LeBron James decided in July that he was taking his talents to Hollywood to join the Los Angeles Lakers. From that moment on, the Lakers went from a rebuilding lottery team to a Western Conference contender immediately. In the eyes of the Lakers front office, they need for LeBron to do less and play and a different brand of basketball from what he has done for his entire career. From the age perspective, this makes sense for James, as he turned 34 just before the New Year. From a basketball perspective, there is a reason to feel a little more skeptical that LeBron could change after finding success one way for 16 years.
There have been three free agency changes for LeBron in his career and in all those instances, James has found specialty role players he plays extremely well with. In some other instances, some players just do not fit well alongside LeBron. Whenever LeBron goes to a team, he becomes an ipso-facto GM in many ways, as any roster decision that is made is usually run by him in some way. When LeBron joined a young Lakers team this past summer, people immediately wondered how he'd help piece together a winner in fairly quick fashion.
Now, the Lakers are trying to figure out which players on the roster fit best with LeBron and the ones that don't may find themselves on the way out. Here is a list of 10 teammates LeBron misses playing with and 10 players he's glad he's no longer teammates with.
20 Misses - Kyrie Irving
There is no way that LeBron James could have been thrilled when Kyrie Irving requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers. It has been reported recently that LeBron James wanted the Cavs to keep Irving and try to work their issues out on the floor. For Kyrie, he was beyond working out any issues and ready to be on his own. Irving was one of the most talented teammates that LeBron James ever played with outside of Dwyane Wade. James envisioned being paired with Irving for longer than four years and this is one of the reasons now he's in LA trying to find a co-star.
19 Glad He Ditched: Dion Waiters
When LeBron James joined the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, Dion Waiters was the starting shooting guard and still expected to live up to his number four overall draft status. Up to that point, Kyrie Irving was receiving the accolades from the outside world and in Waiters' mind, he was the better of the two players. The dynamic with Waiters did not work and LeBron didn't show he was exactly thrilled to try to be the mediator of this situation. Ultimately, Waiters was traded away and missed on his chance to play in the NBA Finals. LeBron likes the ball in his hands and at this stage in his career, he was not prepared to sacrifice that much just yet.
18 Misses: Dwyane Wade
The Los Angeles Lakers did not get off to the best of starts to the season and LeBron was quoted as saying "I almost cracked." In those moments it may be difficult for someone like LeBron to relate to his much younger teammates. Dwyane Wade was both LeBron's peer on the floor and off the court as well. That friendship is what made their pairing so special. Wade was a proven scorer and clutch game performer and up to that point, LeBron was still trying to prove he can deliver in those moments. The complaints today are about LeBron's workload and D-Wade would no doubt help him in this area.
17 Glad He Ditched: J.R. Smith
Off the floor, LeBron James and J.R. Smith have a great relationship and get along really well. The problem is at this stage, LeBron does not have the luxury to play with his friends as they are usually older players that are challenged when defending the NBA's youth. If you remember the final seconds of Game 1 of last year's NBA Finals, the blunder by Smith at the end of the fourth quarter looked like the moment LeBron was officially gone. Throughout his career, Smith has had his moments where his focus wavers and James is glad he doesn't have to rely on him in big moments anymore.
16 Misses: Chris Bosh
When the Miami Heat created their super team in the summer of 2010, it was expected that someone would have to sacrifice. Initially, LeBron tried to sacrifice as much as his teammates but after the NBA finals in 2011, it was clear that James had to take the driver’s seat. This is where a player like Chris Bosh who at the time was an all-NBA performer, has to be commended for doing what it takes to win a championship. Bosh's career was shortened early, and we did not get to see where he would fit in this small ball era of basketball. As a terrific defender and very good 3-point shooter, Bosh would be a highly sought after player in the game today.
