The promise of LeBron James playing for the Los Angeles Lakers turned into a disaster of a season.
The team shut down Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, put LeBron James on a minutes restriction and got eliminated from the playoffs with weeks left on the schedule.
However, personnel decisions doomed this team long before any of the injuries. One could’ve predicted this meltdown with a deep preseason analysis of the roster.
Some blame the trade-deadline drama and Los Angeles’ “toxic” environment. Regardless, the Lakers aren’t structured well.
LeBron James always has needed shooters for spacing and kick-out options. The fact that Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson had the best 3-point shooting percentage on the team as of late March is a joke.
Rondo is a career 60.5 percent free-throw shooter and Stephenson has averaged one made 3-pointer per game in one season.
The Lakers declined to re-sign Brook Lopez, who is shooting lights out for Milwaukee, and instead brought in JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler. The team compounded that mistake by trading their most competent center, Ivica Zubac, for Mike Muscala.
James has always played with other stars (Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade in Miami, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving in Cleveland). Kyle Kuzma and Ball are not of that caliber.
The only thing worse than constant Lakers coverage is constant coverage of an incompetent Lakers. Here are some moves the franchise should make this offseason.*
Attempt to trade for Anthony Davis
If you pay attention to the NBA, you may have been surprised when the New Orleans Pelicans didn’t make a trade-deadline deal to move Anthony Davis.
But rest assured, the Pelicans will trade Davis.
The big man has leverage, as most NBA superstars do. Why he would want to go to a Lakers team that hasn’t made the playoffs in 6 years is beyond me, but Los Angeles at least appears to be among Davis’ preferences.
Trading for Davis would involve the Lakers gutting their young core. But if you can acquire a generational talent like AD in the last few years of James as an All-Star caliber player, you do it.
Assume Ball, Ingram, Kuzma and Josh Hart are part of this trade, as well as a first-round draft pick.
Who knows if that’s enough to get the deal done, as Boston’s potential trade packages include better young stars and draft picks.
Bringing in Davis would cost the Lakers $31 million in cap space next year, but a trade including these four players would save $22 million, putting the Lakers at $74 million used.
However, the Lakers need a big man who can protect the rim and space the floor, and Davis would provide both.
Sign Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker
If the Lakers pull off a trade for Davis, they won’t be able to afford free agents Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard.
With Davis secured via trade, Los Angeles should focus on the next tier of free agents: Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson.
All three provide different skill sets, but they can all space the floor and shoot at an elite level.
All three could re-sign with their current teams, which is where the Lakers can get screwed. However, pairing one of these stars with Davis and James may be enough to convince one of these options to move.
If I’m the Lakers, I’m going after Walker and Irving first. It seems the has given up on Ball, and it will need a ball-handler.
Sign competent role players
The Lakers need defense and shooting. Beverley or Reddick would provide that.
These guys won’t command huge contracts, but Los Angeles would have to get creative to sign either of them.
However, Beverley is an elite defender, constantly locking down the opposing team’s best guard, while Reddick is having one of the best seasons of his career.
This wish list is getting extensive, but as we’ve seen before, good players like to play with other good players.
Fire Luke Walton
Luke Walton never could figure out how to run this team, and things just got harder when Lebron came to town.
Lebron has never been one to bow to any coach’s rule, but the fact that Walton and Lebron were drafted the same year just made any sense of control Walton had that much slimmer.
However, Walton’s biggest problem isn’t his inexperience; too many times and seemingly in every game he’ll trot out a lineup that makes absolutely no sense. He’ll have Lebron at the five, paired with four other guards.
Now I know the NBA is going towards position-less basketball, but asking Lebron to do new things such as roll with pick and rolls and guard the paint is just asking the superstar for too much.
It does appear as if the Lakers are ahead of me though, as Luke Walton’s fate may already be decided.
Blueprint degree of difficulty
This suggested offseason, though ideal, would be extremely difficult to execute. There’s no telling if players will want to join the Lakers after the turmoil they’ve experienced, or if LeBron James remains attractive as a teammate.
However, if the Lakers want to get back to the playoffs and compete for championships before James’ window closes, they’re going to have to pull off at least some of these moves. And they’d better do so soon, because there’s another Los Angeles team on the rise, and James only has so many career games left in his legs.