Throughout the 2017-18 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers have been linked to LeBron James and Paul George with respect to free agency.
The Oklahoma City Thunder were eliminated in the first round against the Utah Jazz, and now the Cleveland Cavaliers are facing a 2-0 deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics. How their respective teams fare in the NBA Playoffs are believed to have some weight on what James and George will ultimately decide.
According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, there are three potential factors in James’ decision-making process if he ultimately leaves Cleveland for the second time:
Several possible factors in LeBron’s decision-making process have been raised by league sources: a place to raise his family; a place where he will have the best shot at winning more championships; a place where he can begin setting up his post-playing career and dip into the world of entertainment and team ownership.
As a result, the Lakers are believed to be a prime destination for the 33-year-old:
The Lakers, more than any other team in the league, sit at the nexus of all the reasons LeBron would want to join a franchise. Much like the Sixers, the Lakers can try to trade for Leonard (with a package built around Brandon Ingram and/or Kyle Kuzma with future picks), or (more realistically) they can sign a second star free agent like Paul George, or hold off until 2019 and sign Leonard outright. Veteran free agents would flock to Los Angeles to play with the Lakers, and as Ingram, Kuzma, and Lonzo Ball all develop, it may not be long until they can contend.
Although the Lakers missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, they are trending up after a 35-47 record and showing they are only a couple players away from truly contending again. Unlike previous offseasons where the Lakers struck out on free agents, the on-court product is starting to catch up to the off-the-court opportunities.
Regardless of what happens in James’ free agency, the Lakers are in good position. Led by president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka, they have created a two-year window and Kawhi Leonard is the latest player to be connected with his hometown team.