowed the fourth most points off of turnovers last year, there’s some screws that need tightening in LA.