The Los Angles Lakers signed the face of the NBA, LeBron James, as a free agent in July… then went out and finished 37-45 this season, missing the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season.
While the 37 wins are not the fewest wins by a James-led team during his 16-year NBA career — that “honor” goes to the 2003-04 Cleveland Cavaliers, who went 35-47 in James’ rookie campaign — this year’s Lakers could be the worst team on which James has played since coming into the league.
So says Rahul Mukherjee of the Los Angeles Times, who makes a case for the 2018-19 Lakers being the biggest disappointment in James’ spectacular career, which includes three NBA championships and four league Most Valuable Player awards.
“The 2018-19 Lakers roster ranks as one of the weakest teams assembled around James since his rookie season 16 years ago, just as Shaquille O’Neal finished with the Lakers,” Mukherjee writes.
He believes the biggest reason the Lakers crumbled around James this season was simple — the lack of another All-Star player.
“They didn’t sign an All-Star like Los Angeles-area native Paul George. They didn’t get All-NBA center DeMarcus Cousins at a discount,” he writes. “Instead, the franchise whose most successful seasons always include a pair of All-Stars decided to abandon tradition and sign role players such as Michael Beasley, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson in the hopes of building depth.”
It didn’t work out that way.
“The young core, which is expected to be a threat in a few seasons, was now on a fast track, thanks to the signing of James,” Mukherjee writes. “Brandon Ingram needed to be James’ star shooter. Lonzo Ball should be the second coming of Magic Johnson at point guard. Even lower draft picks such as former NBA All-Rookie forward Kyle Kuzma and Summer League MVP Josh Hart exceeded early expectations. The hope for the young core was to continue growing and flourish under the talent of James and the breadth of skills from veterans. That didn’t take place.”