It feels as though there is no real offseason for the Los Angeles Lakers anymore. With nonstop speculation about blockbuster trades, free agency signings, the lottery, combine, NBA draft, and Summer League, the past few months were almost as eventful as the regular season.
As last season ended, it felt like the Lakers had turned a corner. They missed the playoffs again but won plenty of games during the second half of the season and between mid-January and mid-March, they had one of the better records in the league.
Much has changed for the Lakers this summer. LeBron James is here but Julius Randle and many others are gone. Here are the five biggest storylines of the 2018 offseason as Lakers training camp is set to open in less than a week.
No. 5: Lonzo Ball’s Offseason Knee Surgery
Lonzo Ball is a lightning rod. To some he showed enormous promise last year but to others he was a disappointment. Love him or hate him, he is central to the Lakers’ plans for the future.
During exit interviews, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson told Ball that this was going to the most important offseason of his life. He had to get stronger and in better condition, and had to work on all facets of his offensive game, especially his shooting.
Some of that was curtailed as Ball received treatment on his left knee before ultimately undergoing surgery. He’s said to be healthy for the start of training camp but the Lakers are going to build Ball up to playing in 5-on-5 scrimmages.
No. 4: Josh Hart Wins Las Vegas Summer League MVP
Josh Hart was injured heading into his rookie season and played sparingly during the first couple of months. When opportunity opened in January due to a depleted roster, Hart made the most of his opportunity.
Hart shined from mid-January to mid-March, when he suffered another injury during practice. But he returned to finish the season and did so with a flourish.
The Lakers announced that Hart would play in Summer League, but see limited action. He convinced them to loosen the reins and went on to dominate. He won’t begin the season as a starter but will get plenty of minutes.
No. 3: Lakers Sign Rajon Rondo
The biggest weakness in last year’s roster was the absence of a viable back up for Ball at the point guard position. Tyler Ennis and Alex Caruso should not be starting games or playing major minutes, so whenever Ball was injured, the team really suffered.
It got so bad that head coach Luke Walton turned to Brandon Ingram to play point. It worked well until Ingram, too, was injured.
Rajon Rondo is a former All-Star and NBA champion. He has been written off time and time again the past few years, but he continued to surprise everyone with his high level of play.
Rondo had a very good season last year and was instrumental in the New Orleans Pelicans advancing to the second round of the playoffs. Everyone assumed he would re-sign with the Pelicans this summer, but in a surprise move, Rondo joined the Lakers.
He is the best point guard the Lakers have had in many years. Rondo is supposed to be Ball’s back up and mentor, but no one would be surprised if he presses for the starting role.
Either way, getting a point guard like Rondo, either as a starter of really good back up, was the best move the Lakers made this offseason other than signing LeBron James.
No. 2: Lakers Resist Temptation To Trade Members Of Young Core
When the Lakers were hopeful of signing James this offseason, it was presumed that to get him they would have to sign at least one other star first. When Paul George did not so much as take a meeting with the Lakers, there appeared to be tremendous pressure on the front office to quickly trade for Kawhi Leonard.
Reportedly, to get Leonard, it would have required a haul of Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Hart. Sometimes the best moves a team makes in the offseason are the moves that are NOT made. This is one of those times.
When healthy, Leonard was a top-five NBA talent but he has not been healthy in over a year. No one knows for sure if he has fully recovered and if he will regain his prior form.
Likewise, no one knows what will become of Ingram, Kuzma and Hart. But most Lakers fans are willing to be patient and are excited to find out how they will develop.
Holding on to the three young players was the right thing to do. Resisting the pressure to trade them for Leonard was a significant storyline this offseason.
No. 1: Signing LeBron James
Easily the top storyline of the offseason for the Lakers was their signing James after missing out on George, who once was considered a lock. George’s decision is one that will be studied and critiqued for years to come.
There are many great NBA players but only one who makes any team he joins an immediate title contender. James is not just the best player in the league, he is arguably the best player of all time. He makes everyone around him better.
Signing James would be the highlight of any team’s offseason. It signals a re-birth for the Lakers franchise. It has energized the fan base.
The Lakers may not win a title this year but they will be a contender and make the playoffs. For a team that has missed the postseason for five straight years, that is a very welcome development.