Lakers load up around LeBron as Warriors add Cousins

LeBron James during a press conference.The Los Angeles Lakers are suddenly competitive again. All it took was signing LeBron James, who is moving to the Western Conference for the first time in his storied career. And signing James was just the beginning for the Lakers, who have dominated the early days of the offseason by completely overhauling their roster, adding Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, and Rajon Rondo. Whether that will be enough for Los Angeles to unseat the defending champion Golden State Warriors remains to be seen, especially since the Warriors made an addition of their own.

James faced Golden State in the NBA Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the last four years, with just one championship to show for it. The Warriors have looked unstoppable in the postseason since adding Kevin Durant, who has been Finals MVP for the last two years, and they responded to the Lakers making moves by signing dynamic big man DeMarcus Cousins to a discount one-year deal worth $5.3 million. Cousins is on a long road to recovery from tearing his Achilles tendon in January and has a history of undisciplined outbursts, but there is no denying his talent on the court, and once he’s healthy he will fill the one remaining hole in Golden State’s starting lineup, which often uses Draymond Green as a center.

A Warriors lineup with Cousins alongside Green, Durant, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson is a lineup of five All-Stars - something no other team can come close to boasting. The Lakers appear hopeful the continued development of Lonzo Ball and a possible trade for disgruntled San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard might eventually give them a lineup with similar prowess, but by moving west, James has made his road to the Finals much tougher. Not only does he now share a conference with Golden State, but James could run into a powerhouse team like the Houston Rockets before even getting to the Warriors, which is a big change from Cleveland’s relatively easy romps through the Eastern Conference.

James will make $154 million over the course of his four-year deal with Los Angeles, which includes a player option in the fourth year. If he helps the Lakers win a title in that time, it’s not difficult to imagine him sticking around in Los Angeles for the rest of his playing career, but if not, he could be heading somewhere new as early as 2021 in his endless championship chase. Who knows, maybe he’ll be the next All-Star to join the Warriors.