The King's decision to sign with the Lakers has already had a ripple effect throughout the league
When LeBron James chose to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, he set off a chain reaction of big-name transactions around the NBA.
The NBA’s league year began with the opening of free agency this past weekend. The biggest and most anticipated move was James taking his act to Hollywood to join the Lakers. After agreeing to a four-year, $154 million deal, not only was he able to help recruit some superstars to join him, but his decision served as the catalyst for a flurry of moves within the league as other teams look to either compete with or surpass the defending champion Golden State Warriors. So here are the five biggest impacts that James’ decision has had on the rest of the league.
1. The Lakers are now trying to become another "super team"
After Magic Johnson inked James to his deal at the start of free agency, the Lakers have since added Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee. Add those to a group that already includes second-year guard Lonzo Ball (with his outspoken father LaVar), and a hodgepodge of veterans and other young players, the Lakers could be a playoff team in 2019.
2. The Lakers' moves have set off an arms race within the Western Conference
Once the Lakers showed their hand, the rest of the Western Conference started loading up on talent as well. The end game is to either compete with, or take down the Warriors, winners of three of the last four NBA titles. The Houston Rockets responded by bringing back Chris Paul, re-signing Gerald Green, and adding Michael Carter-Williams. Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton all chose to stay in Oklahoma City with free agent center Nerlens Noel joining the party.
Elsehwere, the Phoenix Suns lured Trevor Ariza away from Houston while also putting together a contract extension for Devin Booker, while Minnesota dished out some extra money to keep its roster intact, and Dallas added DeAndre Jordan in the hopes of competing again. But don't forget about the Warriors, who may have booked another trip to the finals by adding DeMarcus Cousins to give them an All-Star starting lineup. And those are just the footnotes.
3. All eyes are now on Kawhi Leonard
Before this past season had concluded, the San Antonio Spurs' disgruntled forward had asked the team to trade him. And so far it seems that the Spurs are at least willing to “entertain” offers for him. But following the flurry of moves started by James' decision to sign with the Lakers, the focus now shifts to Leonard. For now, Leonard has three options on the table for the upcoming season: seek a trade within the conference to better compete for a title, seek a trade to the Eastern Conference if there are no appealing opportunities, or reconcile with the Spurs and help them try and contend in what has become the Wild Wild West(ern).
4. The Boston Celtics are now the top Eastern Conference team by default
The Celtics pushed the Cleveland Cavaliers to the limit in May’s Eastern Conference Finals without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. At one point Boston was a favorite to eliminate Cleveland. In the present, the Cavaliers aren’t the same team without James and could look to move some high-priced veterans with an eye towards starting over. So based on that, and with Irving and Heyward both expected to be back at 100 percent next season, the Celtics appear to be the team to beat in the East for the time being.
5. On paper it looks like the championship will stay in the West
As it looks right now, the Western Conference has too much talent and too much offense. The Eastern Conference as a whole has lost talent and other teams could make additional moves based on salary cap constraints and limitations. Every team is hunting the Warriors now, but even if the champs don't make it three in a row next June, my pick is for another team from West to assume the throne.
-- Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.