The Los Angeles Lakers had a busy offseason. How did it stack up to their Western Conference foes?
It was a historically poor free-agent class this past offseason. With Anthony Davis being the only unrestricted free agent star that could create a seismic shift in the league definitely staying put in Los Angeles, the intrigue was lacking as opposed to the circus that was 2019 free agency.
However, in typical NBA fashion, household name stars such as James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Russell Westbrook, and John Wall have all been heavily rumored to be on the trade block. But none have been moved as of now and all may very well be staying put into next season.
So this year’s Western Conference offseason grades centralize around the much-maligned but crucial cogs. Plenty of high-end role players changed scenery to shake things up around the league. Here are the test results for the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers and other notable franchises in the always loaded west.
Los Angeles Lakers: A
I can’t recall a defending champion adding insult to injury to the league by winning the offseason as decisively as the Lakers did. They’re the 2021 title favorite for anyone with sense as we stand here today.
Though the loss of an integral 2020 championship piece in Rajon Rondo can’t go unnoticed. His outstanding IQ, winning pedigree, floor generalship, and overall two-way impact is just outstanding even at this phase of his career, as we just witnessed.
The veteran defensive presence of Rondo and Dwight Howard, a future Hall of Famer, leaves a void. But alas, Rob Pelinka and Jeanie Buss are well out from under the turmoil they endured under a microscope in 2018. These past two offseasons they’ve been exquisite in the front office.
Acquiring Dennis Schroder via trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder is massive amid the Rondo departure. A self-starting scorer, perfect pick and roll partner for Davis, highly competitive and energetic presence, all at age 27? The Lakers filled a huge need in perimeter scoring in a big way.
In addition, they filled the interior need of rebounding and defensive play following the Howard departure about as well as they could too. Snatching 2020 Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell from right across the hall, a perfect pick and roll partner for LeBron and energetic presence in his own right, is a huge get.
Then they went out and got Marc Gasol late in the free-agent game. This addition shouldn’t be overstated as Gasol will turn 36 in January and has plenty of mileage on him. But he too has a high IQ and the championship pedigree serves as a defensive anchor in the paint and can stretch the floor which is always beneficial with LeBron as the maestro.
Lastly, Klutch Sports client and surprisingly integral role player from the bubble Kentavious Caldwell Pope was retained. He’s always been a plus defender but never a scoring threat until he really found his stroke down in Orlando.
Once again, with a healthy LeBron and ‘AD’, and the role players picking up the pieces doing their job around them puts the Lakers at the very top of this year’s championship contention.