15 Glad He Ditched: Ricky Davis
When LeBron James was drafted to the Cleveland Cavaliers there were veterans on the team that was already occupying the lead role. The team's leading scorer was Ricky Davis, and he had no interest in surrendering anything to anyone. Today, people wonder why there were no scorers with LeBron in his Cleveland days, but his early years there were players on his team that needed to be removed for LeBron to have room to grow. Davis once missed a shot at his own basket to attempt to secure an extra rebound for a triple-double. James was glad that the team didn't stick together too long.
14 Misses: Kevin Love
The Cleveland Cavaliers were built to feature two superstars with an All-Star to support them. Kevin Love had to be willing to take that role similar to what Chris Bosh did in Miami. The luxury of having an All-Star that sacrifices for his teammate's success is that when someone is out of the lineup, you can always give them a heavier load. Penciling in 20 points and 10 rebounds is something LeBron has to miss, especially when that was mainly as a third option. Now, LeBron is trying to not only find his next D-Wade or Kyrie but his Bosh and Love as well.
13 Glad He Ditched: Darius Miles
The other wing player that was with the Cleveland Cavaliers during LeBron's rookie year was Darius Miles. Between Miles and Davis, those veterans in the locker room wanted LeBron to earn his right to play like ordinary rookies do. What they were unaware of at the time was that LeBron James was not an ordinary rookie and would go on to not only become the Rookie of the Year but one of the best players we would ever see.
The role of LeBron with two more cogs in the wheel this early on was abandoned very early on by the Cavs front office. The stage was set for James to become the best in the NBA.
12 Misses: Ray Allen
When LeBron found his most success as a facilitator there was usually an elite three-point shooter, playing a lot of minutes alongside him. After the first championship in Miami against OKC, the Heat added Ray Allen from the Boston Celtics, and the move to this day rubs Allen's teammates the wrong way. In 2013, the San Antonio Spurs had all but won the NBA Finals and the Larry O'Brien trophy was being rolled in from the back. Allen made one of the most clutch shots in NBA playoff history that saved the Heat's season and foiled the Spurs' championship. James would welcome this version of Ray Allen on his team any day.
11 Glad He Ditched: Antawn Jamison
The era of LeBron James playing with Antawn Jamison did not last very long. Jamison had previously been a part of the Washington Wizards team led by Gilbert Arenas that the Cavs routinely eliminated in the playoffs. LeBron wanted to close the gap on the Boston Celtics and the Wizards were pretty much an afterthought. There was no secret that LeBron wanted the Cavs to trade for Amar'e Stoudamire and instead, they made a move for Jamison. This move is one of the reasons LeBron chose to go to Miami to join the Big 3, because he wanted to play with better players.
10 Misses: James Jones
When LeBron James arrived in Miami to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, James Jones was a role player that was already in place. Jones fit perfectly with LeBron as a catch-and-shoot player and was there for the four consecutive Finals trips by the Heat. As the team added more shooting and Jones's minutes became limited, he handled it like a pro and earned the nickname "Champ" for always staying ready. Born and raised in Miami, Jones even left the Heat to play with LeBron in Cleveland to establish a championship culture. Just this season James Jones, now the GM of the Suns, bought Tyson Chandler out of his contract so he could join LeBron in LA.
9 Glad He Ditched: Larry Hughes
Another former Wizard that the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired to help LeBron James get over the hump was Larry Hughes. Hughes was a classic case of a player that has a career-season as their free agency nears and cashes out big-time. In the 2004-05 season, Hughes averaged a career-high 22 points per game and led the NBA in steals with 2.9.
As a Cavalier, Hughes averaged 15.5 points per game in only 36 appearances in his first season and had his production decline until he was traded away to the Chicago Bulls in the 2007-08 season. A couple seasons later, James found elite talent to play with elsewhere.
8 Misses: Kyle Korver
From the moment the Cavaliers acquired Korver from the Hawks, LeBron and Korver had instant chemistry. Kyle Korver is a role player that is a star in the role that he plays. That role is playing off of playmakers and making outside shots which Korver has excelled at his entire career. LeBron is best suited with the ball in his hands and the problem with a lot of players is that they cannot play without the ball in their hands. The Lakers want shooting and if the Jazz did not make the trade for Korver, LeBron would have loved to have him in Los Angeles.
