Now that the foundation has been laid, the plan behind the Los Angeles Lakers’ drive back to the Finals has come under fire for being a little unorthodox in comparison to the traditional model of building around LeBron James.
In what was a four-to-six month preparation process within the Lakers organization, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have made unexpected roster moves in an attempt to follow through with assembling the appropriate support cast for James.
They did this by acquiring Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee. Of course it raised major questions to the rhyme or reason behind the franchise’s plan to move forward.
According to Johnson and Pelinka, the idea is to be more defensive oriented by way of hardened playoff experienced veterans with less focus on perimeter scoring. This will be in addition to having more playmakers on the floor creating better scoring opportunities for others.
The theory behind being more defensive minded is that it has become futile to attempt to keep pace with the Golden State Warriors. Teams of a similar philosophy, as inevitably you get lured into trying to beat them at their own game.
The Houston Rockets were able to compete with the Warriors in the playoffs, winning three of the games. When they kept them from scoring relatively high numbers, they were able to grab two of their three victories in which Golden State was held under 100 points.
Rondo, Stephenson and McGee will add to those team defensive aspects for the Lakers. Their young legs will be supported by solid decision making and rim protection.
While they have been criticized for not picking up any perimeter shooters, Pelinka shared their thoughts on the matter during a press conference after signing James.
He pointed out that if you took the league’s most elite marksmen, you would see that most of them operate at about a 40% efficiency. He was not allowed to be specific about who because of the NBA anti-tampering rules.
When you take a look at Kyle Korver, Stephen Curry, J.J. Redick and Klay Thompson, you can see that they hover around 43% from behind the line. Pelinka shared that Josh Hart, James, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were not that far off at about 38% collectively.
He stated that their focus would be to improve their perimeter production by virtue of wide open shots created by playmakers as opposed to investing in more shot attempts by a particular player.
As far as their young core, the focus has been on physical development with regards to their physiques. Both Lonzo Ball and Kuzma seem to have added the necessary muscle mass required of them. The veteran acquisitions should provide a mentoring effect and a stable locker room atmosphere more conducive to true learning and leadership cultivation.
The fact that only James will have a guaranteed starting position will contribute to establishing a highly competitive environment which is paramount to developing young talent.
This, coupled with a number of shrewd moves like trading Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr, renouncing the rights to Julius Randle and conservative mid-level to minimum contract signings has left the Lakers with a very flexible salary cap situation heading into the 2018-19 season.
Should we believe in Magic now? Only time will tell but the future is as bright as it’s ever been.