Playing the Waiting Game, Lakers taking a Different Approach with James
LeBron James has been in the league for quite some time now – nearly two decades.
And with that in mind, it doesn’t take a genius to realize what players fit perfectly around James’ strengths. Despite being able to amass over 30-points a game, coming down with mind-blowing chase down blocks on defense, James’ best attributes are his court vision, his basketball IQ and his passing ability. That being said, to maximize James’ strengths, plugging shooters around LeBron would lead to optimal results for a team on the basketball court
This leads us to the Los Angeles Lakers – James’ new squad.
After missing out on Paul George and a trade for Kawhi Leonard looking nearly impossible at this point due to the fact that the San Antonio Spurs have reportedly asked for just about everything the Lakers own for the services of their disgruntled superstar, the Lakers have taken a different approach to building a team around LeBron. An approach many have claimed to be fickle and even a waste of James’ talents.
After signing LeBron James to a four-year, $153-million contract the Lakers proceeded to signing Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Rajon Rondo all to one-year contracts. One thing all of the Lakers new signings have in common is none of them can shoot from long range, while Rondo and Stephenson, much like James are built more in the playmaker mold and require the basketball to be affective. The Lakers also have Lonzo Ball who has a similar style of game to Rondo and too needs the ball in his hands to set up the offence.
With the cap set at $101.8-million for next season, after all of their first week of free agency signings the Lakers are essentially near capped out. They saved $12.5-million by renouncing Julius Randle’s contract and can save more by waiving Luol Deng, who still has two years, $36-million remaining on his current deal with the team. In Deng’s case, a stretch provision will be necessary for the Lakers to be able to spread out the salary cap impact that comes from a bad contract – that is of course, if they choose to waive him.
Another option the Lakers have with Deng is to package him in a deal with one of their younger players – Ball was rumoured to be the quote-unquote younger player – in a salary dump after which a team will take on Ball while buying out Deng’s contract.
So that being said, what are the Lakers attempting to do here? Or what if, they’re just playing the waiting game?
Let’s think about it this way.
What is interesting though, especially if the Lakers are willing to play the waiting game is that Durant can potentially become a free agent after this upcoming season and a ton of reports have him linked to New York once he ultimately opts out from his one-and-one deal. Cousins will presumably return near the end of the season and will hit free agency as well following the 2018-19 campaign. Klay Thompson is also slated to become a free agent simultaneously. The likelihood that the Warriors can find the room for everyone, especially if all three are ready to seek max contracts is essentially impossible even despite the increase in the salary cap.
Meanwhile, the Lakers will see Rondo, Caldwell-Pope, McGee, Stephenson all coming off the books and by then, the Lakers will more than likely figure out a way to move on from Deng’s dead weight contract much like they did with Timofey Mozgov’s deal.
Then, the Lakers will have plenty of room to build the NBA’s next superteam. Kawhi Leonard will be a free agent and many reports have claimed that Leonard will be unopposed to joining forces in Los Angeles with LeBron. Thompson has also previously been linked to California, being a hometown kid born in Los Angeles seeing his father Mychal win multiple championships with the Showtime Lakers of the 1980’s.
Assuming the Lakers can sign both Thompson and Leonard the Lakers will not only have two unselfish two-way players around James, but two All-Stars who can most definitely shoot from long range affectively.
With the salary expected to climb up to $108-million in 2019-20 and $120-million the year after, the Lakers could be on the cusp of something simply by waiting it out. James has clearly put his trust into Magic Johnson and team general manager Rob Pelinka and now, the waiting game begins.