Following an early postseason exit this summer, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers wasted little time looking ahead to the future. When NBA free agency began, the Lakers (led by general manager Rob Pelinka) added multiple new players to their roster. Much to the annoyance of basketball fans everywhere, they have essentially put themselves into the “super-team” discussion.
With plenty of time left to spare this offseason, the Lakers have already added Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Kendrick Nunn, Trevor Ariza, Malik Monk, Wayne Ellington, and Kent Bazemore. They also brought back young forward Talen Horton-Tucker and continue to be mentioned as a potential suitor for sharpshooting veteran Danny Green.
The Lakers did lose Montrezl Harrel, Alex Caruso, Kyle Kuzma, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. However, the team’s general discourse is that it has positioned itself atop the Western Conference heading into James’ 19th season. Some have even gone as far as to name this one of the best rosters James has ever been a part of.
LeBron James and the LA Lakers have built themselves a proper NBA super-team heading into 2021-22
With so many moves being made in such rapid succession for the Lakers, it didn’t take long for fans around the NBA to start expressing their displeasure with the situation. People have tended to frown upon super-teams ever since Kevin Durant joined the Golden State Warriors back in 2017, and many felt the Lakers were already a top team in the Western Conference prior to their flurry of additions.
While it’s completely logical to claim James and the Lakers have stacked the deck in their favor this offseason, the simple reality of the situation is that LA did in fact need to improve this summer — significantly. Not only did the Lakers exit the playoffs rather prematurely this past year, but they also struggled pretty significantly throughout the regular season.
It can be easy to forget at times, but the Lakers barely scraped their way into the Western Conference bracket. Finishing with a record of 42-30 and as the seventh seed, they were forced to participate in the newly implemented play-in tournament.
That’s not ideal for an organization that viewed itself as a heavy favorite to defend its title.
Despite their already established starpower in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers definitely needed to improve this offseason
Finishing as a No. 7 seed is enough to make any general manager pursue major changes in the offseason, but the Lakers also found themselves in a sticky situation since their two best players — LeBron James and Anthony Davis — were beginning to show signs of serious wear and tear.
James missed 27 games due to injury and averaged a career-low 33.4 minutes per game, and Davis missed half the season due to his own injury struggles.
Someone like Westbrook, who has made a name for himself around the league as an on-court iron man, should be able to take some weight off James’ and Davis’ shoulders moving forward.
Despite the criticism, the Lakers ultimately did what any other team would have done in their position
Jokes like the one pinned above have been running rampant on social media in regards to how the Lakers’ offseason has played out, but the brutal truth is that Rob Pelinka did what any other good GM would have done in his shoes: attack free agency aggressively and add as much talent as humanly possible.
The Lakers undoubtedly played into their big-market status when attracting free agents, and one can only assume James played a large role in landing someone like Carmelo Anthony. Still, LA had roster spots to fill and money to spend on the open market. It’s pretty standard for a GM who’s pursuing a championship to use said roster spots and money on players who can come in and contribute right away.
Ultimately, can you really blame a team for trying to get better during the offseason?
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.