This is the final part of a three-part series analyzing criticisms of Rob Pelinka’s offseason moves for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Most everyone believes that Rob Pelinka did an outstanding job of filling out the Los Angeles Lakers roster, especially considering how little cap space he had. But there are some who still say, “Yes, he did a good job, but the Lakers still need to sign another point guard”. Let’s take a closer look to determine whether this is true.
Last season for the first time LeBron James was officially designated as his team’s starting point guard. He had an outstanding season directing the Lakers’ offense, leading the NBA in assists, a career-high 10.2 per game, while still averaging 25 PPG. In the postseason the numbers were 27.6 points and 8.8 assists.
Several different players backed up James at the point during the championship season. Most commonly Rajon Rondo filled the role. He had an uneven regular season when he averaged 7.1 points and 5 assists while playing shaky defense.
Rondo raised the level of his game in the playoffs when his numbers were 8.9 and 6.6, including three games with more than 15 points. He was an instrumental force in the team’s title run.
After the season ended, however, he declined his player option for this season. Instead, he signed with Atlanta, where he is expected to help mentor their young star, Trae Young.
Meanwhile, Pelinka made the first big move of the offseason when he traded Danny Green and a draft pick for Dennis Schroder, a 27-year-old point guard who was outstanding alongside Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous Alexander in the Oklahoma City backcourt.
Schroder set career highs in field goal percentage (47%) and three-point percentage (38.5%), played the best defense in his career and had the highest scoring average off the bench in the league (18.9 PPG), for which he was voted the runner-up for NBA Sixth Man of the Year. Greg Anthony of the NBA Network even said that Schroder was probably one of the league’s top 10 point guards.
For the past four years, two each with Atlanta and OKC, Schroder has averaged nearly 18 points and 5 assists per game. He can also be a pain to play against, so much so that LeBron refers to him as “Dennis the Menace”.
It appears that Pelinka intentionally signed players who are known for their toughness, not just Schroder but also other Laker newcomers Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell and Wes Matthews.
There are some who argue that the Lakers should reduce LeBron’s workload this season by signing another point guard to assume those duties from him. Does this argument make sense?
The reality is that James has essentially played the point guard position offensively his entire career. He may not have dribbled the ball up the court after a made basket, but it was LeBron who nearly always set up his team’s half-court offense, although he shared the duties for two seasons with Kyrie Irving in Cleveland.
The Lakers were obviously tremendously successful last season, so why would Coach Frank Vogel want to change the formula. Instead, it seems a near certainty that Vogel will once again entrust point guard duties to James this coming season. He and Schroder will likely play virtually all the minutes at the point regardless of who starts there.
Vogel can reduce LeBron’s workload by playing him fewer minutes per game, especially early in the season. The team will have far more offensive firepower so LeBron won’t be needed on the court quite so much. He might even rank only third on the team in minutes played behind Anthony Davis (who might also play a tad less) and Schroder.
If a third point guard is needed due to foul trouble or injury, Alex Caruso is more than capable of filling in. And just prior to publication, the Lakers re-signed Quinn Cook, who can also play the position. He is a strong three-point shooter and great teammate although his defense kept him buried deep on the bench last season.
So it appears the Lakers are indeed well-stocked at point guard and no further additions are needed. And as a result of all his actions this offseason, Pelinka should have silenced his critics and justified the faith Jeanie Buss placed in him.
Fans should share that same faith because Pelinka essentially traded Rondo, Green, Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee and Avery Bradley for Schroder, Matthews, Harrell, Gasol and Alfonzo McKinnie. Advantage, Lakers. Now the team has a stacked, versatile roster with the following depth chart:
- Point guard- James (on offense, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on defense), Schroder, Caruso, Cook
- Shooting guard- KCP, Caruso, Talen Horton-Tucker, Matthews
- Small forward- James (when he and Schroder play together), Matthews, Kyle Kuzma, McKinnie
- Power forward- Davis, Markieff Morris, Kuzma, Harrell, Jared Dudley
- Center- Gasol, Harrell, Davis, Morris
The final roster spot will probably be left unfilled to give the team flexibility later in the season to make a trade or to sign a waived player, much as they did this past year with Markieff Morris.
Vogel is a master at properly managing matchups and he will have a deeper roster this season with which to work. Like last year, he probably won’t have one set closing unit but will decide game-by-game based on factors such as offensive or defensive needs, matchups, game situations, and how well a particular player is performing that game.
However he employs it, Lakers fans should be grateful to Pelinka for setting up a squad that should be ready to defend its NBA title.
All statistics courtesy of www.basketball-reference.com.