7 Glad He Ditched: Mario Chalmers
During LeBron's time in Miami, Dwyane Wade was a champion and Chris Bosh was a fellow All-Star and the youngest player in the starting lineup was Mario Chalmers. Chalmers never got the credit he deserved for how he handled those high-pressure situations, as he was often the outlet for a lot of the team's frustrations. After playing with Chalmers, LeBron went to play with Kyrie Irving, who is one of the premier point guards in the league. Now that Irving is in Boston and James is in Los Angeles, LeBron hopes that either Lonzo Ball develops into an elite lead guard, or the team makes a move for one.
6 Misses: Cedi Osman
The Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Cedi Osman in the second round of the 2015 NBA draft after a trade for the rights to Tyus Jones sent the former Duke PG to Minnesota. During their time together in Cleveland, LeBron formed a bond with Osman that extended past his time with the Cavaliers. In the offseason, Osman was photographed in Los Angeles training with LeBron, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard. James has a lot of knowledge of the game that he has acquired in his 16-year career. Taking someone like Osman under his wing would be welcomed again by LeBron similar to how he's impacting his young Laker teammates.
5 Glad He Ditched: Delonte West
If you remember LeBron's first stint in Cleveland before going to the Miami Heat, you remember the drama that circled that team in his final season. West was an undersized guard that had great intangibles that made him a good NBA player. However, West was not known to be the most reliable player in the league, so there is no surprise that teams did not sign West past 2012. Today, James is a champion and unquestionably the face of the league and would not tolerate the kind of things he would have tolerated back then.
4 Misses: Mike Miller
Shooters are welcome on any team and nowadays, they have a shelf life in the NBA like never before. As a member of the Miami Heat, Mike Miller was clutch and played extremely well on the floor with LeBron and the Big 3. Miller did not last that long with the Heat, as he could no longer guard wings for the Heat well enough. In today's NBA, Miller may have been able to play a few extra seasons as a stretch four and floor spacer. Even in an assistant coaching role, I'm sure LeBron would welcome Miller's championship-winning presence.
3 Glad He Ditched: Isaiah Thomas
When Kyrie Irving was sent to the Boston Celtics, the Cavs got a future high lottery pick, Jae Crowder, and former all-star point guard Isaiah Thomas. For the previous three seasons, Thomas had been the leader of a Celtics team trying to dethrone LeBron's team. The injury he sustained during that historic playoff run was also worse than expected, and he has still yet to return to his previous form. The intensity that Thomas plays with on the floor wasn't as welcomed on a team with multiple champions and veterans that know what it takes to win on the highest level.
2 Misses: Shane Battier
Just like Ray Allen, Mike Miller, James Jones, and Kyle Korver, Shane Battier was another three-point shooter that benefited from playing alongside LeBron. Battier was a member of the Miami Heat at the later stages of his career, and he was willing to sacrifice whatever it took to win a championship. A career small forward, Battier would play heavy minutes at the power forward position to space the floor, something you see almost every night in the NBA today. The veterans in the Lakers locker room today don't all have rings and anyone who has experienced that winning culture with LeBron would be welcome to establish that with his new teammates.
1 Glad He Ditched: Jae Crowder
When Crowder was acquired by the Cavs in LeBron's final season in Cleveland, he was expected to be a defensive stopper to take the pressure off of James. Crowder, like Isaiah Thomas, was coming from the opposing Celtics and never truly bought into the coaching staff or locker room environment. Crowder struggled to make perimeter shots and without a structured offensive system, he had little effectiveness in the rotation.
The Cavs quickly traded Crowder and half of the roster away for a combination of players that eventually reached the NBA Finals. That team was a good replacement, but not the team that could stop James from landing in L.A.