Lakers 2018-19 Schedule: Top Games, Championship Odds and Record Predictions

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 10, 2018

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 15:  Head coach Tyronn Lue (L) of the Cleveland Cavaliers talks with LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers after a quarterfinal game of the 2018 NBA Summer League between the Lakers and the Detroit Pistons at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 15, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The King is now a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

LeBron James opted to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for a second time to sign a four-year, $153.3 million contract with the Lakers as a free agent. Los Angeles will hope his arrival brings the same type of success he enjoyed after joining the Miami Heat, when he won two NBA titles in his four years with the franchise.

James and fellow veteran additions Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley will team up with the previously constructed young core led by Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma as L.A. looks to conquer the loaded Western Conference.

Let's check out all of the important information for the Lakers' upcoming season following the NBA's schedule release.


Lakers 2018-19 Schedule Details

Season Opener: Oct. 18 at Portland Trail Blazers

Championship Odds: 7-1 (via OddsShark)

Full Schedule: NBA.com


Top Matchups

Golden State Warriors (First Game: Dec. 25)

The Warriors are the NBA's ultimate measuring stick. They are the two-time defending champions, knocking off James' Cavs in the 2017 and 2018 NBA Finals, and added center DeMarcus Cousins to an already star-studded roster to further solidify their status as favorites.

It's not fair to expect the Lakers to challenge the Dubs right away. It's going to take some time for the revamped roster to jell, and while there are a lot of promising pieces, Los Angeles will likely need at least one more superstar before it's ready to take the West crown.

In July, James explained to ESPN's Rachel Nichols why he selected to join the Lake Show rather than the Philadelphia 76ers or Houston Rockets, teams that are probably a little closer to a title:

"I definitely thought long and hard about the possibilities of lining up alongside Ben [Simmons] and [Joel] Embiid, or lining up alongside [James] Harden and Chris [Paul]. I just felt like at this point in my career, the ultimate for me—just like when I went to Miami, everyone kind of looks at me joining a superteam, but if people look at it, I think Miami was [47-35] the year before I joined that team and you can look at the Lakers' record—so I like the challenge of being able to help a team get to someplace they haven't been in quite a while."

Exactly how long that will take is the key question.

Every game against the Warriors during the regular season will be a litmus test of the team's progress, and Golden State, which is pretty much on cruise control until the second round of the playoffs every year, will probably attempt to use those matchups to make a statement of its own.


Cleveland Cavaliers (James' Return to Cleveland: Nov. 21)

The reaction LeBron receives when he returns to Cleveland will be fascinating to see and hear.

He became public enemy No. 1 after ditching the Cavs for the Heat. He was consistently booed when playing at Quicken Loans Arena while with Miami, especially in his first game back.

The perception feels different this time around, though.

Perhaps it's because his latest exit was more expected after an entire season of rumors focused on his potential departure, including links to the Lakers. Perhaps it's because of all the good he's still doing in the community, highlighted by the opening of a public school.

Of course, the fact he finally brought the Cavaliers their first championship during his second tenure with the team also plays into the equation.

That doesn't mean he won't hear some boo birds this time around, but the best guess is a more welcome reception in his next visit to the Q as a visiting player.


Season Prediction

The Lakers have missed the playoffs in five straight seasons and haven't won a postseason series since 2012.

Although the addition of James significantly raises expectations, exactly how good (or bad) Los Angeles will be during his first season with the team remains a mystery.

If the Lakers' young players continue to make position strides in their development and the veteran role players the front office signed excel at filling their niches, it's possible L.A. could push toward 55 wins and secure the third seed in the West.

On the flip side, if Ball, Ingram and Kuzma struggle to adapt to lesser roles behind James or can't handle the nightly spotlight and the enigmatic batch of personalities the Lakers signed for depth don't mesh, the team could find itself in a playoff fight down to the season's final weeks.

The actual result will probably be somewhere in between. Los Angeles may get off to a sluggish start while waiting for everything to click, but the pieces should fall into place eventually and the team should be one of the NBA's best after the All-Star break.

A blockbuster trade at the deadline could move the Lakers closer to title contention, but even without one, a top-four seed in the West is a fair preseason estimate.

Record Projection: 49-33


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