Entertainment

LA Lakers Free Agency: Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Role Player

Breaking news, Gayle Benson is dead.

I mean that’s the logical math behind Anthony Davis’s trade to the Los Angeles Lakers, right? I am sure that the reporting on what Mrs. Benson said was fabricated, as is much from the sport’s media in the NBA, however the sentiment remains the same. This was a trade that was not supposed to happen. But it has, and now the Lakers have choices… Choices they didn’t have 2 months ago.

Anthony Davis changes the entire landscape of the Lakers’ future, if not the entire league. Now LeBron is partnered with a player, at this stage of his career, who is better than him. But the question isn’t about LeBron or AD. The question is, what direction do the Lakers go in now? The sports media seem obsessed with the idea of another superstar arriving in LA. I mean they have a projected $32 Million in Cap Space now right? Kyrie, Jimmy Butler and Kemba Walker’s names have been passed around. But why gut your team for a ball dominate player that won’t be utilised with LeBron and AD on the court? We just saw the Raptors win a title with only one All-NBA player, against a team which had five (regardless of health). The role players were just as big a reason for that championship as Kawhi was.

I would instead look at players that can complement LeBron’s skill set, in the last few years of his prime. That means they have to be good 3-point shooters, play defense and a few players that can generate their own shot off the dribble.

The table below looks at 7 players, who will all fetch around $7-9 million a year, and fit the criteria that will allow LeBron and AD to flourish. These are wing and backcourt players available in free agency in 2019:

graph 1

3-and-D guys are the most important players for a LeBron James team. Spreading the floor and allowing LeBron to go 1-1 was an essential game plan in the championship title in Cleveland. For that reason I have been looking at Aminu, Ariza, JaMychal Green and Wes Matthews. All four of these players are extremely versatile on the defensive end, and can play multiple positions. They are long athletic wings, with a heap of NBA experience. All four shoot a decent percent from 3-point range, however Green and Matthews excelled in catch and shoot 3s in the 2018/2019 season. However Ariza and Aminu make up for these offensive deficiencies on D. In a position-less league, these 4 wings can complement LeBron, and allow him to rest on the defensive end during stretches of the regular season.

The backcourt is interesting because I agree, to an extent, that this Lakers team needs a creative playmaker. I have not chosen that with Beverley and Rivers as my 2 point guards. I believe Beverley brings defensive intensity that LeBron has never seen at this position, while still being an excellent catch-and-shoot 3 pointer, and an overall 3 pointer shooter as well. Rivers coming off the bench offers a hard-working ethic combined with steady shot creation ability. Although he is a weak playmaker, however he has the ‘JR Smith’ potential coming off the bench. I would also be interested in bringing Rajon Rondo back to this team, just to have a facilitator run the floor while LeBron is on the bench.

I would splash a little cash on Croatian star Bojan Bogdanovic of the Indiana Pacers. Although not as athletic as many of the players on the above table, Bojan is a decent help-defender with an incredibly high offensive skillset. Off the dribble, contested and open 3s, Bojan would be an excellent piece to have when teams are doubling up on AD in the post or trapping LeBron mid-court.

With AD and Kyle Kuzma making up the frontcourt for the Lakers, they should be looking for defensive big-men that can make a difference off the bench. The table below looks at a few free agents that could deliver this:

graph 2

The most interesting prospect on that list is Dwight Powell. He is a long big, and in the era of switching, is capable enough to hold his own with smaller guards. He is a decent shot blocker, and can deter smaller players from driving in the lane, but his offensive productivity is minuscule. However with Kuzma and AD on the team, who needs a big that can get you buckets?

The Lakers need to spend their cap room to utilise the remaining years on LeBron’s contract, because their future is secured once AD signs a long term deal next year. But they also have to be prudent with how they acquire their assets. Now it is up to Rob Pelinka, and the other clowns at the Staples Centre, to put LeBron and AD in a position for success. In my opinion, they will screw up. However opinions are made to be proven wrong, and I really hope I am.

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