“Lebron Joins the Lakers” by Zuma Press of MGN Online
You are now watching the throne.
Watch the Throne was a tremendous profusion of two premier rappers in the game. Jay-Z and Kanye fused like coffee and cream; hard rapper with machine-gun flow and autotuned rapper who could vocalize a soulful chorus. You could not cook up a better duo.
In many ways, Lebron and Los Angeles are like the album, Watch the Throne. The two are a match made in heaven. In the latter half of his career, Lebron is searching for more. He has outgrown simple basketball status in becoming a global star, a title usually left for movie actors. That is the fluency of the situation though. Lebron wants to be the first playing billionaire, is an aspiring actor, and NBA team owner. What better place to achieve these goals then Hollywood?
Ever since The King delivered on his promise to bring a championship to his hometown, Lebron has captured the reigns to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. So when this free agency embarked, even Dan Gilbert envisioned Lebron leaving. This time his jersey will not be burned, but dangling atop Quicken Loans Arena. This time his owner will not incite a riot but memorialize a player (and person) that has inspired fans for a decade. In this story, the hero beats the villain and runs away into the abyss, free of worry.
Ain’t that like Lebron James?
“Kanye West and Jay Z” of Getty Images
The rhetoric is that a talent like Lebron makes everyone around him better. I don’t disagree with the rhetoric, but it’s something like throwing a dart blindfolded and expecting a bullseye. The truth is, there is a precise mold for idealistic Lebron teammates. Mo Williams usage rate in a Cavs jersey was 22.8%. Mario Chalmers usage rate was just 16.6%. Lebron, for all intents and purposes, is the point guard on whichever team he joins. That’s a harsh reality Luke Walton and Magic Johnson have to face sooner rather than later.
The narrative was furthered by Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving, whose usage rates hit 30% in their time in Cleveland. The latter needed the ball in their hands to make an offensive impact. This magnetism with the ball ultimately drove them out of Lebron’s mainstay. Even at age 33, Lebron wants and commands the ball. James placed 5th in total touches per possession, 2nd in isolation plays last season. Additionally, he placed in the 91.1 percentile as a pick and roll ball handler. The reality is that Lebron is not only a once in a lifetime passer but also a once in a generation ball commandeer. With that being said, the players around him need to be tailor-made for his playing style.
Lebron’s compelling justification to embark on his next journey is a speculative at best. Speculation, though, is based off some sort of reasoning that is justly deliberate. By fleeing from a Cavs roster that fostered Jordan Clarkson and J.R. Smith, Lebron liberates himself from two of the worst playoff performers of all time. That isn’t to say his other teammates performed much better. Supposed sidekick, Kevin Love, scored just 13 points in the Cavs’ final game. Apparent marksman Kyle Korver scored only 6 points the whole series. Magic Johnson’s first task was to construct a house Lebron would be comfortable living in.
The nuts and bolts are the secondary players. Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Lance Stephenson, Javale McGee, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Ivica Zubac, and rookie Mo Wagner, make for admirable henchman to the King. Javale McGee can play a similar role he played for last year for the champions, a rim runner, and rim protector. Stephenson will embrace his greatest role, as a pest on the defensive end. While he is not quite Korver or Ray Allen, KCP will be the deep-shot specialist. Josh Hart, the Fortnite connoisseur, will act as Lebron’s understudy. Zubac and Wagner are two big men who are worth time and investment, as trade pieces or future role players.
“Lonzo Ball Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma of the Los Angeles Lakers poses for a photo” by Brian Babineau of Getty Images
While Ingram, Kuzma, and Ball are not certain to remain on the roster, their potential fit is vastly appealing to a franchise who has been starved from the playoffs for 6 years. Ingram is a 3-and-D player who eclipses that moniker with his ability to put the ball on the floor and slither around ball-screens like a point guard. Kuzma is a tweener forward who can dribble, shoot, and defend. He is like an off-brand version of Draymond Green, with way more offensive abilities and way less defensive ability. Ball, as I detail greater below, gets a thrill by making highlight-worthy passes.
Talent is not the only connotation of the king’s henchman though. The nickname Meme team is sure to grapple onto this roster. They are far and wide between; Lebron ridiculing J.R. Smith for not knowing time and score, Lance blowing into Lebron’s ear, Lonzo chucking bricks at the rim, Zubac dressed up as Chewbacca, and KCP balling with inmates. This is the utopian 21st century team.
“Lebron James and J.R. Smith” by Lachlan Cunningham of GETTY IMAGES
With Lebron taking his talents to Hollywood, their incumbent point guard is a living, breathing question mark. We have seen the predicament Lebron puts his teammates in before. From Kevin Love fitting out (and not in) to Kyrie Irving getting sick and tired of being Lebron’s son, it’s love it or leave it when your adjoining the throne. Lonzo will have to place all his cards on the table. And if it is not a royal flush, the Lakers just might have to fold.
“I’m going to speak it into existence.” Those words buried fear into Rob Pelinka and made Magic Johnson shutter in fear, much like any words that come out of Lavar’s mouth. While Lavar’s hypothesis actualized, the future remains incalculable. While he looked the part of a finished product coming out of UCLA, Zo’s jumpshot was a product beyond recall. It looked like Happy Gilmore tried to play basketball. Although, his season was not entirely defined by his broken jumper. Perhaps Ball is a euphemism for “jack of all trades, master of none.” After all, his 10.2 points 6.9 rebounds and 7.2 assists on 36% shooting does not exactly feed the theoretical Lonzo fire. Nonetheless, all-world passing and improved shooting numbers put Lonzo’s potential on full display.
Lonzo might just be the icing on the cake. A cake Los Angeles can have have and eat too.
While Lonzo’s lifestyle embodies a Shakespearean play, his play routinely ventures off-script. Standard point guards thrive with the ball in their hands. They prefer a screen to be set for them and the offense to flow through them. Lonzo is simply not your run-of-the-mill quarterback. He thrives in off-ball screening and cutting situations. For guards, Ball ranked 41st in cutting situations, scoring 1.22 points per possession. His 44% overall effective field goal percentage paled in comparison to his 70% in cutting situations.
Zo was crucial to the Lakers success. The team went just 11-19 with him Lonzo in street clothes. Although, the Purple and Gold are at least halfway into a facelift this Summer. A team featuring young building blocks; Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart, will inevitably change. The organization is not just turning the page, they’re changing books altogether. So how does the Laker point guard swim with the tide in an ocean full of sharks?
The flesh-eating shark I am referring to is not Jaws, but rather LABron (a nickname that fits suspiciously well). While Lebron has made his move to Los Angeles, another superstar is doing everything in his power to go Hollywood. Kawhi is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Ultimately, Gregg Popovich and the Spurs clutch Kawhi’s fate in their left hand and his all-around talent in their right. And while The Claw is ambivalent of his next rendezvous, Los Angeles is at the top of the totem pole for a variety of reasons. One is the opportunity to play with the most dominant superstar of our generation. The other is to play alongside the point guard rendition of Robin Hood.
Who knows, Kawhi could even end up being the Kanye to Lebron’s Jay-Z.
What’s a king to a god?