When the Los Angeles signed LeBron James this summer, many believed that a second star, either via free agency or trade, was on his way as it would be necessary to rise to championship contention.
While the Lakers did engage in trade talks on Kawhi Leonard, a deal never got done as Los Angeles was unwilling to gut their roster to acquire the former NBA Finals MVP. They did proceed to sign a couple of veterans in Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee.
Additionally, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was re-signed on another one-year contract. But in a mild surprise, Brook Lopez signed a one-year, $3.4 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. The rights to Julius Randle were renounced, and promptly joined the New Orleans Pelicans.
Lopez previously indicated he would be open to re-signing with the Lakers at a discount if they were closer to a contending team. His deal with the Bucks is something the Lakers could’ve matched, but there appears to have been more at play.
According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, the Lakers were cautious of taking time away from the likes of Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and the young core, because they want to see how they gel with James:
The Lakers didn’t want to bring back players who were expecting significant minutes, according to the second team executive. They are more interested in seeing what their young core can do alongside James.
With their latest signing being the addition of Michael Beasley, the Lakers continue to field a roster that is light on depth at center. Perhaps because of that, the team intends to play James at the position in the Lakers’ version of the Golden State Warriors’ ‘Death Lineup.’
Meanwhile, with the array of one-year contracts, the Lakers are in position to be major players come 2019 free agency. The class could include the likes of Leonard, Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker.
Until that time comes however, it will be up to their existing talent to help James return the team back to championship contention. Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson may believe Ingram will benefit the most from James’ presence, but Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Hart will all be impacted as well.
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