The Lakers don’t need a third superstar!
Why the Lakers would be smart to pass on trading for Anthony Davis if they’re able to pair LeBron James with Kevin Durant
How many superstars are too many? Could Magic Johnson’s ultimate superteam with LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Anthony Davis, three alpha-dog superstars who need to dominate the ball, actually work?
Finding two superstars who complement and can play with each other isn’t easy. Finding a third superstar who’s willing and able to sacrifice his game to fit alongside the other two superstars is even more difficult and challenging. Third superstars are often harder to find than second superstars because few superstars are capable of or willing to make the sacrifices to be third wheel. That’s why superstars like Klay Thompson are so unique and invaluable.
On a superteam with LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Anthony Davis, the big question is who’s going to sacrifice their game? Who’s going to volunteer to be Chris Bosh? This isn’t a case where a superstar pecking order is set in stone. LeBron may be the current best player on the planet today but KD and AD are two of his three likely successors along with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Truth is there may not be enough basketballs for three top-five superstars.
Frankly, if the Lakers are successful in signing Kevin Durant in free agency next summer, there’s probably no way in the world Magic Johnson would be able to resist trying to trade for Anthony Davis to create a Lakers’ superteam.
It’s also not impossible that Luke Walton could find a way for LeBron, KD, and AD to thrive, perhaps by complementing them with two elite defensive role players like the current point guard Lonzo Ball and center JaVale McGee. Maybe KD and AD would be willing to assume the lessor roles Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh accepted when they played with LeBron on the Miami Heat, although that may be too much to ask from two alpha dogs like KD and AD.
There’s also good reason to believe that Anthony Davis might not want to be traded to the Lakers to play with LeBron James and Kevin Durant. There were rumors part of the reason Paul George decided not to go to the Lakers was his concern about possibly ending up as third wheel to LeBron and Kawhi. Just because AD signed with Klutch Sports doesn’t mean Rich Paul is going to ask for a trade to the Lakers unless he’s convinced it’s in his client’s best interest.
LeBron, KD, and AD could be a tough fit. We’ve seen the Lakers struggle to pair ball dominant Brandon Ingram with LeBron James and we’ve seen the kinds of sacrifices Wade and Bosh needed to make to play with LeBron in Miami. The simple truth is the Lakers would be smart to pass on trading for Anthony Davis and use their talented young core and complement of draft picks to surround LeBron and KD with a deep bench of elite role players.
Fit and depth are critical factors teams often overlook when attempting to build a championship roster. There’s no question multiple superstars are critical to winning in today’s NBA but championships are still won by teams.
There are franchises like the Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets who have two superstars but just cannot seem to put together a championship roster because they’ve ignored fit or depth and made bad personnel choices. At the other end of the spectrum are the Warriors, the masters at surrounding top-five superstars Steph Curry and Kevin Durant with elite roll players like Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston.
That’s the model the Lakers should follow if they’re able to sign Kevin Durant. You don’t need a third superstar if you have two superstars who are top-five players in the league like LeBron and KD. Instead, you need three star quality starters to complement them and a talented, deep, and versatile bench to back them up, which is why the Lakers should pass on trading for Anthony Davis, who’d certainly cost the Lakers most if not all of their elite young core.
The smarter strategy would be to use the talented young core and picks it would have cost to trade for Anthony Davis to build a championship roster around LeBron and KD. Lonzo Ball’s defense, playmaking, and rebounding, Kyle Kuzma’s ability to stretch the defense and play off the ball, Josh Hart’s two-way versatility and toughness, and JaVale McGee’s ability to protect the rim and finish make all of them excellent fits to play with LeBron and KD.
The only member of the Lakers’ young core who doesn’t project to be a good fit with LeBron and KD because of his ball dominance is Brandon Ingram. Fortunately, Ingram is so talented he could conceivably earn a role as that elusive third superstar. A Ball, Ingram, James, Durant, McGee starting lineup would be fun. Or Brandon could be extended and then swapped for proven veteran star like Bradley Beal who be a good fit playing with LeBron and KD.
Flexibility is the final reason why the Lakers should pass on trading for Anthony Davis as it would likely cost the Lakers their future flexibility. They would have zero cap space or tradable assets. By passing on the trade, the Lakers would have maximum flexibility. They would still have a wide open path and ceiling for their young stars to become superstars down the road. They’d be the next generation of superteam. Less superstars, more team.
LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the two best players in the game today. They don’t need a third superstar to win. They just need to be surrounded and supported by a talented, deep, versatile championship caliber roster.