Lakers Next Challenge, Build around LBJ, AD
By: @Team_OOS (twitter)
After an extremely hectic season for the Lakers which resulted in the resignation of Laker legend Magic Johnson and no playoff berth for the 6th straight season (2013 first round), the Lakers and their fans finally got something to go their way. Anthony Davis announced that he in fact still wanted to be a Laker, and David Griffin finally granted that wish for him. The Lakers received AD in exchange for London Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, the No. 4 pick (De’Andre Hunter, later shipped to Atlanta), the Lakers’ first-round pick in 2021 (top 8 protected), the right to swap picks in 2023, and the Lakers’ first-round pick in 2024 (That NO can defer to 2025). Yeah, the Lakers basically are gambling their entire future on Anthony Davis, but to be able to pair him with LeBron James, can you really blame them? On July 1st, the Lakers will have eight players under contract. Three of those eight will be sent to the Pelicans and three of the five remaining: Mo Wagner, Jemerrio Jones, and Isaac Bonga, only have a total of 709 NBA minutes COMBINED. That leaves a lot more work for the Lakers to do and that is what is key here, will the front office come through?
Anthony Davis and LeBron James definitely appear to be a league-changing duo. Obviously, James is one of the best passers in NBA history, while Davis is currently of the best finishers in the league and he’s only 26. He’s one of three players (and King James is one of the other two) who have shot better than 70 percent on at least 2,000 attempts in the restricted area over the last five years. Davis has been assisted on about two-thirds of his field goals over his career with the Pelicans. LeBron James, meanwhile, ranks fourth with 8.8 assists per game over the last three seasons.
The matter of the fact is, Davis is a different kind of offensive superstar than James has typically has teamed up with, in the fact that he’s more of an interior scorer than a perimeter one (minus D-Wade). Over the last three seasons, only 40 percent of James’ assists — which is the 59th highest rate among 106 players with 500 total assists — have been on shots in the restricted area. Still, over those three years, James’ teammates have shot better in the restricted area with him on the floor (64.3 percent) than they have with him off it (61.4 percent).
Last season, Davis scored just 1.02 points per possession as a roll man, according to Synergy play-type tracking. That ranked 19th among 22 players who averaged at least three roll man possessions per game and was down from 1.18 (fourth among players with three per game) in 2017-18. Even though Wagner might remain as a back-up big, the Lakers’ post-trade depth chart doesn’t go beyond Davis, James and Kyle Kuzma. (About Kuzma: His effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint — 44.5 percent — ranked 187th among those 218 players with at least 200 field goal attempts.) That’s a terrific and versatile frontline, but the Lakers have no depth and no backcourt whatsoever. Reggie Bullock, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson are all unrestricted free agents, none of whom appear to be obvious candidates to return to Laker-land.
Even if the Lakers can’t get rid of those three smaller contracts, they might be better off spreading their remaining cap space around (rather than using it on a third star). With James and Davis, they need to add as much shooting as possible. In James’ first season in LA, the Lakers (33.6 percent) ranked last in catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage, with Kuzma having the third-worst mark (31.7 percent) among 101 players with at least 200 attempts.
The good news? Six of the top nine (minimum 100 attempts) from last season are free agents. Additionally, 20 free agents this summer shot 40 percent or better on at least 100 catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts. Four of those 20 are Irving, Leonard, Thompson and Kevin Durant, but the Lakers should find some realistic targets among the remaining 16. Players like Seth Curry, Danny Green, Malcom Brogdon, Quinn Cook, J.J Reddick, Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison, Harrison Barnes and players of that caliber who all shot over 40%. There are more 3-point shooters this free agency that the average fan realizes who also shot over 40%, like Mike Scott, Ryan Arcidiacono, Patrick Beverley, Nik Stauskas and a couple more.
It is an absolute MUST that the Lakers acquire 3-point shooting to go along with the duo. If the Lakers landed Irving, Leonard, Thompson or someone like Kevin Durant (which would be a complete miracle but we have seen crazier), they will easily be the undisputed favorites to win the title, but time will tell what will unfold. A lot of decisions must be made first for any of this to be possible. Yes, the Lakers were able to get Anthony Davis and that was huge, but if they can’t acquire any other superstars and/or consistent players, the Lakers won’t make any noise next postseason. If they can, the Larry O’Brien trophy is a real possibility.