By: Johnny Dahabra
After making a splash in the offseason by acquiring LeBron James, the Lakers season expectations are now the highest they’ve been in recent memory. Let’s be honest, with LeBron, Rondo, Stephenson, Beasley, and JaVale McGee on the roster, this team is basically a circus. We can’t forget about the headliner either, Lavar Ball. It’s clear Luke has his hands full but so many of us are forgetting about Magic and Rob Pelinka. They’re at a crossroads between choosing winning now with James and possibly hurting the future or trading away their future for a chance to dethrone the Warriors. Do the Lakers mortgage their future for the present by trading for a star or risk wasting a year of LeBron while their core develops? It seems clear that in either scenario the Lakers would hit the 2019 free agent market hard.So what’s their next move until then? Nothing. For now. I know I know, what about wasting a year of LeBron or if they don’t improve? The Lakers should stand pat for now and see what they’re dealing with before making any haste decisions and dealing for players like Jimmy Butler or Damian Lillard for example. Allow me to explain why.
The Lakers young core last season was actually much better than most give them credit for. They went 35-47 including 9 straight losses while Lonzo Ball was injured. Him and Ingram combined to miss 53 games together. Had they been healthy it’s not crazy to assume they could’ve broken 40 wins with A rookie in Kuzma and sophomore in Ingram leading the team in scoring. For all the hate Lonzo Ball gets due to his father and inability to be a consistent shooter he was a great rookie. Yeah, you read that right. Ball led the Lakers in assists and was 2nd in rebounds as well. On top of that he was tied for 10th in the league in steals. His efficiency, like most rookies, should improve in his sophomore season along with other facets of his game. The only players to average at least 10ppg, 7rpg, and 7apg in their rookie seasons besides Lonzo Ball are Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson. Josh Hart has looked great in the summer league adding weight to his already bulky frame. Kuzma is already a very polished scorer posting an impressive TS% of 55. Last but not least Ingram has the makings of a potential all-star jack of all traits wing. The young guys should all get better but there are still other pieces to the puzzle; The new signings.
LeBron James should be able to get this team to around the 50 win mark and secure a playoff spot which is when the new vets should show their value. In last years playoffs Rondo put up 10.3ppg and 12.2apg on an impressive 42.1 3P%. He’s clearly a different player in the playoffs. Lance Stephenson provides them with a savy wing defender and a solid glue guy. McGee gives the Lakers size down low and a shot blocker they’ve been missing. Above all else these vets provide the young Lakers something they haven't had in years. Experience. The Lakers probably won’t make it out of the second round but, that doesn’t mean the season will be a failure.
This season should be a test drive, a gauge if you will. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka should really figure out what they have especially after extending Luol Deng's contract and shaving 7 million off next years cap giving them just enough to sign a max player in a loaded 2019 free agent class. While it’s true that LeBron isn’t getting any younger, it's also true that the young guys are only going to get better. On top of that why trade for a player when you can get him, or someone equal, without giving anything up? The Lakers acquiring another all-star would of course make them better but at what cost. The point i’m making here is that there shouldn’t be a rush to trade for a star. If the core is lackluster then seek to trade them, if the vets don’t workout then don’t resign them. Come the 2019-2020 season the Lakers roster will look drastically different and it will be for the better. Right now the Lakers best move is no move. Magic and company should remain patient and let the season unfold.
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