While the Lakers have what may be the best defense in the NBA playoffs, their offense is prone to struggling, especially when their shooters are not hitting from deep and teams are packing the paint to limit their superstars.
The Lakers’ offense needs a third superstar who’s a guard, a center who can stretch the floor, and a coaching staff who can create an offensive scheme to better empower superstar forwards LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Making savvy moves to accomplish these three goals during the coming offseason should be the Lakers’ top priority. Here are three exciting moves they should make to upgrade their offense to match their elite defense:
1. Re-sign DeMarcus Cousins
Despite evidence the Lakers’ best lineup is with Anthony Davis at the five, the Lakers don’t appear interested in making that their starting or primary lineup at this time since Davis continues to prefer to play power forward.
The dilemma the Lakers face is the two centers they currently rely upon are both traditional back-to-the-basket defensive centers JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard, who tend to clog up the paint and hurt offensive spacing. Because Vogel’s a strong believer great defense starts inside-out with rim protection, any Lakers’ stretch five center will need to be able defensively to hold his ground in the post as well as be a legit threat as a 3-point shooter.
Re-signing DeMarcus Cousins is the logical answer to finding a center who can space the floor as well as defend in the low post. Cousins experience playing alongside Anthony Davis in New Orleans make the ideal choice. Before his Achilles injury two years ago, Boogie was on pace to become the first center in NBA history to take over 500 and make close to 200 threes, which was why the Lakers originally signed him at the start of last season.
NBA observers expect Dwight Howard to leave the Lakers in free agency this offseason and DeMarcus Cousins to be re-signed as his replacement. Re-signing Boogie would be the first step to upgrading the Lakers’ offense.
2. Trade for Victor Oladipo
The Pacers’ poor performance in the NBA playoffs has resulted in the firing of head coach Nate McMillan and rumors the team should trade 28-year old All-Star guard Victor Oladipo before he becomes a free agent next season.
The arguments to trade Oladipo include concerns about the small market Pacers’ financial ability to retain him in free agency and worries regarding his health and fit with a team that played better without him than with him. Right now, the Pacers are not able to offer Victor an extension for more than 20% more than the $21 million he is going to be paid next season, which means they would have to wait until next season if they want to keep him.
Waiting to try and sign Oladipo to a max contract two offseasons from now raises the risk of losing him for nothing, which the Pacers cannot afford to do. That’s why everybody expects them to look to trade him this offseason. Oladipo will also have the same leverage Anthony Davis used to force his way to the Lakers by threatening not to re-sign if the Pacers don’t trade him to a team he prefers, which could open the door for the Lakers to get him.
LeBron should follow Kawhi’s example with PG and meet with Victor and convince him to demand a trade to the Lakers for Kuzma, Green, and a pick. It would be an opportunity for Victor to win a ring with LeBron and AD.
3. Hire Alvin Gentry
There’s no question Frank Vogel’s a great defensive coach and has done a fantastic job coaching LeBron James and Anthony Davis and positioned the Lakers to have a great chance at winning their 17th NBA championship.
But the Lakers’ offense has not been as dominating as their defense despite having two top-five superstars. The offense relies too heavily on isolation plays for their superstars and lacks the elite spacing of a modern offense. The front office and the difficulty of building a championship roster with limited cap space and trade assets are partially responsible but the coaching staff also deserves blame for the team’s static and dated offensive schemes.
The New Orleans Pelicans’ firing of head coach Alvin Gentry could give the Lakers the perfect opportunity to upgrade their coaching staff with one of the brightest and most respected offensive minds in today’s NBA game. Before his stint as Pelicans’ head coach, Gentry was the lead assistant under Steve Kerr at Golden State and the architect responsible for transforming the Warriors’ offense into a legendary championship juggernaut.
Vogel likes having former head coaches on his staff and we’re likely to have a vacancy. Frank needs an offensive coordinator to innovate that side of the game and Alvin Gentry would be the perfect candidate for the position.
There will surely be changes to the Lakers’ roster next season whether or not they win the championship. Anthony Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Avery Bradley, JaVale McGee, and Rajon Rondo all have player options. Dwight Howard, Markieff Morris, Dion Waiters, Jared Dudley, and two-way players Devontae Cacok and Kostas Antetokounmpo will all be free agents. There’s rumors the Lakers could lose Bradley and Howard to free agency.
While the Lakers won’t have cap space, they will have a $9 million MLE, which they could use to sign a veteran point guard like Goran Dragic, who would be the perfect replacement if Avery Bradley opted out of his contract. An upgraded Lakers’ starting lineup next season of Goran Dragic, Victor Oladipo, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and DeMarcus Cousins backed by Rondo, Caruso, KCP, Morris, and McGee would be championship caliber.
With the pandemic forcing teams to cut expenses, a rich local television contract, and an ownership committed to winning, the Lakers should have opportunities next season to upgrade their offense to match their defense.
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