- LeBron James’ mere presence ups the ante in the West
- Do the Warriors make a statement in the regular season?
- Can the James-led Lakers make strides in the playoffs?
It’s pretty apparent that there’s something about LeBron James that gets under the skin of the Golden State Warriors, and vice versa.
In Golden State’s last two championship parades, the players have called out the King, whether it be on the topic of super teams, or meme-ing out with James in mind. This from a squad that’s just won its third title in four years.
Dray with another ? parade shirt pic.twitter.com/ExPq6aUoT7
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) June 12, 2018
Granted, that one blip in the Warriors’ four year jolly ride was pretty memorable. 3-1 is about the shortest burn you can offer up to any Golden State fan (and there are apparently millions now). And this, this is the ultimate troll move by James, basking in the glow of an ultimate historic comeback:
— Business Insider (@businessinsider) August 22, 2016
And now this rivalry’s gone inter-conference and interstate, as LeBron James has signed with the Lakers. That’s four regular season meetings, doubling the games we had been treated to when James was in Cleveland.
Now that James is in the West, do the Warriors re-calibrate and act like the best team in the NBA?
Golden State Regular Season Losses 2018-19
|Regular Season Losses in 2018-19||Odds at Bookmaker|
The 2015-16 season will always be the debatable season. That year, the Dubs raced out to a 24-0 record, eventually finishing with the best record in NBA history at 73-9, but at what cost? The players will admit they were worn down and emotionally drained as they faltered to the Cavaliers.
And who can argue with the on/off switch they have now.
This past season, the Warriors staggered to a 58-24 mark, which, for one of the most talented teams ever assembled in NBA history, seemed low. They had one double-digit winning streak all season (11 games) and were a lackluster 7-10 in their final 17 regular season games.
Perhaps we didn’t need to see the wins and losses, but the actual numbers that they were putting up on cruise control.
[T]here should be no reason this team should win less than 67 games, but I’d be surprised if they even won 60
They led the league in scoring (113.5 points a game), field goal percentage (50.3), three-point shooting (39.1), and assists (29 a game). But they did sag in two categories often associated with effort and focus: rebounding (17th) and turnovers (26th).
In the end, so what? Once the playoffs rolled around, their talent and effort led to another title.
For me, there should be no reason this team should win less than 67 games, but I’d be surprised if they even won 60. Bang the over on the losses.
The real action you should be seeking is the Warriors wins vs the Lakers this year. If the over/under was 3.5, I’d still take the over. Golden State has literally toyed with the Lakers the last four years, holding a 13-3 record over them, including a series sweep last year.
Lakers’ Playoff Seeding 2018-19
|Lakers’ Playoff Seeding in 2018-19||Odds at Bookmaker|
And what about LeBron? How interested is he in making his mark and claiming his territory in the West?
He’s coming off a season where he logged the most minutes and played a full 82-game schedule for the first time in his 15-year career. And save for his defensive lapses, he looked amazing.
And wouldn’t you know it? The dude is back on his grind.
But how will that translate on the court? The Vegas action thus far suggests there’s no clear favorite on whether James’ Lakers will take one of the top five playoff seeds in the West, or fall down to sixth all the way out of the playoffs.
In James’ entire 13-year playoff history, his teams’ lowest seeding was fourth, and that happened three times, including last year’s run to the Finals. The other two were in his first stint in Cleveland.
Kyle Kuzma was a gem of a rookie, averaging 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds a game on 45% shooting from the floor and 36.6% from three
The Lakers present a young core that, if integrated properly, are already more promising than the ill-constructed roster he left behind in Cleveland. Kyle Kuzma was a gem of a rookie, averaging 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds a game on 45% shooting from the floor and 36.6% from three.
And Brandon Ingram has the potential to be the superstar wing man that James needs in the down slope of his career. He showed a full range of ability last year, scoring 16.1 points, adding 5.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists a game. Ingram shot 47% from the field and 39% from three.
Other youngsters like Lonzo Ball, Jason Hart, and still a chance at acquiring “superstar x” this season has the Lakers in good position. Adding Javale McGee, Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a good hedge in case the kids need some time to develop.
Perhaps the biggest factor we’re forgetting here is … LeBron freaking James.
Do you want to know why he went to Los Angeles without the assurances of another mega star joining him right away?
He’s the only star in the league right now that could join any team and make them contenders. Not for the playoffs. Not for a top for seed. But for an NBA Championship.
Because he believes that any team he goes to becomes a contender. He’s the only star in the league right now that could join any team and make them contenders. Not for the playoffs. Not for a top for seed. But for an NBA Championship.
Expect him to give Golden State his full attention in those season showdowns, just to let the champs know he’s lurking. Because win or lose, this is someone who knows the regular season isn’t the endgame:
Expect L.A. to be a top-four seed as well, and place your bets accordingly.