By Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley, AFRO Sports Contributors
James and the Los Angeles Lakers agreed to a four-year, $154 million deal on July 1, the opening day of NBA free agency. The King is on the move again, but he’s walking right into the lion’s den, heading out west to the same state as the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors. LeBron’s going to turn the Lakers around—that part isn’t in question. But can LeBron and the Lakers battle the Warriors before his four-year deal is up? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate.
In this June 6, 2018, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James shoots against Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green and Stephen Curry during the first half of Game 3 of basketball’s NBA Finals, in Cleveland. (Gregory Shamus/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Riley: Yes. Simple as that. The Lakers are going to build a team around LeBron, but let’s not act like the roster is bare. Years of futility has stacked the Lakers with a lavish group of young and upcoming talents that will have to grow up quicker than before. But that’s not all. The Lakers still have cap space and a few maneuvers that they can pull to open up even more room to sign another max player. Maybe it’s DeMarcus Cousins? Maybe it’s Khawi Leonard? The Lakers will open up next season with perhaps more hoopla and fanfare than the defending champion Warriors. Stack LeBron on top of Leonard, surround them with a cache of young athletes and competition could heat up quick in California.
Green: Continuity will go a long way in the Warriors holding off the Lakers. LeBron on any team instantly makes that organization a competitor against Golden State, but there aren’t too many teams in the Association with four all-stars in one lineup that can run with the Warriors. And, securing another max player could force Los Angeles to part with some of its young talent, so there could be a completely new roster to open up the season in October. This is far from a finished product and we’re already talking about the Lakers beating the Warriors just because they signed LeBron who’s 1-3 over the last four years against them? I don’t get it.
Riley: LeBron’s record might not be outstanding against the Warriors but he’s clearly a threat against them. I can’t punish James for not having the proper tools to handle the Warriors, but Magic Johnson and the Lakers will definitely outfit James with all the ammunition he needs to upend the league’s newest dynasty. It’s almost a foregone at this point that the Lakers will land Leonard whether it’s this season or next. Pairing LeBron and Leonard gets you a full seven-game series against the Warriors. Adding any more spice to the Lakers pot should put them ahead and in line for LeBron’s next title.
Green: Cohesion and compatibility always get lost in the thought of superteams but they are very real. The Warriors just fit together. The Boston Celtics in 2008 just fell into place. LeBron can play with anyone but can just anyone play with him? The Warriors have so much muscle memory from the last four years that creating a team on the fly in a span of three months and expecting them to gel over 82 games and beat the Warriors will be tough this year and next. As long as Kevin Durant keeps inking mini contracts to stay in Golden State and Steph Curry is able to stay healthy, this Warriors team won’t be beaten.