2018-19 Season Preview: Los Angeles Lakers

Superstar forward LeBron James and the Lakers are eyeing their first playoff berth together.

Coach: Luke Walton (entering his third season, 61-103, .372).

Last Season: 35-47, did not qualify for the playoffs.

Key Returnees: Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Ivica Zubac.

Key Additions: LeBron James (Cleveland), Rajon Rondo (New Orleans), Lance Stephenson (Indiana), JaVale McGee (Golden State), Michael Beasley (New York), Moritz Wagner (rookie, Michigan), Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (rookie, Kansas).

Key Losses: Julius Randle (New Orleans), Isaiah Thomas (Denver), Brook Lopez (Milwaukee), Luol Deng (Minnesota), Channing Frye (Cleveland).

Outlook: The Lakers didn’t land the biggest fish on the free-agency market, they landed The Great Whale. When LeBron James decided to take his talents to Hollywood and sign a four-year, $153 million contract with Los Angeles, it changed the entire landscape of the Eastern Conference as his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, who ruled the East during his four seasons in his second tenure there, will all but assuredly slide toward the back of the pack. What remains to be seen, though, is how much James signing with the Lakers changes the landscape of the rugged Western Conference. Are the additions of veterans James, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley and draft picks Moritz Wagner and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, combined with promising young guns Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Brandon IngramJosh Hart and Ivica Zubac enough to get Los Angeles back to the playoffs? Though expectations will be much higher than simply qualifying for the postseason, which is a given for any team that James decides to join, the West is not the place to be attempting to learn on the fly. James, though, has always been different and if any single active player is capable of doing what many expect to be done by the Lakers this season, realistic or not, it’s him. Still, man, this is the West, and James’ amazing runs to the Finals have been ended by no less than James himself.