The Los Angeles Lakers undeniably made the biggest splash of NBA free agency by signing LeBron James to a four-year contract. They then filled out the roster by inking several veterans to one-year contracts.
While the magnitude of Lakers signing James can’t be debated, there’s plenty of dissension over what it means for the team this season. ESPN is among the prognosticators that is not overly bullish on them.
In their projections for the upcoming season, ESPN has the Lakers estimated to win 41.2 games and finish ninth in the Western Conference standings.
Just ahead of them are the Portland Trail Blazers, who are projected to win 42 games. Such an outcome would mean the Lakers miss the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season. It would also snap James’ streak of NBA Finals appearances at eight.
Comparatively, Las Vegas oddsmakers projected the Lakers would win 48.5 games this season and qualify for the 2019 NBA Playoffs as the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference.
Had the Lakers not endured a nine-game losing streak last season, they conceivably could have been in position to make the playoffs down the stretch. Adding James and the likes of Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley figures to ensure the team won’t suffer a similar slide.
Nonetheless, the veterans and an improving young core faces the tall order of playing in a competitive Western Conference.