When news “broke” that LeBron was headed to LA it looked as if the Lakers were immediately relevant, and perhaps just one move away from pairing Kawaii Leonard with James. Then, just a few days later it started looking…different?
Disregarding the Kawaii situation, which the Lakers were wise or lucky to avoid. It was the moves the Lakers did make that seemed confusing. Yes, Rajon Rondo is great if you want your team to get into fights AND you have Anthony Davis around, turning Rondo’s 12 foot misses into “alley oops”. Lance Stevenson? Maybe LeBron likes getting blown aurally? Javale McGee brings championship experience and Michael Beasley…. I’m sorry, but THIS. IS. BULLSHIT!
I can see one of these guys getting onto the roster as a LeBron tag-a-long. But these FOUR guys? Other than Beasley none would be above average shooters at a pick up game. So imagining this squad going shot for shot with Golden State or Houston takes more hallucinogens than I’m prepared to take (anymore).
The only explanation for this collection of misfit toys being added to a young roster that is at least a year away is this: The Lakers are PUNTING this season and already setting their sights on the free agent bonanza of 2019.
Because people love lists and I’m a lazy writer I will now list.
THE REASONS THE LAKERS NEED TO TANK THIS SEASON
- LeBron needs a rest– I may be slightly off on the numbers but I think in the last eight seasons James played 6,973 games and averaged 52 minutes per game. He’s been to more consecutive finals than anyone who didn’t wear Chuck Taylors. This SHOULD be the worst Lakers roster for the next several years. Why not take it easy, play 50 games or so? Maybe he skips that winter road trip through the central division or takes a trip to Miami for some Banana boating or Germany for some blood spinning or some shit. Lakers fans should just be happy they have a superstar in purple and gold again. (They aren’t.)
- LeBron needs to get PAID! – We all know that LeBron is a bargain at even double the max salary (please, don’t dispute this. Please?) The only way to make up for it is to take part of the season off. He has employed this strategy throughout his career, except for last season, when he didn’t want to give Cleveland any excuses to burn his jersey again (not that they had any reason to the first time).
- The Young Pups need to toughen up– to me; this is the obvious reason you bring in a hyper-competitive psycho like Rajon Rondo. It’s not hard to imagine him dogging Lonzo Ball every second of every practice, talking shit and just fouling constantly. Something Lonzo is probably used to.
- LeBron needs to evaluate– any time a new GM comes into a franchise they need to evaluate what they have. LeBron may not be the “titular” GM, but he would be a fool to not say, “I sign off on every transaction” before signing with LA, and the Lakers would be fools to say no. When your free agent additions all have knucklehead tendencies, it should be easy to gauge who the other potential space cadets are (hint, it’s whoever smells like the shit Beasley is smoking’). When it comes time to make roster moves the front office will know who to keep and who is expendable. Speaking of roster moves….
- Stock up on picks mid-season– there is NO better trade asset (besides a draft pick or cheap young player or superstar player or player with a team option or player with a non guaranteed contract)… than a player on an expiring contract. All four of the free agent signings were for one year. All of these guys could prove useful to a team during the playoff stretch without killing them financially, which could bring the Lakers something useful in a trade.
- Use those picks after the season to unload Deng– Luol Deng is a bigger threat to LeBron’s legacy as a teammate than he ever was as an opponent. If the team were able to get rid of his contract it would free up almost 19 million dollars. Money that could be better spent on almost anything at this point. Thing is, you are literally (note correct usage) going to have to pay them to take him. The Lakers could use their first round pick BUT…
- This is the first year of the new “Fairer” NBA lottery. – The new rules are much friendlier to teams in the bottom half of the lottery. The Lakers aren’t going to be horrible next year, even if LeBron only plays 50 games. But the West is loaded and teams with winning records are going to miss the playoffs. If the Lakers landed in the lottery anywhere between 7 and 13 they would have at least double the odds of getting a top 5 pick as the same draft slot last year. As I said, this is the worst Laker team of the next four years so they won’t have this opportunity again.
Consider the best-case alternative to this plan. The Lakers keep these veterans and make a push for the playoffs. LeBron has to go all out and play 80 games just to get the 7th or 8th spot, followed by a quick playoff exit, the 18th pick in the draft (which they will have to unload to escape Deng’s contract) and cap holds for Rondo, Stevenson, Beasley and McGee. This seems like an unsatisfactory outcome.
I know Lakers fans are spoiled by their historic success, sometimes to the point of choosing emotion over logic. But if they can take the long view (as in one whole season) they might embrace the idea of the 2018 Los Angeles Tankers.