When Game 4 of the NBA Finals ended, the basketball world came to realize one thing: the Cleveland Cavaliers, as constructed, were not nearly good enough to beat the Warriors. In fact, most thought it was a long-shot for the Cavs to even win the East next season, seeing as to how bad James' supporting cast has become.
So when LeBron James went to the Los Angeles Lakers last week, he (understandably) wanted something different. And Magic was happy to oblige.
See, while surrounding James with shooters has been successful in years past, the team recognizes that things are different this time. They've elected to go with toughness, fearlessness, and basketball IQ over guys who just stand in a corner and wait for their turn to shoot.
Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne recently shed some light as to what exactly the Lakers are doing:
The Cavs were a team of specialists — many of them shooters — who were placed around the league’s ultimate Swiss Army knife. But at times, especially during the playoffs, it did have the feel that James was playing 1-on-5 and needing to play 48 minutes because he was the team’s only true creator and playmaker.
Cleveland also prioritized shooters and offense-minded players ahead of defenders and steadily sunk in the defensive rankings over the past three seasons, bottoming out as the No. 29 defensive efficiency team last season. This became a liability at times, particularly against the juggernaut Warriors.
What Johnson pitched to James was a team stocked with tough-minded playmakers like Stephenson and Rondo who could free up James to finish in the lanes and from the post, rather than having to create the lion’s share of the offense himself. Rondo and Stephenson are also defensively versatile as their length enables them to be effective defenders in switches. That also follows with the talents of the 6-foot-6 Ball, who showed the ability to be an elite rebounder and defender for a guard in his rookie year.
For LeBron and the Lakers, they want to avoid being a team similar to the Cavaliers. With guys like Rondo, Stephenson, and McGee, they've ensured that they'll be something else.
Plus, with guys like Ingram, Kuzma, Svi, and Wagner, they're certainly not void of shooting.