Analysts have been giving the Lakers and general manager Rob Pelinka a lot of credit this summer. To an extent, it’s deserved. Pelinka did a solid job of retaining the Lakers’ key role players responsible for their Western Conference Finals run as a seven-seed. But the credit has gone too far to the point where their moves are overrated. Nothing they did this offseason moved the needle.
One move that stood out as exceptional was retaining Austin Reaves on a four-year, $53.8 million deal. Reaves was a restricted free agent, making the Lakers’ front office nervous that a team with a ton of cap space might have thrown a much more significant sum of money to take a chance on the 25-year-old as a franchise-building block. Having Reaves around will be huge as another scoring and playmaking option to take some of the burden off of LeBron James.
The second great move was signing Tauren Prince to a one-year, $4.5 million deal. Prince is a solid three-and-D player that shot 38 percent from downtown last season. He’s the perfect complementary role piece to stretch the floor for James and Anthony Davis to operate.
However, there’s still some reason for pessimism surrounding the Lakers heading into next season, at least relative to their extremely high expectations as a historic franchise with one of the best players of all time on their roster. Here are the three reasons everyone should pump the brakes on the Lakers’ offseason moves.
Reason No. 1: Lakers should have gone more top-heavy
So much talk was about how the Lakers orchestrated the contracts in a way that allowed them to retain their expiring players while adding free agents in Gabe Vincent, Cam Reddish, Taurean Prince, and Jaxson Hayes. However, another route they should’ve pursued would be only keeping Austin Reaves out of their expiring players; this would have freed up roughly $29 million in cap space. That would’ve given them plenty of room to bring in a big-name free agent that was available.
The Lakers are one of the most coveted franchises in attracting free agents due to their location, franchise history, and, currently, the opportunity to play alongside LeBron and Davis. Odds are they could have gotten someone like James Harden, Draymond Green, Brook Lopez, Kyrie Irving – the list goes on.
Sure, the Lakers are even deeper and have more than ten players capable of playing significant minutes. That could lead to more regular season wins as teams go through the wear and tear of an 82-game season.
But do they have a reliable starting five they can count on come playoff time? There are question marks in the starting lineup outside the trio of James, Davis, and Reaves that they should have addressed before adding to their depth, which was already great.