The Substance Report is an official rankings that I thought was necessary to come up with to determine which players throughout the league are most valuable to their team. Each day, for the next 10 days, there will be an article dedicated to a single player that demonstrates both his value to the league, but more importantly, the weight on his shoulders on his own team.
An example of the rhetorical questions to ask yourself throughout the readings of the ranking is something along the lines of, "What would the Warriors look like without Stephen Curry? How much worse off would they be as a team? Could they still win an NBA Championship if they just released him to the depths of a fiery hell? Would Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson's efficiency go up because they would have more shot opportunities with Steph out of the rotation?" and other important meditations similar to that nature.
This is what the rankings look like so far.
30. Lou "Two Girls and They Get Along Like I'm Lou Will" Williams
29. Domantas "Arvydas's Son" Sabonis
28. Montrezl "Holy Shit That Guy Tries Hard" Harrell
27. Mike "Never Leaving Memphis Because Cash Rules Everything Around Me C.R.E.A.M.!" Conley
26. Klay "Not Just Steph's Sidekick" Thompson
25. Trae "Ugliest Player in the League" Young
24. Ben "Kendall Jenner's Bae / Fresh Prince" Simmons
23. Nikola "Diet Jokic" Vucevic
22. Karl-Anthony "Who Was the Last Good Player With Two First Names?" Towns
21. Blake "Pray My Knees Will Be Okay Come April" Griffin
20. Devin "Should I Just Become a Point Guard?" Booker
19. Anthony "'I'll Tell On You To Rich Paul!' / AD" Davis
18. Russell "I Didn't Know a Professional Could Take Their Job Too Seriously / Why Not?" Westbrook
17. Joel "The Cameroonian Clown / The Process" Embiid
16. Bradley "Will Somebody Please Trade John Wall Already?" Beal
15. Donovan "Still Salty About His 2nd Place Spot In The ROTY Contest / Spida" Mitchell
14. Kemba "Can Do Cool Crossovers But May Never Win A Playoff Series" Walker
13. Luka "Thick and Slick / Halleluka" Dončić
12. Kawhi "Typically Silent, But Mostly Deadly / Klaw" Leonard
11. Kevin "Will Tell You He's Not Going To New York, But He's Probably Going To New York / KD" Durant
10. Stephen "How Does The Greatest Shooter Ever Not Have An Actual Usable Nickname Yet? / Chef" Curry
9. LeBron "Will Trade You In a Heartbeat / King" James
LeBron James has long been regarded as the best player in the galaxy, and rightfully so.
The man has career averages of 27/7/7, which would be an ideal season for any Hall of Fame caliber player. He's been the standard for excellence since he entered the league in 2003, and this will be the first time in nine years where the NBA Finals doesn't include the greatest player of all-time (if you argue Michael Jordan is the GOAT, then I truly hope that you're at least 35 years old and legitimately conscious regarding basketball knowledge).
LeBron James Career Averages vs. 2018-19 Season Averages
Career: 27.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.2 APG, 50.4% FG, 34.3% 3PT, 73.6% FT, 54.1% EFG, 1.6 steals, 0.8 blocks
2018-19: 27.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 8.3 APG, 51% FG, 33.9% 3PT, 66.5% FT, 56% EFG, 1.3 steals, 0.6 blocks
The 2018-19 NBA Season proved that LeBron "King" James is in fact a mortal man. He cannot hypothetically take a #16 seeded team in the NCAA Tournament and win a first round series in the NBA Playoffs. He cannot shoulder the load for 82 entire games surrounded by several 20 year old Instagram addicts that are supposedly "franchise cornerstones". The King does in fact need eligible pawns, rooks, knights and bishops to participate in postseason play. Although he is built like Thanos; he does not possess the ability of controlling the world with a single snap.
Many may attribute this absence of the King in the playoffs to his arrival in the Western Conference, which is traditionally a far superior conference in comparison to the less-stacked Eastern Conference that he departed from in the summer of 2018.
