LeBron James-era Lakers built to battle Warriors, not beat them at their own game, GM says

LeBron James-era Lakers built to battle Warriors, not beat them at their own game, GM says

The Los Angeles Lakers were unquestionably the winners of free agency. How could they not be after signing LeBron James, the best player on the planet? But the margin of their victory in this subjective game has been lessened by some of their follow-up moves, which included signing JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson and Rajon Rondo

Neither of those three are bad players, necessarily — in fact Rondo was quite good during the playoffs last season — but they didn’t exactly seem like they should be a team’s first choices in free agency in 2018. And that doesn’t even take into account that none of them fit the mold of players who have excelled alongside James in the past. In particular, none of the three are good shooters, and the Lakers were already one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the league. 

However, according to Lakers GM Rob Pelinka, the brain trust in L.A. — and that includes LeBron — decided not to try and mimic the Warriors, but to go all in on toughness and defense. Via ESPN:

“If your goal is to win a championship, you’ve got to look at the way the champs are assembled and how you can give yourself the best chance to take them down,” Pelinka said of one of the many reasons for the construction of the Lakers’ current roster. “It is certainly part of the equation. … [President of basketball operations] Earvin [Johnson] and I had a conversation, and LeBron echoed this sentiment: I think to try to play the Warriors at their own game is a trap. No one is going to beat them at their own game, so that is why we wanted to add these elements of defense and toughness and depth and try to look at areas where we will have an advantage.”

Now, these aren’t necessarily bad ideas. We saw last season how the Rockets used versatility, defense and toughness to nearly beat the Warriors in the Western Conference finals. However, they also had tons of shooting. Plus, were these three players the best options in order to achieve those goals? 

Only time will tell, and perhaps it’s fair to just let this all play out. After all, LeBron has proved capable of dragging far worse teams on deep playoff runs. Plus, the Lakers may not be done making moves this summer, so things could look different heading into training camp. At this point, however, it’s certainly fair to question if the Lakers’ strategy since signing LeBron has been sound. 

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