LeBron, JJ Redick offer insight into possible Lakers roster structure, philosophy

LeBron James and JJ Redick recently spoke about the importance of depth in the modern NBA. Los Angeles Lakers fans should be feeling a bit more optimistic.
Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Lakers - Game Four
Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Lakers - Game Four / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

The Mind The Game podcast has been a breath of fresh air in the space of NBA media coverage. Co-hosted by Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James and potential L.A. head coach JJ Redick, the product has intended to put biases and headlines aside in favor of an educated discussion.

On the eighth episode of the Mind The Game podcast, James and Redick took part in a conversation that should have Lakers fans feeling a bit more optimistic about the latter potentially becoming head coach.

In addition to co-hosting Mind The Game with James, Redick has emerged as a leading candidate to become the next head coach of the Lakers. It's a divisive possibility, as Redick's lack of coaching experience is balanced by his charisma, intellect, and playing experience.

In a segment on the eighth release of the Mind The Game podcast, Redick perhaps involuntarily offered a glimpse into his philosophy on what he believes the Lakers should emphasize when building the roster this summer.

"It just feels like the depth of talent right now, particularly on really good teams, you can't concentrate, you need seven, eight guys that can really play in high-pressure moments and have the, you called it a dog, I'll say the toughness, the mental fortitude, to compete at this level. It feels like, across the board in the NBA, we're getting more and more of these guys that are just, they're f****** good players, man."

JJ Redick, Mind TheGame

Those are encouraging comments from someone who may lead a Lakers team that's looking to build a culture that can be as valuable as the players themselves.

Los Angeles is just one season removed from reaching the Western Conference Finals, but its first-round exit in 2024 has called its entire vision into question. As teams advance on the strength of their depth, it's encouraging to see that the possible next head coach understands how important role players are.

James passionately agreed with Redick in that respect, echoing the sentiment and making statements that certainly seemed like friendly pieces of advice for Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka.

"They're starring in their roles. And they're not doing nothing outside of what they do. And this is what this postseason has been about and that's what these top four have been about. These top four teams, Indiana, Boston, Dallas, and Minnesota, have a bunch of guys who star in their role. And they do it every single night, man. They are great at what they do. And if there's teams out here trying to see how to be successful, obviously you gotta have a star. Gotta have one, possibly two that's gonna make sure that everybody stays even-keeled. But at the end of the day, you've got to have those soldiers around, man."

LeBron James, Mind The Game

As the Lakers prepare to potentially re-sign James and hire Redick, this conversation seems particularly poignant.

It's worth noting that Pelinka is reportedly pivoting in terms of his approach to the coming offseason. Rather than going star-chasing, Pelinka prefers to make trades that will create depth and give the Lakers more options in a postseason setting.

Every team that advanced past the first round of the 2024 NBA Playoffs offers reason to believe that such an approach would be wise.

In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, and New York Knicks all boast rosters that run far deeper than just two stars. In the Western Conference, the same can be said for the Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Oklahoma City Thunder.

The stars on those respective rosters all stepped up along the way, of course, but it was the depth of the rosters beyond them that proved invaluable in the first round of the playoffs.

Comparatively, the Lakers were one of several teams that built top-heavy rosters with limited cap space and a need for stronger showings from their erratic role players. Other examples include the Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns, which brought in household names at the expense of depth, stability, or even a winning culture.

Based on James and Redick's conversation about the 2024 NBA Playoffs, it seems that both agree that a successful team must understand the importance of role players and not just name value.

That's a breath of fresh air considering how star-hungry the Lakers have been in recent seasons. The trade for Anthony Davis obviously worked out, as he and James helped lead a team of veterans and defensive-minded up-and-comers to the 2020 NBA championship.

In the four years since, however, the Lakers have been unsuccessful in their efforts to recreate that success, with the Russell Westbrook trade being a shining example of the team overlooking structural fit in its acquisitions.

Other examples of desperation moves include trading the pick that would ultimately become Jaden McDaniels for Dennis Schröder. Fast forward to 2024 and the Lakers are again approaching the NBA Draft with the desire to make a deal for an impact player.

With James and Redick's influence, however, perhaps the archetype of the Lakers' targets will change to that of the tough defenders that they mentioned on Mind The Game.

At the very least, it seems that two of the most important potential Lakers share the ideology that star power can only get a team so far in the modern NBA.