There are others who may suggest that his concentration wasn't entirely aimed towards basketball, and was obscured by his starring roles in outside organizations (Klutch Sports, Warner Brothers, HBO, etc.).
Both of these hypotheses may be accurate, but I firmly believe that LeBron isn't entirely to blame for the Lakers missing the playoffs. In fact, I am entirely confident that Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are the primary reasons that the Lakers don't have a chance at winning a championship this season.
Honestly, just staring at Johnson's face in the frozen photo of the attached YouTube video is frustrating as fuck for me (an admittedly hardcore and devout LeBron fan) because you can just see the uncertainty and bewilderment on Mark Jones's face.
Keep in mind that Magic Johnson is both the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the President of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Lakers. There is absolutely no need for one person to have that much on their plate at once.
Magic Johnson's logic of, "We're not going to beat Golden State at their own game, so we're just going to go in the opposite direction when we put together our roster," is completely inexcusable and entirely idiotic. Instead of surrounding LeBron James, one of the five best playmakers in the history of basketball, with jump shooters and defenders, Magic decided that it would be best to clump him together with super-diet-LeBron-esque playmakers like 'Meme Team' members Lance Stephenson, and Rajon Rondo.
There is a clear formula for how to compete with the Warriors in a 7 game series, the Houston Rockets demonstrated it perfectly last season.
Build your team from the top down with an outstanding playmaker/scorer (Harden/LeBron) who can shoulder the load for a heavy 36-38 minutes per game
Surround that Superstar with versatile defenders that can also shoot from specific locations (P.J. Tucker, Trevor Ariza Eric Gordon, Luc Mbah a Moute)
Pair that Superstar bucket getter and dimer with a playmaker who is nearly just as talented, if not more, at facilitating and running an offense (Chris Paul/Lonzo Ball)
Snag an elite rim protector that can scare away the potential drives of KD, Draymond, and Steph, while also being capable of catching lobs on the other end of the floor (Capela/McGee)
Competitive series with the Warriors that will come down to the wire in the 7th and final game
If Chris Paul didn't injure his hamstring in Game 6 of the WCF last year, the Rockets would be the reigning champs right now instead of the Assholes in the Bay Area. I know, I know, it's all hypothetical. BUT, the way the series was headed with CP3 in the lineup made it look like the Rockets were nearly unstoppable. Just as unstoppable as Golden State, if not more. The Lakers had the potential, and still do have that potential, to reach the level that the Rockets were at last year prior to The Point God's hammy nearly disintegrating.
If the Lakers could possibly acquire a player or two like Khris Middleton, Tobias Harris, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, or Kemba Walker, then they could potentially rebuild this roster almost immediately. It doesn't help that they traded an up-and-coming quality center in Zubac for a G-League level player in Mike Muscala, but it doesn't hurt that they'll have Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma all returning next year *hopefully* better than they were this season.
My Ideal Lakers Roster
SG: Klay Thompson (not likely that he leaves Golden State), so let's go with Khris Middleton here instead
SF: LeBron James
PF: Tobias Harris (knockdown shooter that can space the floor and defend several positions)
C: Anybody not named Tyson Chandler
Brandon Ingram (SF/PF/SG)
Kyle Kuzma (PF/SF)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Ew)
Alex Caruso (mans has actually showed out towards the end of the season)
Any Big Man not named Mike Muscala
A fully healthy LeBron James is still one of the scariest sights in the league, and if it weren't for his brilliance (albeit, a somewhat disinterested brilliance) this season then the Lakers would've been a sure fire candidate for a Top 5 pick in the upcoming draft. LeBron rose a team from the depths of hell into the depths of mediocre purgatory. The Lakers will likely land a Top 10-12 pick in this year's draft, and they (cough, cough, LeBron) could use all the help they can get so they better find a new management system if they want to bring another title to LA sooner than later.