Los Angeles Lakers Are Playing Chess While the Rest of NBA Plays Checkers!
Whether it’s the game to win on the hardwood or behind the scenes to land talent, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Rob Pelinka and Klutch Sport’s Rich Paul are veritable chessmasters while the rest of the league are still playing checkers.
In a series of visionary moves, Pelinka and Paul engineered a truly dramatic rebuilding of the Lakers’ championship team and transformed a makeshift and flawed roster into a dynamic juggernaut poised to dominate the future. They not only secured the future of the franchise by signing Klutch clients LeBron James and Anthony Davis to long term deals but also upgraded the supporting cast into a deeper and more talented and versatile roster.
There’s no question Rob Pelinka of the Los Angeles Lakers and Rich Paul of Klutch Sports were working in concert this offseason to solve the team’s personnel needs and negotiate perfect landing spots for the agency’s clients. The Lakers/Klutch partnership that brought LeBron and AD to the Lakers continued to reap benefits as the team re-signed Klutch client KCP to a team friendly deal and stole Klutch client Montrezl Harrell from the Clippers.
While the rest of the NBA was trying to copy and catch up with the Lakers, Pelinka and Paul shocked everybody with one masterful move after another as they zigged through an offseason while their competition was zagging. The moves they made not only established the purple and gold as odds on favorites to repeat as champions but also set the stage for the eventual transition of the Lakers from LeBron James’ team to Anthony Davis’ team.
The biggest grandmaster moves Pelinka and Paul made this offseason were the new two-year $85 million contract extension for 35-year old LeBron James and five-year $190 million contract for 27-year old Anthony Davis. While everybody debated whether AD would sign a 1+1 or 2+1 contract, the Lakers and Klutch Sports surprised the league by locking up superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis for three and four years respectively.
In a league where superstars wield the power and control teams with short term deals and player options, Pelinka and Paul opted to go in the other direction with James and Davis committing long term to being Lakers. Knowing the league’s two best players will be wearing purple and gold for the foreseeable future gives the Lakers’ franchise a major advantage over every other team in terms of stability and appeal as a player destination.
While the Clippers’ and Bucks’ futures are being held captive by superstars with free agency options, the Lakers with the help of Klutch Sports have been able to secure the future of the franchise by extending LeBron and AD.
The next grandmaster move by Pelinka and Paul was stealing Klutch client Montrezl Harrell from the crosstown rival Los Angeles Clippers for the $10.3 million non-taxpayer MLE for two years with a player option on second year. The only thing better than signing a talented young player at a significant discount is stealing that player from one of your major competitors. The move not only made the Lakers better but also weakened the Clippers.
The Lakers essentially did the same thing to the Milwaukee Bucks, stealing elite 3&D starting wing defender Wesley Matthews with their $3.6 million Bi-Annual Exception for two years to replace Danny Green who was traded. What’s interesting about the Matthews signing is Wes is represented by Jeff Austin, who is also the agent for Dennis Schroder, the point guard for whom the Lakers traded Danny Green and their 2020 first round draft pick.
Once again, we see Rob Pelinka and the Lakers use their close relationship with prominent player agents to steal two valuable players from their two main competitors, savvy moves that transformed the Lakers’ back court.
LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and Talen Horton-Tucker give the Lakers 5 Klutch clients. Dennis Schroder, Wesley Matthews, and Kostas Antetokounmpo give them 3 Octagon clients. Building a close relationship with Jeff Austin and Alex Saratsis of Octagon could give Rob Pelinka the opportunity to recruit Giannis Antetokounmpo much like his signing of KCP gave him the chance to recruit LeBron and AD.
Giannis Antetokounmpo grew up idolizing LeBron James and recently said that winning is his primary goal, he would be happy playing with LeBron and AD, and being the number 2 or 3 option on the team would not bother him. While the Lakers may have abandoned their plans to chase Giannis in free agency, they still seem to be pursuing a plan to build a Superstar Big Three with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Unlike Kawhi, Giannis seems open to the possibility of joining LeBron and AD on the Lakers and Pelinka appears to be following the same agency game plan to acquire Antetokounmpo he deployed to land James and Davis.
The partnership Rob Pelinka built with Rich Paul has benefited both the Lakers and Klutch Sports so it’s only natural Rob would be open to creating a similar symbiotic relationship with Jeff Austin and Alex Saratsis of Octagon. There’s also no doubt Rob Pelinka and the Los Angeles Lakers are targeting Giannis. The difference is the Lakers may have a secret weapon via their budding partnership with Octagon to help them land Antetokounmpo.
It may take Giannis demanding to be traded to the Lakers like Anthony Davis did and vowing not to re-sign if traded to any other team but there’s no question Pelinka is working to set the stage for Giannis to join the Lakers. From signing Kostas to a two-way contract, trading for Schroder, and then signing Matthews, Rob Pelinka has been following the same successful game plan that brought LeBron James and Anthony Davis to the Lakers.
While the Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, and Golden State Warriors are also strategizing how to land Giannis, they’re still playing checkers when compared to grandmaster Rob Pelinka, who’s playing world class chess.
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