Does LeBrons migration West hurt the Cavs or help the Lakers more?

As the NBA off-season ends, does LeBron James move to LA help propel the Lakers into a Western conference top seed, or drop the Cavs and Kevin Love into the doldrums of the lottery?

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LeBron’s win-share over the last three years has been an impressive 13 games and at the age of 33 has played over 44,000 minutes in his career while leading the league in minutes. Sheeesh.

The Lakers won 35 games in 2018 and are projected to win 49.5 in 2018. +14.5

The Cavaliers won 50 games in 2018 and are projected to win 30 in 2018. -20

In 2014 during his homecoming, James increased the Cavs win total by +22; however, he was joined by an All-Star addition of Kevin Love. This begs the question, has a move like this happened in the past 20 years?

Looking back, the Celtics addition of KG and Ray Allen increased Boston’s win total by +42 from 24 wins to 66 wins in 2008. David Robinson’s injury coupled with Tim Duncan’s arrival propelled the Spurs to an additional +36 in 1998, but those were both examples of multiple players joining a team simultaneously. The last individual addition from free agency coming to mind is Steve Nash. He alone increased the Suns win total by +33 wins, but Dallas added 6 wins with Steve Nash’s departure in 2005 so throw that out.

Some sites have his exodus resulting in Cleveland only winning 25 games. Or has everyone become tantalized by the prospect of 33 year old Lebron in purple and gold?

First let’s examine who the Cleveland Cavaliers added this off-season: they signed Kevin Love to a four-year extension, resigned Rodney Hood, got back Channing Frye, added Dekker and drafted Colin Sexton, not a bad haul. Colin Sexton should thrive with the ball in his hands and three-point shooters to space the floor. It can be argued that Lebron James left a roster that is more talented and ready to compete this year than the Lakers.  Furthermore, the East is garbage, we thought they were bad before this year, but the migration of talent from the East to the West continued. 80% of the All-NBA team now resides on the best coast. For this reason alone, the Cavs can sneak into the playoffs as an 8 seed. If the Cavs can eek out 35-36 wins why couldn’t they be one of the worst teams to ever make the playoffs. While a decline is obvious, will they fall off by 20 games? Colin Sexton must have a Rookie of the Year type season and K Love needs to get back to his Minnesota days of the greenest of green lights. Doubtful but feasible.

The Lakers transactions since landing Lebron have been questionable: resigning KCP, and adding free agents Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, and Rajon Rondo. Couldn’t they just have resign Julius Randle and added a PG? The addition of Rondo makes sense, but the win total all hinges on Ingram, Kuzma and/or Ball improving significantly/making shots.  Lebron will get the entire roster open looks and increase their efficiency (will they knock down open looks consistently enough?). Moreover, if Luke Walton can navigate the absolutely ridiculous locker room the Lakers have they can finish top 3 in the West. This is hard to envision. The Lakers will make into the playoffs, and it has been hard to bet against Lebron in the playoffs. However, the timezone has changed and so has the competition. The Western Conference is brutal with Golden State, Houston, Utah, Denver and OKC all looking to build on last year. The Lakers will increase their win total, but 15 games seems ambitious.

 

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