The Los Angeles Lakers fairytale playoff run came to an end on Monday night, as they were officially swept out of the postseason by the Denver Nuggets after losing Game 4 by a score of 113-111. LeBron James had his best game of the playoffs (40 PTS, 10 REB, 9 AST, 15/25 FGM) but even that wasn't enough to prevent the Nuggets from sending the Lakers on vacation.
While making it all the way to the Western Conference Finals after starting the season with a 2-10 record is certainly impressive, it's safe to say it was a trying season for the Lakers. Anything less than winning a championship is not going to cut it for them at this point, and after finally overcoming loads of drama to put together a solid roster, it looks like there will be more drama this upcoming offseason.
This is due in large part to comments James made after Game 4 that suggested he was indeed considering retiring from the NBA after his 20th season in the league. Many folks doubt James is actually going to retire, but with the possibility now firmly on the table, here are three reasons it would be a good idea for James to call it a career.
3. LeBron James' injuries are mounting, and his skills are slightly declining
It's no secret that James isn't getting any younger, as he will turn 39 in December. As James has gotten older, he's remained extremely productive, but he's dealt with more and more injuries, and along the way, his skills have begun to decline ever so slightly. Those injuries are going to keep popping up, and James is only going to continue to regress over time, no matter what he does.
James has missed at least 26 games in four of the past five seasons, and while it's far more important that he's on the floor for the postseason, that is a concerning trend. James was playing through a foot injury that was clearly impacting him in the postseason, and while the lasting taste we have is his dominant Game 4 outing, his per game numbers prior to that 40-point outburst weren't what we were used to seeing from him (23.5 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 5.9 APG, 49.4 FG%, 23.3 3P%).
When he's fully healthy, James is still pretty much as good as he's ever been, but he hasn't really been at full health for quite some time now. And given how he's not getting younger, chances are that won't change anytime soon. Some athletes like to retire while they are still great, so maybe that's the decision James is leaning towards here.
2. The Lakers haven't shown enough of a desire to build a winner around LeBron James
While Los Angeles did admittedly find their way to the Western Conference Finals, it's clear there is quite a sizable gap between themselves and the Nuggets. They managed to get by turmoil-ridden teams in the Minnesota Timberwolves, Memphis Grizzlies, and Golden State Warriors to make it to their meeting with the Nuggets, but it's hard to truly believe this team was a championship-caliber squad.
Many of the Lakers flaws once again came to light in their latest series. Anthony Davis was vastly outplayed by Nikola Jokic, and the depth behind their top players in James and Davis struggled for much of the series. D'Angelo Russell, who was this team's savior for a point in time, was so bad that he was benched in Game 4, and now it seems as if even he may not be back in Los Angeles next season.
Even before this, the Lakers waited way too long to unload Russell Westbrook when it was clear his fit was not working with the team, and that inadvertently may have cost LA a real chance to compete for a title this season. Los Angeles doesn't have the resources to build a true contender around James anymore either, and even if they did, history has shown us that they wouldn't be in a rush to do so either.
1. LeBron James doesn't have anything left he truly needs to accomplish
The list of accolades James has picked up throughout his career is quite lengthy. If he isn't the best player to ever play in the NBA, he's easily in the top three, and there's really no debating that anymore. James broke the NBA's all-time scoring record this season with the Lakers, crossing off another item on his basketball bucket list.
At this point, you can make a case that James has accomplished everything he needs to. He's a surefire Hall of Famer, and the only thing he really seems to want to do is play alongside his son Bronny, who will be eligible for the 2024 NBA Draft. But making that happen is going to be a lot easier said than done, and there's no guarantee it's an idea Bronny is even receptive to.
James has done just about everything he set out to accomplish when he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 2003, and while it would be nice to add another ring to the collection, that simply may not be possible with this Lakers team anymore. If James is playing just to continue to prove something to others, he has nothing left to prove, which is why retiring makes sense if it is truly something he is considering.