Post Free Agent Mania Musings

-The drought has ended and the Lakers landed a big name star in free agency. Not just any big name star, but the biggest and brightest in the NBA today. Say what you will about LeBron James but there is no denying this: he’s a winner. The tension between the Aaron Mintz clientele and the Lakers continued beyond Paul George not even granting us a meeting in order to “appear” at a party Russell Westbrook “threw” with the resulting casualty being one Julius Randle. The way the Lakers handled Randle in the Magic and Rob era is, in my mind, their biggest blemish to date. Coulda/woulda/shoulda simply picked up his option last summer when they did so with Larry Nance Jr. The way he played last year would have had teams salivating over one another to get trade for him on that deal if Magic and Rob truly did not see how he could fit alongside LeBron James (an ill fit, to be sure, but not an impossible one…regardless, we move on).

The other free agent signings aren’t as mystifying to me as they are to some media pundits and perhaps some Laker fans. I see Lance Stephenson as a perfect off the bench player for this team. He can be slotted in at the 2 or the 3, he’s a plus defender and he’s tough as nails. While we all remember his odd behavior in the form of blowing in LeBron’s ear during a playoff game I believe it’s a non-issue. We’ll have a question from Stu and Joel about it on media day, maybe a couple more during camp and then we’ll all be able to move on. No worse than the Matt Barnes ball-fake on Kobe and they were fine as teammates.

Similarly JaVale McGee isn’t being asked to be a franchsie anchoring superstar, he’s being asked to play defense off the bench and throw down a few lob passes. He possesses the sort of skill set you should never over pay for in the NBA and I was very glad to see that Magic and Rob found an able-bodied rim protector and finisher for as cheap as can be found. Gold star on this one. JaVale has been all the way to and through the NBA Finals, a common thread with the majority of our free agents we picked up this summer.

Rajon Rondo has never been anything but polarizing in his NBA career and that pattern continued after he signed a fairly large deal to become a Laker. While he’s not pulling down Trevor Ariza role-player money, it’s one of the larger deals signed by a non superstar this summer. The fact that many forget or ignore that’s for one year is important because it gives the Lakers a lot of options next summer. They can offer him another one-year deal next summer, should the fit prove beneficial, and then they have his Bird Rights going forward after that. Rondo’s defense has slipped in recent years as a variety of injuries have sapped some of his quickness but his court vision and superb play in the pick and roll will outshine both his defensive short comings and his spotty jump shot. There really is no better mentor for Lonzo Ball than King James and Rondo.

The fact that we did all of this and the only thing that happened is we let Randle walk for nothing is really huge. The Kawhi chatter will last until he gets traded here or somewhere else but the Lakers should hold the line and not offer either Ingram or Ball. Anyone else that fits into the salary structure should make a note not to buy property in LA and, to be honest, the Damian Lillard chatter is the more exciting of the the two for my part. I’d add Ball to the list if Dame is in play, just because I assume they’ll want to replace their PG in Portland. If we can add a bucket-maker like Dame this team will be a tough out in a playoff series. We have too much toughness and playmaking that will manufacture easier buckets for most teams to properly defend. There are a lot of smart, gritty guys on this squad, now, and it’s a great mix of young and old.

Brook Lopez or IT may still end up as Lakers but as long as we get to the minimum player threshold I’m cool with where we are right now. The one thing this will bring into focus that really isn’t being mentioned by the pundits or even here on the blog is what does this all mean for coach Luke Walton? No longer overseeing a development party means Luke has to deliver the good in terms of W’s in the win column. This is a win now team and I’m hopeful that Luke can corral some of the more colorful characters into a cohesive cadre of camaraderie! But, if we struggle a lot out of the gate (like Mike Brown Notebook struggle) chatter about Luke’s job security will fire up ver-r-r-r-y quickly. SO nip it in the bud, coach, and get some wins early!

All in all, with only a bit of housekeeping left in the form of the minimum player threshold and the $5.8 mil in cap space we have left, this has been a summer not seen since the 90s when we brought in Shaq and Kobe. Even in the doing of that we had to shed a ton of well-liked and impactful players. This summer we brought in the best player on the planet and a bunch of solid role-players and lost only one guy whose agent had as much to do with that as anything else. Magic’s job looks secure, Jeannie has her All Star (at least one) and we’reooking like we can challenge for a playoff spot. I’m as happy as a Laker fan can be in summer.

Go Lakers!!!!!