Making sense of Lakers’ odd moves after landing LeBron
The Lakers definitely got one thing right Sunday, but the other moves have been head-scratchers in the first days of NBA free agency.
Instead of surrounding LeBron James — who signed a four-year, $154 million deal — with shooting weapons whom he has thrived with throughout his career, the Lakers front office has instead assembled a roster full of NBA outliers, none particularly known for their shooting prowess.
Since the James signing, here’s how the Lakers have filled out their roster:
- Re-signed shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a one-year, $12 million deal.
- Agreed to a one-year deal with shooting guard — and LeBron troll — Lance Stephenson.
- Signed NBA journeyman JaVale McGee to a one-year deal.
- Grabbed veteran point guard Rajon Rondo on a one-year deal.
James had been consulted on all the Lakers’ recent moves, according to ESPN, which all read more like defensive upgrades rather than scoring options to surround James, who as of now finds himself with the same problems he had at the end of his time with Cleveland — minus Kevin Love.
What role McGee, the lone addition to LA’s frontcourt, serves remains to be seen, but the backcourt fill-ins aren’t exactly known for lighting it up from the field. Their best option, Caldwell-Pope, averaged 13.4 points per game on a strong 38.3 percent from 3-point territory. That scoring clip likely will decrease with James’ arrival, but his looks from the outside should grow with James on the floor.
But Stephenson (9.2 ppg) and Rondo (8.3 ppg) won’t be providing the Lakers with consistent scoring, especially off the ball. The two players are triple-double threats on their best days, but they are also known as defense-first players. Their shooting from deep is below league average, and they seem to fit in as ball contributes rather than go-to scoring options.
All these one-year additions seem to suggest the Lakers have a bigger fish in mind when it comes to James’ second scoring hand as the Kawhi Leonard drama lingers. These veteran moves, however, do signify Los Angeles’ win-now mentality with tomorrow in mind.
The cheap deals free the Lakers of commitment into next summer’s stacked free agency window while providing the team’s budding youth — Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma — with veteran leadership who can potentially help mold their games.
However, that all depends on the Lakers obtaining Leonard — and at what cost. While Leonard’s addition would give the Lakers their first one-two punch since Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, it would also disband the youth movement that Magic Johnson has orchestrated over the last few years.
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