For the last six years, I have watched the Los Angeles Lakers fail offseason after offseason. For a while, life as a Laker fan felt as if we were in a Les Misérables sequel.
Free agent after free agent denied the Lakers and it got to the point where fans were making sacrifices to the Gods to be able to give a player like LaMarcus Aldridge a max contract.
For the last four years, the most exciting thing to happen during a Lakers offseason was getting a spot high enough in the draft order to keep their first round pick (a result of the Steve Nash trade in 2012). A team that won 16 championships and was once the pinnacle of cool was scraping the barrel of free agents and overpaying the likes of Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov.
But the tides seemed to change when the Knight of House Lakers, Mr. Showtime, the man with the million-dollar smile, Magic Johnson, returned to the Lakers and took on the role as President of Basketball Operations.
Magic represented the Lakers during their peak era. Sure, the early 2000s Lakers were the best teams, but the Showtime Lakers of the 80s defined and era and captivated the entire basketball world. The Lakers needed swag and Magic was the only man with enough to save them.
Although the decision to have him take charge of all basketball operations for the Lakers, true Laker fans trusted the move. And now, in his second season in the Lakers’ front office, Magic has proven himself. I must say that I don’t fully understand all of the signings, but at the point, I’m trusting Magic implicitly.
Here are my grades for the Lakers’ offseason moves so far:
Lakers sign LeBron James to a four-year, $154 million contract
During the first full day of NBA free agency, there was a lot of speculation about LeBron joining the Lakers. I wasn’t sure if James would trust the Lakers enough to help guide his twilight years in the league, but I was confident it could happen. And when Magic spoke with the press and gave himself a timeline to help the Lakers succeed, I knew he had something up his sleeve.
But I can’t say that I wasn’t surprised. When I heard the news that LeBron was becoming LAbron, I ran around the house for a solid five minutes and yelled thanks to all the Gods I could name.
Sure, he’s 33 years old. Sure, we’re still not better than the Lakers. Sure, there are no other superstars with him.
I. Don’t. Care.
The truth is, the Lakers now have the greatest player in the world. Everything else is secondary. Once you have LBJ, you have a shot to win it all.
Lakers sign Rajon Rondo to a one-year, $9 million contract
I never thought I would like a move that brought any member of the 2008 Boston Celtics (fuck that team) to the Lakers, but here I am a changed man. Maybe, I’ve just grown weaker with age, but I actually didn’t hate this move.
Rondo is a high-IQ point guard who knows how to win. He may assist-hunt sometimes in the regular season, but in the playoffs, he’s all business. I was especially impressed with how hard he went at the Warriors in the playoffs. Rondo does not fear the Warriors and players like that are hard to come by.
Rondo will also be defending Lonzo every practice, which will only speed up the development process. It is similar to when the Lakers signed Metta World Peace to the vet minimum two seasons ago just to train with Julius Randle every day.
The only hiccup in this deal was the money for me. Why pay Rondo $9 million? I’m honestly not sure he was getting any larger offers from teams.
Lakers sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a one-year, $12 million contract
As many have hypothesized, I believe this deal was many for Rich Paul, the agent to represents both KCP and LeBron James. This is his second one-year contract for the Lakers where he has been overpaid. But hey, if that was a deciding factor in bringing the king to LA, I’m okay with it.
Don’t get me wrong, I like KCP, but I’m not even sure if he should be starting. He is a great defender when he wants to be, but I would like more than 38% from three and 78% from the free throw line from my starting shooting guard.
I like him as a player, but I am not a huge fan of the $12 million when you have another shooting guard like Wayne Ellington out there for probably half the price.
Grade: C (but I get why they did it)
Lakers sign Lance Stephenson to a one-year, $4.5 million contract
I need to state my bias outright, but I am a big fan of Stephenson’s game. From what I have read about him, he may not be the greatest person, but all I can do is judge his game. And also, it is absolutely hilarious that LeBron will play on the same team as a man who once famously blew in his ear mid-game.
Stephenson may have a history of being a locker room problem, when he is on, he can take over on both sides of the floor. He is a boom-or-bust guy, which is sometimes needed to beat a super team.
Again, the issue here for me is money. I honestly am not sure if he would have earned more than a minimum contract. But, wings that defend are in demand, so maybe I’m wrong.
Lakers sign JaVale McGee to a one-year, $2.3 million contract
I am so excited to get to yell that every time McGee messes up during a game. I live for mini traditions like that to break up the monotony that can happen during an 82-game season. And I don’t think he’s a bad backup at all. He is very long and can be used to match up against many top centers in the league.
My question here is why sign McGee so soon? The Lakers still have not signed a true starting center yet, but McGee was one of the first deals done. Just seems weird to me. If I were the Lakers’ front office, I would have prioritized signing Brook Lopez. Maybe LeBron will be the center now or maybe the Lakers really love free agent Alex Len.
I can’t really give a grade yet because I’m pretty sure the Lakers will sign or trade for a big man soon. If JaVale is the backup, I like the move. If he is expected to start, I hate it. Only time will tell.