Some awful news was reported last night as it pertains to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
We want to reiterate that regardless of team affiliation, these are human beings, first and foremost. Their health and safety trump any rooting interest. This is deeply saddening news, especially considering how good the new-look Lakers looked while whole.
With this in mind, just like the Zion Williamson injury we’ve been enduring for the last two months, the season stops for no one. And because of this, we need to look at the ripple effects this news has on the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Lakers are tied to the Pelicans for two reasons. First, they are both jockeying for positioning in the ever-crowded Western Conference. As it stands, the Lakers (the twelfth seed) are just a half-game back from the Pelicans (the tenth seed).
On the year, the Lakers are 5-9 when James is out of the lineup. However, as we alluded to earlier, the team undertook a massive makeover during the deadline and looks a lot better now as a result.
So maybe, the team is better-equipped now to withstand James’ absence for an extended period of time. However, if they are not able to stay afloat and he is sidelined for a significant number of games, this removes one serious player from the play-in/playoff picture.
This brings us to the second reason as to why this news is of immediate relevance to the Pelicans: New Orleans has a pick swap with the Lakers in this upcoming draft.
Recently, while the Lakers have been surging and the Pelicans have been reeling, it was starting to look like we wouldn’t even need to use the swap. But now, with James potentially being on the shelf for multiple weeks, this adds a new level of intrigue to that swap option.
If the Lakers start to tumble down the standings, there are only four teams right now too deep in the cellar for them to reach, so there is a chance that they could fall apart and finish the season with the fifth-worst record in the league. This would give the Pelicans a real shot at picking top-5 in the draft and potentially acquiring one of the generational talents lauded to be available in the 2023 NBA Draft.
More than anything, this is a depressing situation. But it is also one that has widespread ramifications that extend out to our New Orleans Pelicans.