Former Los Angeles Lakers guard Lance Stephenson believes the team would have won an NBA title in the 2018-19 season if LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma didn’t get hurt.
The Lakers missed the playoffs in the 2018-19 season, finishing with a 37-45 record in James’ first season with the franchise.
LeBron James’ Lakers would’ve won Championship in 2019 if LeBron & Kyle Kuzma hadn’t gotten hurt says Lance Stephenson to @BallySports.
“We woulda won it!”
“LeBron got hurt that year with his groin, Kuzma got hurt. A lot of guys got hurt, I feel like we would’ve won it that… pic.twitter.com/dnFUMAQUt6
— 👑 Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson (@ScoopB) July 27, 2023
The Lakers ended up winning the NBA Finals the next season in the NBA’s Orlando, Fla. bubble, partially because of the addition of big man Anthony Davis to the team’s roster. Stephenson was not a part of that Lakers team that won the title.
While the former Lakers guard may be exaggerating how far the team could have gone, it is fun to imagine where the Lakers would have been had James not gone down.
The NBA’s all-time leading scorer only appeared in 55 games during the 2018-19 season. The Lakers went 28-27 in those matchups, but they were just 9-18 in the 27 games that he missed.
A player of James’ caliber is impossible to replace, and the Lakers learned that the hard way that season. Los Angeles missing the playoffs in the 2018-19 season snapped a eight-season streak of James making the NBA Finals.
That season, Kuzma dealt with multiple injuries and missed a total of 12 games. He suffered an ankle injury late in the season against the Los Angeles Clippers and missed two games.
Both he and James sat out the final six games of the campaign. Los Angeles finished 11 games back of the Clippers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Lakers got their revenge the following season, earning the top seed in the Western Conference and dominating all postseason on the way to their first title since 2010.
Even though Stephenson might be overestimating the ability of the 2018-19 season’s squad, it’s hard not to be confident in any team that led by James.
Despite missing lots of time in the 2022-23 season with a foot injury, the 38-year-old still was able to lead the Lakers to the Western Conference Finals.
With a full offseason to get healthy, James will have another shot to lead the Lakers to the promised land in the 2023-24 campaign.