The hype heading into the 2018 NBA offseason has been all about the potential of the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder. After some years in obscurity, the Lakers look like they can compete again thanks to the acquisition of LeBron James. In Oklahoma City, the surprising news that Paul George is sticking around has fans hopeful that the Thunder can be title contenders. Would either team be good enough to challenge the Golden State Warriors?
Lakers And Thunder Lacking Enough Pieces
One of the biggest issues with the potential pairing of LeBron James and another star is the fact that they would still be missing enough talent to defeat the Warriors. Aside from James’ physical gifts, the Lakers don’t currently have one player better than anyone on the floor for Golden State at a given time. James might be an elite defender when he wants to be, but at this point in his career, he doesn’t have the ability to chase Golden State players around for 48 minutes a night.
While LeBron’s future is now certain, teaming with the strange collection of players he has so far might not be such a good idea. Defensively, the likes of new acquisitions Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson will not help guard Steph Curry and Klay Thompson all that well. And while JaVale McGee is a great rim protector, the Warriors play so far away from the rim that he becomes less useful against the league’s top team.
With Paul George stating that the biggest thing about free agency is to win, he may not want to work with the Thunder in the end. Russell Westbrook has proven that he can be selfish when games are on the line, which had a direct impact on George’s production in last year’s postseason. If George and Westbrook aren’t both playing well, they may not have a chance to win it all. This is especially true when the two would take up such a large chunk of a team’s salary cap.
Warriors Are Too Good
Even if James and George do see their teams improve, the Golden State Warriors are just too good to be beaten by what would amount to a two-man team in Los Angeles or Oklahoma City. They are more talented than anyone in the league and have supplemented that talent by adding DeMarcus Cousins this offseason. They also just made sure their coaching situation was secure by giving head coach Steve Kerr a contract extension to become one of the highest paid coaches in the league.
With or without Kerr, though, LeBron James opting out of his contract with the Cavaliers won’t do much to change the Warriors’ stranglehold on the NBA. Golden State has two of the three most talented players in the NBA, and potentially five of the top 25 players in the league depending on your opinions of Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins and Draymond Green. With the team winning three of the last four titles, the question now is if there is a legitimate competitor for Golden State?
What Golden State has accomplished with their recent dynasty is incredible, and has turned the NBA into the WNBA in a way. That way is in the way that there are virtually no teams with a chance to knock off the league’s best squad each season. In the WNBA, that team is the Minnesota Lynx, who are a mainstay in the WNBA Finals. As of June 29, 2018, the Lynx are at +170 odds to win the WNBA Finals at Betway, a number that the Warriors have found themselves at or near on many occasions during their dynasty.
The Warriors would open up huge advantages against either the Lakers or Thunder. By spending so much on James or George, those teams wouldn’t have supporting casts good enough to upset the balance of power in the league.
It will be fascinating to see how the NBA free agency period plays out this offseason, with so many possibilities that will impact the legacy of LeBron James. However, there will be some growing pains and some obstacles to overcome for both James and George as they continue to chase the Warriors.