The confetti may still be floating through the air from the Los Angeles Lakers’ championship win in Orlando, but in this league, there is precious little time to savor the moment. For the Lakers’ front office, it’s back to work preparing to embark on the 2020-2021 season with the goal of defending their recently-won title.
The lack of downtime is especially apparent this season, wit the NBA rumored to be hoping for a December 22 start for the 2020-21 season, which is just 75 days after the Lakers’ victory over the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the Finals.
Not ideal, though in these times, the name of the game is adapting to new challenges.
The potential quick turnaround will have to be a factor in the decision making of Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and the rest of the front office.
There have already been rumblings that some of the leagues stars are unhappy with the start date, and Danny Green even recently suggested that LeBron James could miss the first month of the season in order to rest and recover from a long championship run.
However likely or unlikely that may be, the fact remains that not only are the Lakers facing a fast turnaround to next season, but they will also likely be dealing with a condensed schedule. The NBA is hoping to finish the 2020-21 season before the Olympics in July, with a rumored 72-game schedule (or whatever number the NBA lands on) squished into that time period.
Even with the possible drop from 82 to 72 games, the limited length of the season will require games to be played more frequently than in a normal season.
For a Lakers team that is intent on defending their championship, that means having healthy, rested players for the postseason, and thus may require even more of an eye towards depth for Pelinka as he assembles next season’s roster.
The general sentiment may still be for the Lakers to “run it back” by having most of the championship team return.
But with Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope rumored to be declining their player options and joining Dwight Howard, Jared Dudley, Markieff Morris, J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters as free agents, bringing everyone back may prove to be difficult, particularly when the top priority — by far — is to re-sign Anthony Davis.
Rightfully, Lakers free agents will expect raises after bringing home a 17th championship, but the title bump in pay may squeeze a few players out of the equation, especially if bidding wars break out for their services. The Lakers may have no problems bringing in the big bucks, but they still have to play within the rules of the NBA’s salary cap.
This also applies to players still under contract, as Kyle Kuzma can be extended and Quinn Cook’s contract next season is not fully guaranteed, presenting more decisions that will help shape the team next season and beyond.
There is also an opportunity cost inherent with giving new deals to the team’s current players. There are a number of other candidates on the market and a limited amount of cap space around the league, and the teams with money to spend are not considered desirable landing spots.
That may create a buyer’s market where the Lakers could have an ability to upgrade the talent on their roster with some bargain deals, particularly since free agents will sometimes be willing to take less in order to go to a winning situation.
Would it be worth shaking up the team’s chemistry, which was on of their strengths this season, in order to bring in new pieces?
That’s just one of the questions that we will get answers to as we get closer to free agency. The offseason is always full of decisions to be made, and for the Lakers, choosing the correct ones could very well result in them hoisting another championship next season.
The front office did a tremendous job last offseason putting together a championship team, now we get to find out if they can do it again.
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