Years of futility led to the Los Angeles Lakers accumulating draft picks that morphed into trade chips or key pieces of a promising core. That factored prominently in LeBron James signing a four-year, $153 million contract this summer.
While there was plenty of speculation over whether or not James would actually entertain playing with such a young team, and even more on the likelihood he’d join the Lakers without a second established star, they proved to be moot points.
James went so far as to explain he didn’t believe it was necessary for the Lakers to trade for Kawhi Leonard because of the confidence he has in youngsters Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma.
While questions remain on the Lakers’ potential this season, James did guarantee they will improve upon their 35-47 record, via ESPN:
“What my expectations are for the team, we don’t have any right now. But we definitely are going to be better than we were the previous year. You guys know me. When it comes to championship habits, that doesn’t mean you’re bringing a championship. That means you practice excellence every day. I expect that from not only myself but from my teammates.”
The 35 wins were the Lakers’ most since 2012-13 season, and it represented a nine-win improvement from the 2016-17 campaign. It marked a second straight year the Lakers improved their win total by nine under Walton.
Nonetheless, their playoff drought extended to five consecutive seasons. Some are confident that will change now that James is leading the team, but other prognosticators aren’t quite as certain.
On a personal level, James hasn’t missed the playoffs since 2004-05, and he has an active streak of eight appearances in the NBA Finals.