What does prioritizing depth over star power realistically mean for the Lakers?

The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly prioritizing depth over star power this offseason. What exactly does that mean in terms of what's realistic for Los Angeles?
Miami Heat v Los Angeles Lakers
Miami Heat v Los Angeles Lakers / Harry How/GettyImages

Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka has an unenviable task, albeit with a proverbial fortune to build around. With Anthony Davis and LeBron James potentially looking to extend their championship window, Pelinka must find a way to restructure with limited offseason resources.

It's a conversation that transpires on a daily basis in Lakers country, as fans and analysts alike ponder how Pelinka is going to surround his NBA champion cornerstones with an ideal supporting cast.

On the current roster, Los Angeles has eight players who are owed accepted guaranteed money for the 2024-25 season. That list is headlined by Davis and rounded out by Rui Hachimura, Jalen Hood-Schifino, Maxwell Lewis, Austin Reaves, Jarred Vanderbilt, Gabe Vincent, and Christian Wood.

With James, D'Angelo Russell, Jaxson Hayes, and Cam Reddish all yet to accept or decline their player options, that list could realistically grow before the June 29 deadline.

Even with as many as 12 players under contract, as well as Max Christie potentially becoming a restricted free agent, most expect significant roster turnover. The Lakers won 47 games in 2024-25 before bowing out in the first round after a series of close encounters against the Denver Nuggets.

That's hardly a bad season by the general standard of the NBA, but for a franchise with a record 17 championships and 32 Finals appearances, it falls far below the purple and golden standard.

How are the Lakers planning to rebuild?

As the Lakers enter an offseason of undeniable importance, the plan is clear: Learn from what the current NBA Finals teams did right. The Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks have been aggressive in making trades over the past few seasons, and those labors are bearing fruit in 2024.

Boston utilized draft picks and proven players to acquire the likes of Jrue Holiday, Kristaps Porzingis, and Derrick White, while Dallas did the same to land Daniel Gafford, Kyrie Irving, and PJ Washington.

Thankfully, the Lakers already have their superstar tandem to match Boston's Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and Dallas' Irving and Luka Doncic. Davis, 31, and James, 39, are operating on a different timeline, but there are still lessons to be learned.

According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, the Lakers' plan to win a second championship with Davis and James is to focus on one lesson in particular: The prioritization of depth over additional star power.

It sounds great on paper, but what exactly does that mean?

What kind of options exist for the Lakers?

Assuming James either accepts his player option or re-signs, with the latter being the more likely outcome of the two, the Lakers will have limited options in free agency. The taxpayer mid-level exception could be of value, but any other signings will be at the minimum rate.

In turn, trades are all but certain to be made and the 2024 NBA Draft will need to be aced—whatever the Lakers decide that means.

Pelinka could utilize the No. 17 overall selection to build for the future with a low-cost acquisition that can provide value along either a short-term or long-term timeline—or, ideally, both. He could also package that pick in a trade to improve the roster.

Chances are, the trade route will be the one that Pelinka opts to follow as Los Angeles looks to create depth while retaining as much proven talent as they possibly can.

Okay, but who should the Lakers be looking at?

In terms of the type of players that Pelinka's could realistically lead the Lakers to, Dejounte Murray represents the high end. While a player like Trae Young is owed more than $43 million in 2024-25, Murray is due a far more modest rate of $25.3 million.

Also in Atlanta is Clint Capela, who's owed an accessible and expiring $22,262,280 in 2024-25—and the Lakers may not even need to part with Hachimura to acquire him.

An example of a player who would be more affordable to acquire in a potential trade is former Lakers guard Alex Caruso. Caruso is owed less than $9.9 million on an expiring deal, and the middling Chicago Bulls may look to get value in return before they potentially lose him for nothing next summer.

Similar to that range is Bobby Portis at just under $12.6 million with a player option for 2025-26 that the Milwaukee Bucks may fear he'll decline—especially amidst their own need for a roster shakeup.

Throw in defensive specialists such as Jevon Carter at $6.5 million owed for 2024-25, and Robert Williams III at just over $12.4 million, and there's a surprising excess of options. Teams are always looking to shake their roster up in the offseason, and the Lakers may have the right combination of assets to capitalize.

That list of players may not be quite as star-studded as one with Young, Donovan Mitchell, and Brandon Ingram on it, but with limited resources and a closing window on a championship-winning duo, it's a far more productive group than some might expect.