Luke Walton: Lakers Can Beat Anyone with 'Best Player in the World' LeBron James

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2019

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) and head coach Luke Walton dispute a call during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Al Drago)
Al Drago/Associated Press

The general consensus regarding the timeline of the Los Angeles Lakers is that any titles the team may win with LeBron James will come in the future, when it has a chance to add more star players in free agency or via trades.

But head coach Luke Walton isn't discounting what the team can accomplish this season, as he told Sam Amick of The Athletic:

"With what we have, and with it being [pro] sports, if we can get healthy we can beat anyone. It doesn't happen often, but you look through the history of sports and there are teams that weren't supposed to be ready or weren't supposed to win [it all] that beat other teams, and we have—in my opinion—the best player in the world. And he has proven that he can do the impossible for however many straight years now, so can this be a special season? For sure."

The Lakers, of course, have to get in the playoffs first, a tall task in the loaded Western Conference. Los Angeles stands eighth with a record of 23-21, though it is 3-7 with James out of the lineup as he recovers from a groin injury.

But James makes the Lakers a threat. The veteran superstar took a Cleveland Cavaliers team with arguably less talent than this year's Lakers to the NBA Finals last year, basically willing it through the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Granted, last year's Eastern Conference was weaker than this year's Western Conference. And once James and the Cavaliers met the Golden State Warriors, they were swept. Not even the mighty James could unseat the Warriors dynasty by himself.

The Lakers are also young, and key players like Lonzo Ball (21), Brandon Ingram (21), Josh Hart (23) and Kyle Kuzma (23) don't have playoff experience. While veterans like Rajon Rondo, Tyson Chandler, Michael Beasley, JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope do have varying levels of postseason experience, they're all role players.

If the Lakers are going to win the title, they need someone like Ball, Ingram or Kuzma to be the second-best player on the floor behind James. It's a big ask for such young players, however talented they might be.

But doubting James is still a fool's errand. He's proved he can pull off the improbable. And while the Lakers could go on a run this year, there are enough questions about the roster to suggest a title in year one of the LeBron era is unrealistic.

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