Why Tuesday's showdown vs Bucks may drastically alter Lakers' future

Philadelphia 76ers v Los Angeles Lakers
Philadelphia 76ers v Los Angeles Lakers / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Lakers are on the road Tuesday to take on the Milwaukee Bucks less than three weeks after the first matchup between the two teams. Los Angeles pulled off a shocking win over Milwaukee without LeBron James as D'Angelo Russell had his best game of the season with 44 points, nine assists and six rebounds.

Just like the first matchup between the two teams, the Lakers may need another big showing out of Russell. LeBron James has been listed as doubtful due to ankle soreness, making it likely that he will miss both games against the Bucks this season.

We are at the point of the season where every single game matters, especially as the Lakers look to climb the standings for a more fruitful path in the NBA Playoffs. Tuesday's game isn't just important for seeding, though, as it could have a serious impact on the future of the franchise.

Lakers' game vs Bucks may impact team's decision around LeBron James

The Los Angeles Lakers are taking on a legitimate title contender for the second time in three weeks without LeBron James. The first time around the Lakers were able to pull off the win at home, and if they are able to win again on Tuesday then the team might not be as desperate to bring LeBron back this offseason.

LeBron reportedly wants a hefty new contract from the Lakers this summer. As great as his career has been, and as great as he still is, there is an obvious, inherent risk in paying someone over $100 million when they are going to turn 40 next season.

If the Lakers go out and stink up the joint then it is more leverage on LeBron's side of the conversation. Suddenly the Lakers don't look like they can actually contend without LeBron next year, even if they use his cap space to bring in other stars.

It may seem silly to think one game like this could swing the Lakers' opinion but we have seen this team operate like this in the past. After all, Rob Pelinka reportedly overruled his team's scouting department in the 2023 NBA Draft because Jalen Hood-Schifino looked good in the Big 10 Tournament.

If the Lakers are on the fence about bringing LeBron back it is games and moments like Tuesday that will ring loudly in the minds of the decision-makers. If the team still looks great without LeBron, it becomes easier to let him walk away, or at least give the team more comfort in not adhering to his salary demands.

But if the team looks awful then it will surely be a bargaining chip that LeBron can use in contract negotiations this summer.