We have heard nothing to the contrary that it is a given LeBron James will be playing NBA basketball for the Lakers next season, so now the question is who is going to join him?
There was a thought that Russell Westbrook would make the jump from Oklahoma City to the Lakers but Westbrook finally inked the monster deal that will keep him with the Thunder into the 2020s. Sam Presti’s next big moves are to try and re-sign both Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, both of whom have been linked to the LeBron to the Lakers in 2018 NBA trade rumors.
It’s hard to imagine both superstar players jumping to Los Angeles in 2018 – mostly because all three players (George, Carmelo and LeBron) play the same position. Yes, we are in an NBA world these days in which position-less basketball rules, but having three All-Star level players at the same spot is a bit much.
It was interesting during the Carmelo NBA trade rumors period in the months prior to the Thunder trade that Carmelo was a bit hesitant to join LeBron in Cleveland. Reading the tea leaves – he seemed much more interested in joining Chris Paul in Houston with James Harden. Perhaps even Carmelo realizes that he and LeBron’s games wouldn’t mesh all that well.
Carmelo’s 2017-18 NBA season with the Thunder will be an intriguing litmus test. Can he co-exist with a player like George who essentially plays the same position, and can he thrive as a third option? If Carmelo does thrive in that role, like many think he will, his asking price in 2018 NBA free agency will surely go up. That’s where it will be tricky for the Thunder to re-sign him unless he’s willing to take a below-market value deal. The Lakers too would likely be asking Carmelo to take a below-market deal if they do indeed ink LeBron.
Chris Paul is in a similar situation that Carmelo finds himself. Paul and Harden together will be another test to see just how “position-less” the NBA truly is, and if something so whacky as two scoring point guards can equal title success. Also, if the experiment in Houston does not work, would Paul then be hesitant to share a backcourt with Lonzo Ball in LA? This could go a number of different ways.
The odds are that both the Thunder and Rockets experiments will NOT work perfectly. One of the two teams will likely see a final record that underwhelms, and whichever team that is is the team that will likely see their respective Banana Boat crew member jump to the Lakers to join LeBron next summer.
For what it’s worth, here are our current rankings for which players will join LeBron with the Lakers in 2018 – from most likely to least likely.
1. Chris Paul - Right now, there’s a slightly better chance of the Houston experiment not working.
2. Paul George – Hard to imagine George (who, like, really, really loves LA) would watch Carmelo bolt to the Lakers and would want to stay put in OKC.
3. Carmelo Anthony – We’ll get to see how much Carmelo truly likes winning in the summer of 2018 if he has a strong year with the Thunder as the third option. Will he take less money to stay with an NBA contender or will he want to be “the man” again making big money in a lost situation?