Breaking down LeBron James’ signing with Los Angeles

On July 1, the biggest free-agency domino fell: LeBron James announced his decision to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.

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Breaking down LeBron James’ signing with Los Angeles

Draymond Green (23) and Stephen Curry (30) guard LeBron James (23) during the fourth quarter of Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, June 3, 2018 at Oracle Arena, in Oakland, Calif. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 122-103. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group/TNS)

Draymond Green (23) and Stephen Curry (30) guard LeBron James (23) during the fourth quarter of Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, June 3, 2018 at Oracle Arena, in Oakland, Calif. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 122-103. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group/TNS)

TNS

Draymond Green (23) and Stephen Curry (30) guard LeBron James (23) during the fourth quarter of Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, June 3, 2018 at Oracle Arena, in Oakland, Calif. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 122-103. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group/TNS)

TNS

TNS

Draymond Green (23) and Stephen Curry (30) guard LeBron James (23) during the fourth quarter of Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, June 3, 2018 at Oracle Arena, in Oakland, Calif. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 122-103. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group/TNS)

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On June 30, only hours before the NBA free agency madness ensued, Philadelphia 76er Joel Embiid took to Twitter, as he often does, and sent out a good, old-fashioned subtweet.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to unpack Embiid’s post; LeBron James, the league’s most coveted free agent in 2018, reportedly had been toying with the notion of signing with the Lakers (and a few other teams, including Embiid’s 76er squad).

About 24 hours after Embiid’s tweet went live, James signed with the Purple and Gold out West, inking a four-year, $154 million deal.

Embiid isn’t the only person who hoped James would sign elsewhere this summer. The 76er faithful wanted the so-called “Process” to finally reach completion (spoiler: It’s not happening). Houston Rocket fans wanted to create a super team, pairing James with MVP James Harden and Chris Paul. Cleveland Cavalier Nation prayed James would stick around, but honestly, any Cavs fan with a somewhat realistic outlook would tell you James wasn’t going to return.

In the end, it’s Magic Johnson who’s smiling after delivering his promise of attracting a big-name free agent to Los Angeles.

James signing means a handful of things:

1) Los Angeles is a playoff team.

Forget that LA can land another all-star this offseason. The Lakers, as they stand now, are a playoff team.

James’ presence on any team in the NBA would lead to a postseason berth. Combine the skills of the 14-time All Star with the Lakers’ promising young core, and you’ve got yourself a team ready to contend in the West.

Los Angeles also added Rajon Rondo, Javale McGee, and Lance Stephenson ​— all three of whom are athletic veteran players who can defend (something the Lakers couldn’t do last season). The Lakers now have a balance of youth and experience on their team, and that’s something not all teams can say.

2) The Eastern Conference is wide open.

Well, maybe not wide open, but the door for the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, and 76ers to enter the NBA Finals is theirs for the taking. The conference finals were pretty entertaining, but once again, James and the Cavaliers made it to the championship. That’s obviously not happening this season.

Boston was without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward and still took the Cavaliers to seven games, one win shy of a Finals appearance. The Celtics have the best shot of any team in the conference to make it to the Finals.

Next up is Philadelphia, but the 76ers need to add another solid player or two (maybe Kawhi Leonard in a trade with the Spurs) to make it past the Celtics; injury-riddled Boston knocked Philly out of the playoffs last season.

3) Toronto’s nightmare is over.

I thought about including this with the above group, but this is a separate beast in itself.

Think Nightmare on Elm Street, where Freddy Krueger is in your dreams, he’s one step ahead of you, and he knows your next move. LeBron is Toronto’s Freddy Krueger.

The Raptors have been knocked out of the playoffs by James in the past three season. In those 14 playoff contests, Toronto has beaten Cleveland twice and lost its last 10 games to the Cavaliers.

4) Golden State needs to watch its back

Last year, the Rockets challenged the Warriors, taking them to seven games in the Western Conference Finals.

I’m not going to say that it’s a done deal that LA will beat Golden State, but it could happen, especially if the Lakers land another star.

A dynasty can only last so long. Golden State showed last season that it’s very beatable (Cleveland was one J.R.-Smith gaffe away from stealing Game One in Oakland).

But it’s not just the Lakers challenging the Warriors. The rest of the Western Conference realizes it needs to upgrade now that the league’s best player is out West. Free agency is going to be aggressive, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some teams out West that are a piece or two away from competition make high-stakes moves to join the chase for a title.

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