Lakers’ Best Plan Is Two Superstars!
Why two superstars and a deep, diverse, talented roster of role players is the Lakers’ best path to building a championship team
Rob Pelinka and the Los Angeles Lakers’ front office should take a hard look at the great championship teams in their history before presuming that three rather than two superstars is the best path to their next championship team.
The question they should be asking themselves is whether three superstars is really the better blueprint for building a championship basketball team versus two superstars surrounded by a deep, diverse, talented roster of role players. One thing that’s remained constant whether we’re talking about the Magic and Kareem Showtime Lakers or the Kobe and Shaq Threepeat Lakers is that there’s still just one ball and only enough touches to satisfy two superstars.
I’m not saying James Worthy wasn’t a great contributor to the Los Angeles Lakers’ championships but Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were really the only legitimate superstars on that team just as Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal were the only legitimate superstars on their Lakers teams. James Worthy might have been a superstar on another team but there just weren’t enough touches for him to be more than just a great role player.
The same was true for the Miami Heat and their celebrated Big Three. Chris Bosh’s 23.7% usage for the 2012 Miami Heat championship team was a distant third to LeBron James’ 31.0% usage or Dwyane Wade’s 30.4% usage and his 22.4% usage for the 2013 Miami Heat championship team was a distant fifth to LeBron James’ 29.3% usage and Dwyane Wade’s 28.6% usage. Big Three semantics aside, the reality is Chris Bosh was just a key role player.
That’s not taking anything away from selfless players of the past like James Worthy or Chris Bosh or the current day like Klay Thompson but the reality is there just aren’t enough touches in the game for more than two superstars and trying to squeeze in a third ball dominant player just doesn’t work. That’s also something the players themselves now realize. Why do you think Jimmy Butler’s probably going to decide not to re-sign with the Philadelphia 76ers?
That’s why the Lakers should rethink the idea of chasing a third superstar to team with LeBron and AD. Should they succeed in trading for Anthony Davis, their focus should shift to adding depth, diversity, and talent to complement and support their two superstars rather than targeting a third superstar. Should the Pelicans refuse to accept a reasonable offer for Anthony Davis, the Lakers should not hesitate to move on to other trade targets and free agency.
The odd reality is the Lakers just might have a better opportunity to sign a superstar in free agency if they’re not successful in trading for Anthony Davis. I can’t help wondering which version of the Lakers LeBron pitched to Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler when he talked to them about joining the Lakers. Did he pitch coming to be his co-star or coming as the Lakers’ third superstar? Hard to imagine Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler as the Lakers third option.
Should the Lakers succeed in trading for Anthony Davis and pairing him with LeBron James, which top-tier superstar available in free agency do you think is going to want to come to Los Angeles to be third option to LeBron and AD? While teaming up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis sounds irresistible, the reality is most superstars want and need the ball in their hands and don’t want to be in a situation where they have to sacrifice their game and legacy.
There’s also the question of smartly managing your cap space. Overspending to get a third superstar whom you wouldn’t be able to utilize to the fullest is going to require you to fill out the holes in your roster with minimum salary veterans or rookies, which is one of the reasons the Golden State Warriors are struggling and may be nearing the end of their five year dynasty. They have more superstars than the Raptors but not as deep, diverse, or talented roster.
Instead of spending $32 million on a third superstar who would have to sacrifice his game, the Lakers might be better off signing a pair of second tier stars like Nikola Vucevic and Malcolm Brogdon at $16 million each or a trio of third tier stars like Brook Lopez, Danny Green, and Bojan Bogdanovic at $11 million each, or a quartet of fourth tier stars like Dewayne Dedmon, Marcus Morris, Patrick Beverley, and Al-Farouq Aminu at $8 million each.
The Lakers need to pair LeBron with a second superstar and then surround them with deadly spot-up shooters and lengthy lock-down defenders who don’t need to have the ball to impact the game. They also need to change the nature of their roster to replace some of their young talent with proven veteran experience. That’s why ultimately a trade for Anthony Davis could be the best solution as long as the price they have to pay is fair and reasonable.
While I no longer think the Lakers need to come out of an AD trade with cap space for a third superstar, it is important that they keep some of their young core and have the cap space to sign veteran talent to replace what they lost. The alternative to a trade would be signing a second superstar in free agency and then possibly trading young talent and the#4 pick for a couple of veteran players in positions of need such as starting center or backup point guard.
Rob Pelinka and the Los Angeles Lakers’ front office need to be careful not to get overly greedy and give up all their trading chips to build a Superstar Big Three that would leave them with a roster without depth, diversity, or talent.