In the offseason leading up to this 2021-2022 season, we saw a major offseason pick-up by the Los Angeles Lakers when they traded Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and the 22nd pick of the 2021 Draft to the Washington Wizards for Russell Westbrook. This move assembled a new Big Three in LA with Lebron, Anthony Davis, and Westbrook at the helm. Lebron has become notorious throughout his career for controlling the make-up of the team that he plays for, having coined the nickname “LeGM.”
After the Westbrook trade, we saw James and the Lakers bring in veterans such as Carmelo Anthony, Wayne Ellington, Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore, and Avery Bradley. Lebron has brought washed veterans onto his team in hopes of winning a championship before.
Most notably in the 2017-2018 season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Lebron welcomed Dwayne Wade, Isaiah Thomas, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Derrick Rose onto the team. All who, apart from Derrick Rose, would be out of the league within the next two seasons. We have recently seen Thomas make a run back at the NBA signing multiple 10-day contracts this season. That season the Cavaliers were swept in the NBA Finals by the Golden State Warriors four games to zero. This team was able to reach the promised land but not finish the job. The 2021-2022 Lakers have not found the same successes thus far.
As of March 17, the Lakers sit as the ninth seed in the Western Conference holding onto a play-in spot for dear life with a record of 29 wins and 40 losses. The blunders of this team are numerous with Anthony Davis constantly out with different lingering injuries, veterans showing they have nothing left in the tank, and Westbrook presenting as the scapegoat for his underwhelming play.
Since the All-Star Break, Westbrook is shooting nine percent from the three-point line, an abysmal shooting percentage for an already poor shooting point guard. However, Westbrook is not entirely at fault as the construction of this team is also to blame.
One major concern when Westbrook was acquired was the ball-dominant playstyle that all three stars on the Lakers possess. When watching Laker basketball, the lack of off-ball movement is alarming. The Lakers perform isolation style play where Lebron, Davis, or Westbrook use the whole shot clock to dribble around to then take a contested shot. Everyone else on the floor is just standing around. The most successful teams in recent history are the ones that are masters of off-ball movement to create open shots.
Lebron at 37 years of age is reaching the end of his career, but is still playing at an exceptional level and is competing to lead the league in points per game. His contract has one more season remaining on it meaning James would be a free agent in the 2023-2024 offseason. Since the All-Star Break, we have seen Lebron become more vocal about his future outside of LA. Multiple teams have been mentioned as potential landing spots for the King. One of the more exciting options is a third stint on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In a recent interview with The Athletic, James responded to this question saying “The door’s not closed on that, I’m not saying I’m coming back and playing, I don’t know. I don’t know what my future holds. I don’t even know when I’m free.” During All-Star festivities, James also praised the young stars in Cleveland after Garland, Allen, and Mobley won the Skills Challenge.
James appears to want his release from LA and we have seen many superstars force their way out of cities before their contract expires and whether he returns to Cleveland or not, it’s hard to envision James playing another season in purple and gold.
The other option that has surfaced of late is Lebron playing out the end of his career alongside his son, Bronny. Bronny will be eligible for the 2024 NBA Draft as he is currently in his junior season at Sierra Canyon High School. Lebron would be 40 years old if Bronny were to enter the league, which still leaves this two-year gray area for Lebron to find a successful landing spot.
Lebron has been controversial in his approach to team building and team loyalty. Many tarnish his legacy due to his forceful way of changing teams instead of weathering the storm and building a legacy from the ground up such as Jordan or Kobe or in current times Giannis. But Lebron becoming the all-time leading scorer at this point is seemingly inevitable, and his priority is to win more championships so he can cement himself as the undisputed greatest player of all time. Unfortunately, this means there won’t be a Lebron statue being built outside Crypto.com Arena anytime soon.