To the average observer, the Los Angeles Lakers free agency decisions since LeBron James’ announcement may seem illogical. Rather than sign shooters who can benefit from James’ penchant for driving and kicking, they signed the likes of Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, and Rajon Rondo.
As it turns out, those moves were still made with LeBron’s guidance and approval. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne, James and Lakers president Magic Johnson laid out a plan for free agency and beyond on the first night of free agency before James had made the announcement that he would sign in LA:
Here is the answer: exactly what James and Lakers president Magic Johnson planned when they met for more than three hours on the first night of free agency. According to multiple sources within the Lakers and close to James, this is the rollout of a plan Johnson outlined for James the night of June 30 at James’ home. The signings, which sources say James has consulted on but have been executed at Johnson and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka’s direction, follow this vision.
According to ESPN, the Lakers plan on reshaping the roster to look nothing like James’ Cavaliers which featured a cast of one-dimensional role players. While the free agent additions this summer may just be one-year rentals, it’s clear that the Lakers have a mold in mind: players who can handle the ball, make plays, and defend. That may be why they have seemingly been reluctant to include Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram in trade negotiations for star players.
It should be noted, however, that neither Rondo nor Stephenson are the players their reputations indicated. Neither are good defenders despite flashes of strong play on that end and in Stephenson’s case flashy passes often replace any level of actual substance.
Nevertheless, they are rentals and likely to only be on the Lakers for one season. Their main contribution to the organization will be a test run to see how to make a contending roster in 2019.