Closing the sale is all about making the right pitch, selling a vision that not only resonates with but will also be embraced and adopted by the target audience, in this case superstar free agents LeBron James and Paul George.
Unlike recent summer free agency failures, where the Lakers’ pitch relied solely on the franchise’s storied history and championship legacy, the Lakers finally have something special to sell prospective free agents with a dynamic young coach, transcendent young point guard, and talented core of budding young stars that have transformed the Lakers from a perennial lottery team into one of the most exciting and promising young teams in the league.
That’s the vision Magic Johnson needs to sell LeBron James and Paul George, an exciting team that boasts elite young talent, plays a style players love, and is just two superstars away from being a legitimate championship contender. They don’t even have to talk about the benefits of playing in Los Angeles or for the Lakers or the options Magic Johnson would have down the road to trade young talent and draft picks for a third superstar like Kawhi Leonard.
For the first time in five years, the Lakers as a franchise have an identity and direction as a team on the rise that could be top four in the West next year. Signing LeBron and PG could transform them into championship contenders.
The Lakers’ free agency pitch should also highlight how Luke Walton plans to use LeBron James and Paul George to transform the Lakers into a contender. Unlike with the Cavs and Thunder, LeBron and PG will be in a team oriented system on the Lakers with a deeper and more talented supporting cast so they won’t always feel like the fate of the franchise is resting solely on their backs but will instead have the freedom to just go out and enjoy playing the game.
LeBron will likely play power forward and PG shooting guard on the Lakers, giving them a legitimate championship caliber starting lineup consisting of Lonzo Ball, Paul George, Brandon Ingram, LeBron James, and Julius Randle with Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, Channing Frye, and Ivica Zubac off the bench. That roster might need break-out years from its young core to win now but it can’t be more than a year or two away from competing for a championship.
After their respective struggles in the playoffs, both LeBron James and Paul George could easily be looking for a fresh start with a team where they would have a better chance of winning a championship, having fun playing again, and solidifying their legacy as players. If LeBron James really wants to play until he is 40 and win more championships than Michael Jordan, then joining the Lakers could then be the best way to extend his career and legacy.
On the Lakers, LeBron would no longer need to have the ball in his hands all the time or lead the team in scoring, moves that could physically enable him to play more years. Playing with Lonzo Ball in Luke Walton’s system could add five years to his career. When you’re chasing your legacy like LeBron, extending your championship window five years, when the Lakers’ budding young stars will be their primes, could be the smartest move he could make.
As for Paul George, playing at home on the Lakers with a pass-first superstar like LeBron and transcendent point guard like Lonzo should be dramatically more enjoyable and appealing than playing second fiddle to Russ in OKC. George would immediately become the Lakers leading scorer and primary defender of the opposing teams best perimeter player. Coming home to play for the Lakers would give Paul George the opportunity to elevate his brand.
There’s a battle underway right now for the soul of professional basketball, a battle between the proponents of team basketball versus those of hero ball. On one side are the champion Golden State Warriors who believe in sharing and moving the ball and lead the league in passes and assists. On the other side are the upstart challenger Houston Rockets whose isolation heavy 1-on-1 style is among the last in the league in passes made and assists recorded.
With their firm commitments to coach Luke Walton and point guard Lonzo Ball, the Lakers have clearly embraced team ball over hero ball and believe they can seamlessly integrate both LeBron James and Paul George into their current offensive and defensive schemes and continue to play the team-first style of basketball they’ve been playing, although Luke will obviously tweak the team’s schemes to take better advantage of their two new superstars.
Bottom line, joining the Lakers will give LeBron and PG a better opportunity to win more championships, have more fun playing the game of basketball, and ultimately enjoy a more successful and rewarding career as a player.
That’s the pitch that Magic needs to make to LeBron James and Paul George.