The Los Angeles Lakers headed into the 2018 NBA offseason with the goal of adding at least one legitimate superstar on their roster. The Lakers succeeded to sign LeBron James to a four-year, $154 million contract, but they failed to acquire other top offseason targets like Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. To fill the empty spots on their roster, the Lakers controversially signed four role players — Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, and Michael Beasley — whose fit with James remains a big question mark.
Despite failing to add another superstar who can play alongside LeBron James, Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka wanted to surround him with players that can help them become competitive next season. Pelinka explained why they decided to sign Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, and Michael Beasley in free agency.
“Earvin and I had a conversation,” Pelinka said, “and LeBron echoed this sentiment: To try to play the Warriors in their own game is a trap. No one is going to beat them at their own game. That’s why we wanted to add these elements: defense, toughness, and depth—and try to look at areas where we’ll have an advantage.”
According to Kevin Ding of the NBA website, the Lakers also wanted to add more voice in the locker room and more “edginess” in the Staples Center. Last season, the Lakers were mostly consisting of young players, and Johnson admitted that there were many “quiet” guys on their roster. Pelinka believes the arrival of Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, and Michael Beasley will bring a positive impact to their locker room and install a winning mentality to their young players.
“These guys bring a level of understanding of what it takes to succeed in the playoffs.”
Unlike what most people think, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka properly consulted LeBron James with every move they made this offseason, including the acquisition of James’ mortal enemy, Lance Stephenson. Despite being inconsistent shooters, Stephenson and Rajon Rondo are expected to ease the load on LeBron’s shoulder in terms of playmaking.
JaVale McGee may have been popular for his numerous appearances in Shaqtin’ A Fool, but his last two seasons with the Warriors proved that he could still be a dominant presence under the basket. When he first came in Golden State, most people expected McGee to be an end-of-the-bench guy. However, despite receiving limited playing time, McGee sees to it that he’s ready to contribute whenever he’s called to go inside the court. In just one season of coaching the veteran center, Steve Kerr admitted that all the negative things he heard about McGee were “totally false.”
It’s easy to understand why most people are doubting the Lakers’ capability to contend for the NBA championship title next season. With half of their roster consisting of new faces, the Lakers need to work on their chemistry and see which pieces fit together. Only their performance in the 2018-19 NBA season will prove if they made the right moves this offseason or not.