Rob Pelinka saw an LA Lakers team that he helped assemble ultimately win the 2020 NBA championship. He, however, has not just stood still since then. Pelinka has formed a team this offseason that is even stronger than last year’s squad. He did all of this strategically, too. In fact, while recently discussing the NBA offseason — one in which the Lakers have been the clear winners of — Pelinka compared the way he approached free agency to a popular Netflix show.
The LA Lakers won the 2020 NBA championship
It looked like the move that LeBron James made to the LA Lakers in 2018 had just been a business decision. The Lakers were not a very good team in 2018-19, as they went 37-45. This led to James ultimately missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 season. It also came after he made eight consecutive trips to the NBA Finals with the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers.
However, the Lakers then traded for Anthony Davis in the summer of 2019, making them contenders in the Western Conference again. LA then ended up having a great 2019-20 regular season, as they went 52-19 overall and claimed the No. 1 seed in the West. James and Davis were the reasons why they were so successful, too. James averaged 25.3 points per game, 7.8 rebounds, and led the NBA in assists per game with 10.2. Davis, on the other hand, averaged 26.1 points per game and 9.3 rebounds.
Then in the playoffs, despite having to deal with a pause in play (and in their momentum) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and despite dealing with the tragic death of Kobe Bryant earlier in the season, the Lakers dominated. They ran through the Western Conference, winning each series in five games to reach the NBA Finals. The Lakers then played the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals and ultimately defeated them in six games to win the 2020 NBA championship.
LA has gotten even stronger this offseason
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka has not just brought the same team back that won the championship, hoping that they can do it again. He has built an even stronger team.
LA added Dennis Schroder this offseason, and he has averaged 18.9 points per game or more in two of the last three seasons. They also stole reigning Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell from their rivals, the LA Clippers. Harrell averaged 18.6 points per game and 7.1 rebounds last season.
Schroder will be a big-time upgrade offensively for the Lakers over Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo. Harrell, on the other hand, will be a big-time upgrade offensively over Dwight Howard.
The Lakers also added three-time All-Star Marc Gasol, who will make up for what the Lakers lost on the defensive end of the court when they lost Howard. They also added a solid role player in Wesley Matthews.
This has all been in addition to bringing back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Markieff Morris and then locking up their two stars long term. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Lakers signed Davis to a five-year max deal. They also signed James to an extension that runs through the 2022-23 season.
Rob Pelinka compares the Lakers’ offseason to ‘The Queen’s Gambit’
There has not been one team to even come close to achieving the same amount of success that the Lakers have this offseason. Pelinka and the Lakers have put themselves in a great position to win two consecutive NBA titles, and potentially even more.
When discussing the Lakers’ offseason, and specifically how he approached free agency, Pelinka used a hit Netflix series as an analogy. He ultimately used The Queen’s Gambit, which follows the story of an extremely talented chess player.
“Free agency is a little bit like playing a game of simultaneous chess with 29 other teams,” Pelinka said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “And they’re all really smart and they have their plans and their boards and they’re going to make their moves and we’ve thought out our various chess moves that we can make and you never know exactly how the game’s going to be played out.”
He continued: “I think if you watch that show on Netflix you see the ins and outs of chess and how to study the board, but you don’t know until you play the game how it’s going to go.”
Well, Pelinka’s approach in free agency ultimately worked out well for him. He helped make the Lakers the kings of the offseason.
It will be fun to see if their reign continues once the actual season begins later in December.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference