Are the Lakers Auditioning for LeBron?

Cavs player LeBron James

Jason Lake

Friday, March 9, 2018 8:27 PM UTC

Friday, Mar. 9, 2018 8:27 PM UTC

Tanking has swept the basketball landscape, but the Los Angeles Lakers don’t seem to be too interested in losing. Is LeBron James their secret weapon against the NBA odds?

It’s been widely assumed for some time now that LeBron James might be on his way to the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason. Now we’ve got something close to confirmation: Buried deep in a story about Kawhi Leonard, Kevin O’Connor wrote the following for The Ringer this past Thursday:

“I’ve consistently heard from multiple league sources that LeBron currently has only four teams on his list: the Cavaliers, Lakers, Rockets, and 76ers.”

Why does this matter to us in 2017-18? The Lakers (29-35 SU, 35-29 ATS at press time) are the only team on this list with little hope of making the playoffs; according to Basketball Reference, Los Angeles has a 0.1-percent chance of reaching the postseason. But the Lakers haven’t joined the tank parade like the other non-contenders out there. In fact, they’ve won 10 of their last 14 games SU and ATS, making L.A. one of the hottest NBA picks on the market right now. And like everything else about this league, it could be all about LeBron.

Who Does No. 2 Work For?

Or not. With or without James in the mix, the Lakers don’t have as much incentive to tank this season, after loading up with Julius Randle (seventh overall in 2014), D’Angelo Russell (No. 2 in 2015, now with Brooklyn), Brandon Ingram (No. 2 in 2016) and Lonzo Ball (No. 2 in 2017) in the first round of the past four NBA Drafts. It took some epic tanking and some lottery luck to make those last three picks; L.A. sent their 2015 first-rounder to the Phoenix Suns in the Steve Nash trade, but it fell in the “protected” range every time.

In theory, the Lakers could try to land in that sweet 2-5 spot one more time and keep that pick (which now belongs to the 76ers) for one more season. But after their management switch to Magic Johnson last year, and with all these pieces in place, they went into this season with bigger things in mind.

[/]{"component": "embedHTML", "code": "

4 LeBron billboards are going up around LA today. These. A 3rd depicts Lakers retired jerseys with LeBron’s as the next one. A 4th says “Forget The Process, we win banners.” Bought by attorney, and Laker fan, Jacob Emrani. Cavs play Clippers & Lakers this week. pic.twitter.com/XaWLGN49pE

— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) March 7, 2018
\n\n"}[/]

It doesn’t get much bigger than LeBron. Shipping Russell to the Nets for Kyle Kuzma and Brook Lopez cleared some room for Ball – and possibly King James – while strengthening the Lakers frontcourt. Ball (plus-1.8 BPM) has turned out to be the best of their four draft picks, no surprise, and Randle (plus-0.9 BPM) has taken a big step forward in his third full season. The sooner these players “learn to win,” and the more they beat the NBA odds with their improved level of play, the more likely they’ll land LeBron this offseason. Dr. Jerry Buss would be proud.

comment here