The Los Angeles Lakers face uncertainty this summer. After missing the Playoffs this season they have plenty of time to ponder their future on and off the court.
There were lofty expectations on the Lakers after signing Lebron James last summer. Adding him to a core of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, a Playoff appearance seemed a formality.
A strong start to the season had the Lakers sitting at 21-16 come the end of 2018. Unfortunately Lebron James went down with a serious injury on Christmas Day.
While Lebron was out, defensive ace Lonzo Ball went down and the Lakers lost twelve of eighteen games. Soon after Superstar Anthony Davis put the league into a spin, requesting to be traded from the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Lakers made a couple of different trade offers to New Orleans for Davis. Adding Davis would have been massive for the franchise, they would almost certainly have made the Playoffs. But New Orleans continued to up the stakes as far as what they wanted back for Davis.
This entire string of Q&As with Anthony Davis.. “I’m still here. I could possibly be here next year…” 🧐 pic.twitter.com/dSMoZUh7Z1— Karen Loftus (@kcloftus) March 27, 2019
Trade offers were leaked which no doubt this created discord within the Lakers team. Lakers owner Jeanie Buss accused the Pelicans of deliberately leaking information with no intention of dealing Davis at all. It became clear that no deal was getting done and the Lakers were left with an unhappy and injured roster.
Lebron was clearly not 100% when he came back from injury. This combined with the other injuries meant they quickly fell right out of playoff contention.
An Imbalanced Roster
Though the Lakers can blame some of their problems on injuries, their roster construct was terrible from the outset. Julius Randle and Brook Lopez were bizarrely not brought back this year. Lopez has been a revelation on both ends for the Bucks. While Randle has been the Pelicans most consistent player this season averaging 20 points and eight rebounds. Instead of resigning a fringe All-Star in Randle and potential All-NBA defense selection in Lopez, Lakers top brass decided to spend that money on Michael Beasley, Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson.
Rajon Rondo says he “absolutely” wants to return to the Lakers next season, per @mcten.— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) March 30, 2019
All three of the aforementioned signings were negatives on the box score, while also being detrimental to team chemistry.
Looking forward to 2020, all the free agents they signed this year are on one-year deals. This is good in a lot of ways as they aren’t tied to any of 2019’s poor performers. But on the flipside they don’t have any salary to use if they want to have another run at trading for Anthony Davis.
After Ball and Ingram were shut down for the season recently, their trade value is greatly diminished. In Ingram’s case he had a scary blood clot condition which had to be operated on quickly. Though there is only a small chance this will affect his career long term, this isn’t what Lakers management need while they look at a potential rookie extension this summer.
They will have 44 million in cap space this summer which they could use to sign a max free agent. Though its looking less likely, there is still a chance Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler decide to join Lebron in Los Angeles next season.
Free agents like Kemba Walker or Klay Thompson would work better if they were able to pry them away from their current franchises. Lebron needs players that can play off the ball rather than high usage ball stoppers.
Three point shooting and perimeter defense should be priorities when looking at acquisitions this off season. Second tier free agents Nikola Mirotic, JJ Redick and Terrence Ross may be more realistic targets for the Lakers and would fit the bill as far as shooting goes
Its important that they continue to develop their young talent and bring in free agents that buy into the long term plans of the franchise.
Though 2019 wasn’t a total write-off, its imperative that Magic Johnson builds a well rounded roster for next season. If he can do this, maybe Laker fans will see another championship held aloft in 2020.