How far can LeBron carry the Lakers?
His recent 44 and 51 point games have raised the bar on how far LeBron James can carry the Los Angeles Lakers this season
While the Lakers know they can’t count on LeBron to bail them out with 51 points every game, the fact James still has the ability to dominate the game and make his team virtually unbeatable is clearly great news for the Lakers.
After focusing on deferring to and developing rapport with new teammates, LeBron finally has started to exert his will on games with 44 and 51 point explosions that carried the Lakers to easy tip-off to final-buzzer victories. After struggling mightily to win close games early in the season, the Lakers have to be buoyed by LeBron taking over and turning games into easy wins. That’s exactly what the young Lakers needed to solidify their confidence.
At 33, LeBron is playing a career fewest minutes but at a career fastest pace. He’s currently averaging 27.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per game, eerily close to career averages of 27.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.2 assists. LeBron’s shown great patience with his new teammates and Luke Walton’s efforts to find the right combination of players with which to surround him. While it’s still a work in progress, the Lakers are slowly coming together.
With Rajon Rondo likely out for another four to five weeks, the Lakers are lucky to have a favorable schedule loaded with theoretically winnable games. LeBron taking his game to the next level couldn’t have come at a better time. The Lakers still need to figure out who’s going to start, who’s going to come off the bench, and who’s going to close games. There are also still vulnerable areas they desperately need to shore up but the outlook is suddenly brighter.
After watching Damian Lillard, James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Jokic, and Jimmy Butler take over games to beat the Lakers, it’s a such a pleasure and relief to see LeBron beginning to do the same thing. Starting with Wednesday night’s return to Cleveland, the Lakers should continue to ride a hot LeBron James. The Lakers should be favorites to win five of the next seven games, which would then give them a 14–9 record.
The big question is how far can a 33-year old LeBron James carry the Lakers? Tied to that question is whether the Los Angeles Lakers need to make a move at the trade deadline, which would likely involve trading Rondo or KCP, or whether they should stand pat? While Rondo is nearly irreplaceable and KCP has been playing very well lately, the Lakers will probably have an open mind should an elite player with an expiring contract suddenly become available.
As expected, how the team and individual players perform over the next four weeks will probably determine whether the Lakers make a trade or stand pat. That they’ll be doing this without Rajon Rondo could impact their decision. You could argue that a trade is the more likely outcome regardless of record. If the team is struggling, there’ll be problems to fix. If they’re winning, there will be a desire to improve the team’s chances of going deeper in the playoffs.
I think LeBron James’ recent offensive performances have raised the bar on how far he can carry the Los Angeles Lakers this season. 50 games and a top four finish in the West should be in the bag. The big question is whether the Lakers could improve enough to win 60 games and second seed in the West? While reaching that goal would likely require a perfect storm of good fortune, it’s within the realm of possibility simply because LeBron James is that great.
Will history repeat itself? LeBron celebrated his first seasons with the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers by taking both teams to the NBA Finals. Both Finals trips unfortunately led to defeats as the LeBron-led Heat fell to the Mavs in six games and the LeBron-led Cavs fell to the Warriors in six games. Needless to say, the Lakers would be thrilled if they were able to upset the Warriors and LeBron extended his streak with his ninth NBA Final in a row.
The Heat won 58 games in LeBron’s first season while the Cavs only won 53. The Lakers’ goal this season should be to win 60 games, which would likely earn the #2 seed allowing them to avoid the Dubs until the conference finals. To do that, the Lakers would likely need LeBron to win regular season MVP, McGee to win DPOY, and the Lakers’ young quartet of budding stars to enjoy break out seasons, something we’re all still waiting for and hoping to happen.
How far can LeBron carry the Lakers? We’ll get a preview of the answer to that question over the next four weeks. With a little help from the basketball gods in the form of the key players remaining healthy and playing up to their potential, I think LeBron can take the Lakers at least to the conference finals and possibly all the way to the NBA Finals and their 17th NBA championship. When you have LeBron James leading the way, then anything is possible.