When LeBron James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, there was plenty of discussion about what kind of team he had around him. Rather than surround James with shooters, Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and the front office instead focused on adding playmakers.
The goal was to lessen his workload. So far, James’ usage percentage has remained the same as last season, though increased during the time Rajon Rondo has been sidelined with a broken hand. Nevertheless, James’ 34.7 minutes per game are the lowest of his career.
There have been times when James has simply taken over, which Kobe Bryant noted may be necessary now but is not sustainable longterm. And he’s not alone, as Johnson echoed a similar sentiment.
Johnson explained the Lakers must avoid running the offense through James at all times in similar fashion to what the Cleveland Cavaliers did last season, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:
“We are trying to make sure that we watch his minutes but also that we don’t run everything through him because now it is Cleveland all over again and we don’t want that,” Johnson said in an interview on SiriusXM NBA Radio. “We want to get up and down.” … “Basically minutes, trying to make sure we don’t overplay him and then also usage of the ball in his hands. We got a lot of ball handlers so we feel we won’t overuse him in terms of his ballhandling and also every play has to run through him.”
The Lakers certainly have the roster to lighten the workload on James, even if Rondo being injured hampers it for the time being. It is a delicate balance, one that James has admittedly struggled with.
Taking over games gives the Lakers the best chance to win more often than not, but players like Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball gaining experience in those situations will be very important in the long-term success of the team.
As the season goes on, Lakers head coach Luke Walton will continue to work with James on striking that perfect balance.