Landing LeBron James was a huge first step in the Los Angeles Lakers’ return to prominence. He is arguably still the best player in the NBA, but he alone won’t get the team into contention with the dynastic Golden State Warriors on his own.
The team is aware of that, and has multiple paths towards surrounding James with the necessary talent.
Bleacher Report‘s Eric Pincus wrote a long feature about the Lakers’ next steps. He says that “Plan A” is that the young stars on the roster already turn into indispensable pieces to a championship team, and then adding another star.
Instead, Johnson is banking on two hopes: that Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart develop quickly in games that matter, and that the Lakers can lure another All-Star next summer.
It’s arguable that Ingram will fit in perfectly as a do-it-all partner for James, that Kuzma will be a voracious scorer, that Ball will average double-figure assists, that Hart will force his way into starting and/or closing games.
The question is, who will be the All-Star to join LeBron James?
LeBron has surrounded himself with talent in the past. He joined Dwyane Wade in Miami and brought along Chris Bosh, and then did the same thing in Cleveland, with Kyrie Irving on the roster and Kevin Love coming over in the Andrew Wiggins trade.
Even with a loaded free agency class coming up, there’s no guarantee that every player will want to play with LeBron. Kawhi Leonard is the most obvious name, given his long-standing dalliance with the city of Los Angeles, but there is the chance that he warms to Toronto, or that being “the guy” for the Clippers is just as attractive.
If not him, Jimmy Butler could be a possibility. According to Pincus, the Timberwovles guard is “open” to joining LeBron out West.
“Outside of Leonard, (DeMarcus) Cousins and Butler may be the most likely to switch teams. Per a source close to Butler, he’s open to the idea of moving on from the Timberwolves to play alongside James in Los Angeles.”
Butler has been at the center of plenty of rumors this summer. The most interesting is that he and Irving will team up for a super-backcourt in the East, with the most oft-rumored destinations being Irving’s Celtics, or one of the New York franchises.
A LeBron vs. Kyrie fight over another star free agent would be a lot of fun.