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Dynasty or Playoffs: Where do the Lakers go from here?

(Jon SooHoo/UPI)

The Los Angeles Lakers (Jon SooHoo/UPI)

The Los Angeles Lakers have finally landed a true difference maker in free agency. For a franchise which prides itself in luring the stars, getting a max player has been difficult over the past decade. This is the first successful free agent signing by the Lakers since signing Metta World Peace in 2009 (who averaged at least 17.1 points in the three seasons before in Houston).

But this is King James coming to LA. Even a rookie Lebron James is a superior player to a then-30-year-old-formerly-named-Ron-Artest. This is a MAJOR coup for the richest franchise in basketball, and the Los Angeles Lakers’ future is bright.

Is the “Lake Show” back? The answer may not be a simple yes or no.

Lebron James

The Lakers have not been to the playoffs since being swept in the first round by the Spurs in 2013. Lebron missed the playoffs his first two seasons in the league but has made it the last 13 seasons (since 1980, only Stockton, Malone, Horry, Magic, and Bird have played for 13 or more NBA seasons and never missed the postseason in their career).

With Lebron in the fold, it seems the postseason is the floor for this team. But with the currently constructed roster, a tremendously graceful ceiling is the 3 seed in the West. With a projected starting lineup of Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Lebron James, and Javelle McGee, Lebron will have a tough time carrying this team into the second round of the playoffs.

Lebron knows this, and his 4-year deal is not a shortsighted attempt at a 4th ring next year. This tactic is much different than his past two free agent decisions because Lebron is not forcing the organization’s hand to trade all their useful asset for stars and sign his buddies to horrible contracts (it was fun, Cleveland).

However, with the maturing of Lebron, we find an esteemed family man. Lebron may not have had an opportunity to compete with Golden State in 2019 as both Boston and Houston are at the salary cap and unable to add Lebron without a sign-and-trade. Thus, the move to Los Angeles serves Lebron’s family (Bron Jr to the Cavs in 2022) and future career well (Space Jam 2 is totally happening).

2019 Free Agency

For the Lakers to compete for titles, 2019 free agency has been circled as the next major move. Anything can happen in the trade market, but letting Lonzo, Ingram, or Kuzma be packaged in a deal will not make this team into a competitor. And who knows how quickly these plays can develop under the bright lights of LA with Lebron leading the way?

Trading for Kawhi will not make this team a contender. The Lakers need their young players to continue to grow and add a free agent star without losing the little depth they have.

The Lakers aren’t competing with one or two more moves. They should keep their powder dry, accumulate assets anyway possible, and rid themselves of any bad contracts.

Cap Space and Draft Picks

The Lakers hold all of their future draft picks and have the Bulls’ 2019 second round pick, so that is a positive. The franchise should resist trading picks before next season’s trade deadline to continue building for the future.

The only bad contract is Luol Deng’s albatross deal with 2 years and $36 million left. That contract is not going anywhere this year, but it could be traded or stretched next year to create a little extra room for free agents. Currently, the Lakers are projected to have $46,824,227 cap space for the 2019 free agency bonanza.

The best move is to develop their young players and keep their cap space open for another star in 2019 when Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant reach free agency.

2018-19 Season

Ultimately, the Lakers’ future is bright as long as Lebron stays healthy (he is 33, after all). 2018 should be the Lakers’ return to the playoffs, and Lebron jerseys will set record sales.

But a championship with Lebron is out of reach until at least 2019.

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