Tuesday, December 7 2021

If the Los Angeles Lakers wanted to return to the NBA Finals during the LeBron James-Anthony Davis championship window, moves had to be made following last season’s rough first-round elimination.

The central move L.A. made was acquiring Russell Westbrook, and a sweetener of three future second-round picks, from the Washington Wizards for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and their 2021 first-round pick.

Westbrook’s fit on paper is the lingering question mark that will remain throughout the regular season unless it’s proven he can coexist alongside James and Davis while staying efficient.

Since landing Westbrook limited Los Angeles’ free-agency spending power even further, the rest of the roster needed to be filled out through veteran minimum deals.

The Lakers accomplished that by adding numerous veterans who had either represented the purple and gold in the past or are doing it for the first time to help win a ring. Names like Carmelo Anthony, Malik Monk and Wayne Ellington are new to the franchise while Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza and more are beloved for previous contributions.

Kendrick Nunn marked L.A.’s most expensive signing, as he received the full taxpayer MLE of $5.9 million for two years; Talen Horton-Tucker’s three-year extension worth over $30 million tops that, but he was already on the roster.

All these moves rounded out L.A.’s busy offseason, which doesn’t include the shuffling of the coaching staff.

ESPN has been grading the moves made by teams, and according to Kevin Pelton, the Lakers got a “C”:

“As long as Anthony Davis and LeBron James stay healthy, the Lakers look like the favorites to win the West. But it’s unclear their offseason moves improved their chances of getting back to the NBA Finals after last season’s first-round exit. In Russell Westbrook, the Lakers added a singular talent to help carry the load during the regular season, but they’ll have to work around his shooting limitations in a playoff setting.

The Lakers did well to replace the depth lost in the Westbrook trade with a series of veterans minimum signings as well as the value pickup of Kendrick Nunn using the taxpayer midlevel exception. Still, the Lakers don’t have as many reliable two-way contributors around their stars as in 2020, when Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Danny Green played those roles during their title run.”

The biggest takeaways from Pelton’s analysis hammer what the primary consensus is of Westbrook’s addition. He’s a poor shooter the farther away he is from the rim, which exacerbates the floor-spacing concerns L.A. needed to resolve.

And despite the signings being good offensive players, it’s plausible the defense, which was No. 1 in the league last year, will plunge. The Lakers could use Kent Bazemore in the role Caldwell-Pope and Green had in previous years, but all the other guards have notable defensive weaknesses.

For the new forwards, Anthony hasn’t been a plus defender in recent seasons, and it’ll be interesting to see how Ariza’s mobility holds up this year. He used to have the ability to guard faster players, but as his legs accumulate more mileage, he primarily matches up against bigger forwards now.

The talent on the roster is undeniable, but the Lakers need to prove they can assemble the pieces for a title run.

Source: Yahoo Sports


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