Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka has had an extremely busy offseason as he pulled off one of the biggest trades possible in landing Anthony Davis and did extremely well in putting together a roster around Davis and LeBron James that many believe can contend for an NBA championship.
Those free agency signings came in waves following Kawhi Leonard’s decision to join the Los Angeles Clippers instead of the Lakers. Many fans were concerned the Lakers hurt themselves in free agency by waiting on Leonard’s decision, but Pelinka says the Lakers had plans in place.
“Once a decision was made by certain star players, we had everything lined up, and you can see everything quickly went into place in terms of our strategic plan for the roster depth route,” Pelinka noted during Davis’ introductory press conference. “All of that work was going on simultaneously. It was not a process of waiting. It was a process of doing work and being prepared for whatever the decisions would be.”
The Lakers did move very quickly following Leonard’s decision, adding Danny Green and Avery Bradley on two-year deals and DeMarcus Cousins and Quinn Cook on one-year deals. Additionally, they brought back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Alex Caruso, and Rajon Rondo on two-year deals.
This was not an accident as Pelinka noted. “As you look at our roster construction, to have most of the free agents we signed with a two-year window so that the only salaries on our books going forward in that third year are LeBron and Anthony Davis. It gives the ability to not only contend in the short term with the players we wanted but also add a superstar or max player in July of 2021 if that’s something we want to look to do.”
Pelinka was very smart in making sure he kept flexibility in 2021 free agency. The likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bradley Beal, Rudy Gobert, and CJ McCollum could all be free agents that summer in addition to Leonard.
As far as the present is concerned, Pelinka admitted that he learned from his previous experiences. “We took a lot of what happened last year into account when kind of shaping this roster and shaping our goals for this season,” Pelinka added. “The North Stars for us were to add more shooting, we wanted to have perimeter defenders, high IQ players, guys of high character and a versatile lineup.”
The lack of shooting for the Lakers during the 2018-19 NBA season was an issue all year long and they made sure that wouldn’t happen again. Just as important to Pelinka, however, was the versatility and ability to play any style they want.
“We love the fact that when Coach Vogel and his staff need certain lineups at certain points in a game, he can say, ‘OK, I need an all-shooting lineup. So I’m going to have Quinn Cook as a shooter at the point, Avery Bradley as a shooter, LeBron, Anthony, Kuz, Dudley.’ You could throw DeMarcus in there as a big. Or you could say, ‘I want a lockdown, defensive lineup. We need to get some stops.’ And you could have JaVale at the 5, Anthony Davis at the 4, LeBron, Danny Green, Avery.”
Without a doubt, the Lakers roster for the 2019-20 season is far above that of a season ago. Even as Pelinka eyes the future at the same time, he has no questions about the franchise’s short-term goal.
“For us, anything short of a championship is not success.”