Well look, there’s no where to go but down for this team, but in all fairness, I’m not sure LeBron knows what that direction is or what it looks like. Which is probably why the
Lakers Lebrons are continuing their roster escalations with the Clippers in becoming the fastest L.A. team to be called the Raptors. Putting the the past few days of furious free agency implications aside for a moment, the fact of the matter is that this team was going into the next season as favorites in the West once again no matter what happened during the off season, but instead of going through the majority of last season as a team that was good enough to get to the playoffs, but not great enough to win a chip, the perception of this team right now is a title contender, and deservedly so! And all that was before adding the fragile but scoring-minded 2020 Sixth Man, another separate big man with probably one of the highest IQ’s at the five (the signing is likely at the time of this writing), and the Lakers have still managed to keep Kyle Kuzma. Impressive to say the least. More specificity follows, and I promise not to call it specificity again…
|Starters||L. James||A. Bradley||K. Caldwell-Pope||A. Davis||J. McGee|
|Rotation||R. Rondo||D. Waiters||T. Horton-Tucker||K. Kuzma||D. Howard|
|Rotation||A. Caruso||M. Morris|
|Limited||D. Schroder||D. Cacok|
Draft Rights Retained
|Chinemelu Elonu||C||2009 Rnd 2 Pick 29||Nigeria|
|Brad Newley||F||2007 Rnd 2 Pick 24||Australia|
Free Agent Rights Retained
|Kostas Antetokounmpo||PF||(U) Early Bird||
Greece / United States
|Avery Bradley||PG||(U) Non-Bird||United States|
|Anthony Davis||PF||(U) Bird||United States|
|Jared Dudley||PF||(U) Non-Bird||United States|
|Dion Waiters||SG||(U) Non-Bird||United States|
Notable Free Agents: Jared Dudley (UFA), Rajon Rondo (PO), Dwight Howard (UFA), JaVale McGee (PO), Avery Bradley (PO), Markieff Morris (UFA), Dion Waiters (UFA), Anthony Davis (PO), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (PO), Kostas Antetokounmpo (RFA). (Note, Rajon Rondo has already signed with another team, and JaVale McGee and Markieff Morris are speculated in signing with other teams as of this writing.)
While the final outlook of this team, like many others, is still in a state of flux, one thing is for certain, LeBron James is still alive, still playing basketball, and still doing it for the Lakers. While that in itself would have been a natural ending and “Case Closed” for this post, I’d like to at least spend a few more words describing the ensemble he’s put together so far…
Landing Montrezl Harrell was one of the more interesting surprises opening up this year’s free agency. While giving plenty of fodder to those in the Clippers organization and fandom who had grown weary about his lackluster Bubble performance and behind-the-scenes drama (Harrell’s propensity to communicate dirty laundry through the ubiquitous label of “unnamed source” the past few months didn’t help much), his basketball skillset already augments with what was already an active team that creates through James. Now adding Harrell and Marc Gasol (finalizing as I’m writing), the Lakers have substantially upgraded their rotation, an area they were a bit weak in previously, and also provided a bit of spark with Trezz and some stretch and defense with Gasol. Anthony Davis is still the man, but these two pieces add amazing depth and flexibility. Yes, the two players couldn’t be more polar opposites with each other, but I think that works favorably here. The only downside is again the questions of Harrell’s maturity level, but these issues tend to dampen down on teams that have Lebron James on them. I mean, which Morris brother had the better behavior this past year?
Trying to think of this team’s weaknesses is hard at the moment, and that’s scary. The cap maneuvers so far have been on point, and while I joke that this is the team Lebron build, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rob Pelinka is already in the running for Executive of the Year. Even if they aren’t able to re-sign Markieff Morris, who was solid if not spectacular for this team, Pelinka has basically been able to create a close-to-final product with still a couple million under the hard cap. And that’s with the continual haunting of Luol Deng’s contract. But despite this fine-tuning of a Championship team, I think load management will be a real thing this year. Sharing the shortest turn-around for any team in the league sans the Heat will be a factor sooner or later, so the Lakers taking a step-back, especially during the middle stretch of the season could be a hump in an otherwise positive outlook. I could also mention that losing Javale McGee (trade rumors) and Cook could affect the locker room… but again Lebron, so I’m not too concerned.
The immediate future is bright for this team. What else can I say? It’s easy when there’s a Lebron James to point to, and you sorta have to create reasons to go against the proverbial grain. And while we contemplate why grain has a proverb, there are only two things in my mind that can stop the Lakers this upcoming season. That’s injury, or that’s because a team in the West over-performed. Not saying that the West is terrible or anything, in fact, quite the opposite. Even with the Rockets defenestration, I still think this Conference is going to be a struggle, but that struggle won’t be lack of trying from the Lakers. They’re current champions. They’ve improved. And they still have Lebron. Only a select few other teams can say one of those things. What can you do against a team that has all three?
Jay is a longtime Razzball everything who consumes an egregious amount of Makers Mark as a vehicle to gain wisdom and augment his natural glow. Living in the D.C. area, he also likes spending time visiting the local parks and feeding lettuce to any turtles he encounters, including Mitch McConnell. You can follow him @jaywrong.