Throughout the 2018-19 NBA season, there will be plenty of critiques about LeBron James and the roster the Los Angeles Lakers constructed around him.
With James accompanied by veterans and a developing young core, the Lakers are projected to finish anywhere from the second seed to not even making the playoffs in the Western Conference.
Whether it is fair or not, having the best player in the league today join one of the greatest franchises will result in championship expectations in Year 1.
As for Charles Barkley, he does not believe the Lakers are even contenders despite signing James, via ESPN:
“I think obviously he’s the greatest basketball player in the world today, but the problem is that team is not very good. The Lakers are not a contender. They’re probably a five or sixth seed in the West, but they’re going to be getting a lot of attention. … In my opinion, they’re not even as good as the San Antonio Spurs. I think the Spurs, with DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus healthy all year, the Spurs are better. I think Oklahoma City is probably better now that they got rid of Carmelo. And the Rockets are better. … I think the Rockets are the second-best team in the West, and then I think it’s a toss up between Oklahoma City and the Spurs. Listen, no disrespect to the Lakers, but I’m not even sure they’re better than the Portland Trail Blazers. I mean, LeBron is great, but it’s going to take those young guys at least a year to adjust to playing with LeBron. Those guys have all played with the ball their entire career. LeBron is a scorer who has to have the ball. It’s not just going to click right away. So I think the Lakers are going to have some growing pains, and by the time they get through the season, they’re going to be the fifth or sixth seed.”
James has shown he can win regular season games by himself but it will take plenty of support if the Lakers are to make a deep playoff run.
With James signing a four-year, $154 million deal, there is an understanding it will take time for the Lakers to truly challenge the Golden State Warriors. As part of their two-year window, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka have already created $38 million in salary cap space for 2019 free agency.
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