How to Build a Championship Roster!

While the Los Angeles Lakers don’t have the trading chips to make a big move, here are five small moves that together could equal a big move

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All Rob Pelinka has to do to understand how to build a championship roster around LeBron James and Anthony Davis is to duplicate the formula the Lakers used to build title teams around Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.

It starts by realizing the Lakers don’t need and don’t have enough touches and possessions for a third superstar. What they need are multiple second and third level stars who are elite shooters, playmakers, and defenders. They need proven veterans like Derek Fisher, Robert Horry, Rick Fox, Ron Harper, and A. C. Green, battle tested professionals with the physical talent and mental toughness to play at a championship level when challenged.

While veterans like Danny Green certainly meet this criteria, the mettle of the rest of the Lakers’ roster is still in question. While they’ve been good enough to dominate losing teams, they’ve struggled against winning teams. Many of the Lakers’ key role players have underperformed or disappeared in the big, high pressure, high stakes games against elite, upper tier NBA teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, or Los Angeles Clippers.

Lacking the trading chips in the form of draft picks and tradeable contracts to make a big move, the Los Angles Lakers may have to be content with five small smart, savvy moves like these that together could equal a big move:

1. Sign Darren Collison as Free Agent

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The Los Angeles Lakers’ greatest need at this point in time is to acquire a legitimate point guard who can shoot the three, run the pick-and-roll, and replace Rajon Rondo as the primary playmaker when LeBron James sits. Rajon Rondo’s inability to lead the reserves to a positive net rating when LeBron James is on the bench has become the Lakers’ Achilles heel and the main roster issue they need to fix if they hope to win a championship.

Fortunately for the Lakers, 32-year old free agent point guard Darren Collison, who retired last summer to devote time helping the less fortunate through his Jehovah’s Witnesses faith, has decided to return to the NBA. Collison, who wants to sign with one of the Los Angeles teams, would be the perfect solution for the second playmaker the Lakers need. He’s an elite three-point shooter, outstanding playmaker, and capable defender.

The Lakers should be the favorite to sign Collison as they can offer him more money and playing time than the Clippers and he has a history playing for Frank Vogel when he was the coach of the Indiana Pacers.

2. Trade Kuzma and Cook to Kings for Bogdan Bogdanovic

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The Kings have committed big money to Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Dewayne Dedmon, and Cory Joseph, leaving them unlikely to pay Bogdan Bogdanovic what he’s going to demand as a free agent this summer. According to Mark Stein of the New York Times, Sacramento has inquired about trading Bogdan for Kyle Kuzma. The 24-year old Kuzma has a bigger upside but the 27-year old Bogdanovic is a better player right now.

This is a trade that could be a win-win for both teams. The Lakers get the experienced third scorer they need in Bogdanovic, who’s a better 3-point shooter, shot creator, playmaker, and defender than the younger Kuzma. The Kings get a young player whom Walton loves in Kyle Kuzma who has more upside as a pure scorer than Bogdanovic and avoid losing an asset for nothing when Bogdan leaves as an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Trading Kuzma and Cook to the Kings also opens up the roster spot the Lakers need to sign point guard Darren Collison to be the team’s second playmaker to run the offense when LeBron James is not on the floor.

3. Trade Horton-Tucker, Bradley, and Daniels for Robert Covington

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With Darren Collision aboard as the their second playmaker and Bogdan Bogdanovic as their third scorer, the Lakers next priority would be find an elite wing defender to guard players like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Timberwolves are looking to move forward Robert Covington and his three-year $35 million contract. The 29-year old Covington, who plays small and power forward, was a first team All-Defensive player in 2018.

The perennially rebuilding Timberwolves are looking to shed payroll and add young talent and/or draft picks. While the Lakers don’t have draft picks to offer, they do have a tantalizing talent in Talen Horton-Tucker. With a 7' 1" wingspan and hands almost as big as Kawhi Leonard’s, the 19-year old Horton-Tucker has been tearing up the G-League and has great upside as a potential big-time scorer, playmaker, and defender.

Trading Robert Covington would save the Timberwolves a bundle of salary and net them a potential young star in Talen Horton-Tucker and give the Lakers an elite wing defender and top quality backup power forward.

4. Sign Andre Iguodala as Free Agent

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Trading for Robert Covington opens up two roster spots which the Lakers can use to upgrade team’s bench. The first target the Lakers should look to add to their roster is Memphis Grizzlies’ small forward Andre Iguodala. While the Grizzlies still contend they can trade Iggy, he’s more likely to be bought out and waived than traded. Iggy’s already banked almost half of his $17 million salary and he’s going to want to control where he goes.

The Lakers, Clippers, and Rockets either don’t have the assets or desire to trade for the 35-year old Iguodala and Andre is more likely to negotiate a buyout than to approve of a trade to a team not in the championship hunt. Bottom line, Iggy will want to end his storied NBA career competing for another championship ring and the fact that the Lakers will be able to offer him a bigger role and more playing time than the Clippers should prevail.

For a team looking to win multiple NBA championships, you can never have too many elite wing defenders to guard all of the great offensive wings like Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Paul George,

5. Convert Devontae Cacok from Two-Way Player

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The Lakers should take advantage of the second roster spot opened up by trading for Robert Covington by converting young power forward/center Devontae Cacok’s existing two-way contract to a standard NBA contract. Having cashed in budding young star Talen Horton-Tucker to land Robert Covington, the Lakers should lock up their next promising young star in Devontae Cacok as a future backup power forward and small ball center.

Cacok has been so impressive as a constant double-double machine playing for the South Bay Lakers the team had no choice but to sign him to a two-way deal to prevent other NBA teams from signing and stealing him away. Devontae is another great find by the Lakers’ scouting department and could be the Lakers’ version of Montrezl Harrell, an athletic, springy big man versatile enough to play as power forward or small-ball center.

Converting Cacok from a two-way to standard contract would balance the Lakers roster as well as giving the team a small ball center option they currently do not have but could find extremely valuable down the road.

Five small moves that together could equal a big move …

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The above five moves resulted in swapping five ineffective reserves who were either not playing well or playing at all for five replacements who can provide desperately needed bench shooting, playmaking, and defense. Together, the five moves swap Kyle Kuzma, Quinn Cook, Avery Bradley, Troy Daniels, and Talen Horton-Tucker for Darren Collison, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Robert Covington, Andre Iguodala, and Devontae Cacok.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis are unquestionably the best superstar duo in the NBA. They give the Los Angeles Lakers a floor so high they might go the entire season without losing a game to a team with a losing record. But LeBron and AD and a solid starting lineup does not give the Lakers a high enough ceiling to win the NBA championship. For that, they need a major upgrade of their second string, especially when LeBron James sits.

Adding Darren Collison, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Robert Covington, Andre Iguodala, and Devontae Cacok to the Lakers’ bench will give the Lakers the third scorer, second playmaker, and elite wing defenders to win it all.

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