LeBron James turns 40 on December 30, and between now and then, he could become a free agent. This significant milestone sets the stage for JJ Redick, a former NBA sharpshooter, reportedly joining the Los Angeles Lakers as their head coach on a four-year deal worth around $8 million annually. The allure of L.A. seems to have been enough for the 39-year-old to pause his podcasting career.

Who can blame him? Coaching the Lakers is a prestigious role, though the jury is still out on how effective he will be in this new position.

From a basketball perspective, the Lakers have plenty of challenges. While there’s no indication that James will sign elsewhere in July, Redick must be aware that even if James remains with the Lakers for the 2024-25 season, the coaching role comes with high stakes.

For the second consecutive season, the Lakers needed a play-in tournament victory to qualify for the playoffs, only to be swiftly ousted by Nikola Jokić’s Denver Nuggets in the first round. Over the last three seasons, under coaches Frank Vogel and Darvin Ham, the Lakers have a mediocre record of 123-123.

Despite being a solid team, the Lakers aren’t a great one, and there’s limited room for improvement. This is the reality when a team’s foundation is a 40-year-old player. As impressive as James remains—earning an All-NBA third-team spot this season—his defensive limitations cap the team’s potential. Prime LeBron wouldn’t struggle to make the playoffs, even in a competitive Western Conference.

The Lakers still have Anthony Davis, who played a crucial role in their 2020 NBA championship run. At 31, Davis just had his healthiest season, making the All-NBA second team and All-Defensive first team. He is a valuable asset, and Redick will hope his defensive anchor remains healthy.

However, Davis and James, who together command over $50 million, leave little room for roster upgrades. While James isn’t dragging the team down, he isn’t elevating them to title contention either.

The Lakers do have some flexibility to improve their roster, thanks to mid-tier contracts and three first-round draft picks. Potential targets like Trae Young, Zach LaVine, Brandon Ingram, Jimmy Butler, or DeMar DeRozan might be considered, but it’s unclear if any of these players would make the Lakers serious contenders in a West dominated by stars like Jokić, Luka Dončić, Anthony Edwards, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Adding a third star would further limit the Lakers’ ability to build a well-rounded team. The Lakers have relied heavily on players like D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura, Taurean Prince, and Spencer Dinwiddie. But improving the roster significantly might require trading some of these players, further depleting their depth.

This is the common dilemma with LeBron-led teams. They exhaust all resources to build a championship contender, a strategy that worked four years ago for the Lakers but left them paying the price. They traded prospects like Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart, along with several draft picks, to acquire Davis. Chasing Russell Westbrook also cost them their 2027 first-round pick.

Historically, James has moved on once the well runs dry, as seen in his departures from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010 and 2018, and the Miami Heat in 2014. These moves left those franchises in prolonged rebuilds. Redick might face a similar situation if LeBron leaves.

If James stays, it will be intriguing to see how the Lakers manage with an aging superstar. Remarkably, next season will be James’ seventh in Los Angeles, and the window for success is shorter than ever. The Lakers are now counting on Redick to navigate this challenging landscape.

The expectations are high for Redick, especially considering the short-term focus of this team. Frank Vogel won a championship but still faced the pressure. Seven of James’ nine previous coaches were fired. The other two? James attempted to replace Erik Spoelstra and left Tyronn Lue in Cleveland. This is the daunting task Redick is stepping into.



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