The Golden State Warriors are the best team in the NBA, by a wide margin. Even before they added Kevin Durant last summer they were considered one of the best teams of all-time. All good things must come to an end however, so which team will be up next once the Warriors run is over?
One of the most popular answers for that question is the Las Angeles Lakers. With a young group of talented players such as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, and rookies Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball, the Lakers are built for the future. But is winning in that future?
Ball was the biggest story going into the draft this year, thanks mostly to his outspoken father, LaVar Ball. Everyone knew that he was going to L.A. to be the next face of once of the most storied franchises in the NBA. Lonzo has received nothing but praise from his Lakers teammates so far this season. One thing that his teammates like is his selflessness on the court. He is not a me-first player, he chooses to make plays for other guys rather than trying to force shots to pad his stats. During the Lakers’ struggles this year, Lonzo has not deflected any of the heat to anyone else, he puts 100 percent of the blame on himself, something any team wants from their team leader. He may not be at MVP levels yet, but at just 20 years old, his best is yet to come.
The Lakers have more than just Lonzo Ball though, they have a supporting cast of solid young guys. Brandon Ingram is averaging almost 15 points per game along with five rebounds per game. These are not All-Star numbers, but he plays his role well. Once Larry Nance Jr. returns from injury he will provide solid play in the paint, he averaged 7.5 rebounds per game in the eight games he played this season. The biggest surprise of the Lakers squad this year has been the emergence of Kuzma. Kuzma was selected with the 27th pick in the draft this year, and has turned himself into the second option behind Lonzo Ball. If he continues to progress at his current rate, expect to see him in future All-Star games.
The current Lakers team is not championship ready yet; their key players likely need 2-3 seasons to develop and build chemistry. They also lack a superstar and veteran presence to elevate them to title contention. That could come this summer in the form of LeBron James or Paul George.
It was common knowledge that George was unhappy in Indiana and was going to bolt once his contract ran up, so they traded him to OKC so that they would at least get something in return from him. Unless the Thunder make a deep run in the playoffs, I don’t think that they are going to convince George to come back next season, and most people agree that he is probably going to play for his hometown team, the Lakers.
Having George would instantly push L.A. into the playoff picture, and potential title contention. There is also speculation that LeBron in unhappy in Cleveland (again), and will leave in free agency (again) this summer. If he does leave, it will be to the team that he thinks he can win championships with, and some in the sports world think that the Lakers could be his choice. I don’t think it is going to be financially possible to sign both LeBron and George, but if they do land one of these superstars, then they will turn into a title contender.
The Los Angeles Lakers are in much better shape than over half of the league. They have a young core with a future superstar in Ball, and they have probably the best market to draw big name free agents. I am going to say that they will not land LeBron, but will get George next year. So with the addition of George, and the continued development of Lonzo, Kuzma, Nance, and Ingram, I am predicting that three seasons from now, the Las Angeles Lakers will be contending for the NBA Championship.