After being eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs for the first time in his career, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers head into the summer of 2021 with more questions than answers. Are the Lakers still LeBron’s team or has that unofficial title gone to gifted, but oft-injured, All-Star power forward Anthony Davis?
Is James in more of a decline that we anticipated? Is the future Hall of Famer still capable of carrying the Lakers to an NBA Finals appearance?
While the 2021 NBA playoffs and the chances to cash in early and often continue for several teams still in the hunt for this season’s Larry O’Brien trophy, it’s time to take a look at what could lie ahead for the incomparable James and the proud Lakers franchise in 2021-22 and beyond.
Will James Sign With the Brooklyn Nets in 2021-22?
Analysis: James was under contract for this season at $39.2 million and had a player option for the 2021-22 season at $41 million. However, the 17-time All-Star signed a two-year extension in December that runs through the 2022-23 season. James will make $41.1 million next season and $44.4 million in 2022-23. I guess if you have $10,000 lying around to win $100, then you could make this “lock” wager, but I suspect most NBA bettors are going to pass.
Will James Sign With the Golden State Warriors in 2021-22?
Analysis: Yeah … I’ll pass here. Read the aforementioned paragraph about James. Enough said.
Will LeBron James Be the 2021-22 Regular-Season MVP?
Analysis: James averaged 25.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.8 assists this past season, but played in 45 of 72 games while missing time with a high ankle sprain — and dare I say it — a little load management. Not only did James fail to crack the top five finishers, but he was left outside the Top 10 by finishing 14th overall.
Denver Nuggets All-Star center Nikola Jokić took home the MVP hardware by receiving 91 first-place votes and 971 total points from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters, as well as the Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Award fan vote. Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (586 points) finished in second place, followed by Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (453 points), Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo (348 points) and Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (139 points) in fifth place.
Blossoming Dallas Mavericks forward Luka Doncic was sixth with 42 points while Portland Trail Blazers superstar point guard Damian Lillard was seventh in the MVP voting with 38 points. New York Knicks forward Julius Randle and fellow Knicks point guard Derrick Rose finished eighth and ninth with 20 and 10 points, respectively and Utah Jazz All-Star center Rudy Gobert finished 10th with eight points while somehow managing to beat out teammate Donovan “Spydah” Mitchell.
James, who will turn 37 in December, clearly looked like a player in decline as Los Angeles bowed out of the playoffs against the young and hungry Phoenix Suns in five games. The Lakers lost three straight after going up on Phoenix 2-1. James never scored more than the 29 points he did in Game 6 and just didn’t seem to have much pep in his step down the stretch.
The 6-foot-9-inch James played less than 39 minutes in the first five gamesJune 12, of the series and committed five turnovers or more in three games while shooting 66.7% or less from the free throw line in four games.
James has won the league MVP award four times (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013) but undeniably doesn’t look like he’ll win another. There’s a reason James is a -3000 pick to fail to win next season’s MVP award – and it’s because there’s no way in hell he does. Sorry, not sorry.