Rob Pelinka must be one tired man. The general manager for the Los Angeles Lakers has made a roster overhaul with this team. Heading into the offseason, question marks were surrounding the futures of productive players in Dennis Schroder, Andre Drummond, and Alex Caruso.
While Schroder hasn’t officially left, all signs point to him leaving town in a sign-and-trade. Altogether, the Lakers will have lost Schroder, Drummond (76ers), Caruso (Bulls), Kyle Kuzma (Wizards), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Wizards), Montrezl Harrell (Wizards), Wesley Matthews, and Markieff Morris (Heat).
The Lakers knew that money would be tight once they formed a super expensive big three of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook. Outside of Marc Gasol, there were roster spots open and Pelinka brought in Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington, Kent Bazemore, Carmelo Anthony, Kendrick Nunn and Malik Monk.
With 12 players on the roster, this is one of the most experienced rosters in the league. The age of this team is not young with eight players over the age of 30.
- Carmelo Anthony (37)
- LeBron James (36)
- Marc Gasol (36)
- Trevor Ariza (36)
- Dwight Howard (35)
- Wayne Ellington (33)
- Kent Bazemore (32)
- Russell Westbrook (32)
- Anthony Davis (28)
- Kendrick Nunn (26)
- Malik Monk (23)
- Talen Horton-Tucker (20)
Will age and wisdom lead the Lakers to their second championship in three years? Let’s take a look at these moves and determine if Pelinka deserves a passing grade.
Age Is Just A Number?
From 2007 to 2017, the average age of a roster that won an NBA championship was 28.7. This year, the Milwaukee Bucks won the title with an average age of 26.8. The current average age of these 12 players is 31.1. That data is a little bit skewed because the team can still add three players. Let’s say that all three players were around the age of 19-21, then the average age would dip to 28.9.
For the moment, the Lakers are not too far off the mark despite having multiple veterans into their 30s. What we also have to understand is that this is not completely uncommon. Take the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls, which was the final Jordan team to win a championship. The team won their sixth championship this season. Michael Jordan was 34, Scottie Pippen was 32, and Dennis Rodman was 36.
LeBron is in just as good, if not better, shape than Jordan today thanks to advances in how athletes treat their bodies. Westbrook is the same age as Pippen, while Davis is eight years younger than Rodman. While these two teams are different, the age discrepancy shouldn’t be talked about as much as it is.
The Three-Point Problem Is Resolved?
When the Lakers traded for Russell Westbrook, it created a hole on the stat sheet. At first, many believed that Kuzma and Harrell were traded for Buddy Hield, who would have been a perfect fit for this team. Instead, they traded their No. 1 and No. 2 three-point shooters.
Kyle Kuzma made 137 three-point field goals last year, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made 120. That left LeBron James (104) as the only player from last year that made over 100 three-pointers. Last year, LeBron technically led the team with 2.3 per game over Kuzma (2.0), but he played 23 fewer games than Kuzma. Westbrook is not a good outside shooter, shooting just 31.5% from outside.
The moves that the Lakers made somewhat helped. Wayne Ellington is an under-the-radar move that might shock people. Last year in Detroit, Ellington shot 42.2% from three-point range. Kendrick Nunn shot 38.1% from three, as well as 48.5% overall. For the first time in his career, 23-year old Malik Monk shot over 40% from outside. Even Kent Bazemore shot over 40% from outside.
Right now, it’s anyone’s guess who will lead the team in three-point shooting, but the Lakers did find a way to fill the holes that were created when Kuzma and KCP were dealt.
Dwight Howard Is Back
For the third time, Howard will play for the Lakers. The choice of choosing Montrezl Harrell over Howard backfired. Harrell fell out of favor towards the end of the season. However, you can’t fault the Lakers for choosing Harrell over Howard, who was 34 years old at the time. Harrell was coming off a season where he won Sixth Man of the Year.
With that said, Howard could be an upgrade over Andre Drummond, who averaged a double-double. Howard understands his role and is used to the spotlight. Drummond faded when the moment got too big. Howard relishes these moments.
The Resume On Paper
If you were to add the All-Star appearances between LeBron, AD, Westbrook, Howard, and Gasol, it would come out of 44 appearances. While Gasol and Howard are past their prime, they are both former Defensive Players of the Year that can give some pretty solid insight.
What sticks out is the true championship pedigree of this team. LeBron has won four championships, one with Davis and Howard. Gasol won a championship as a member of the Raptors in 2019. Trevor Ariza won a title in 2009 with Kobe Bryant and Marc’s brother Pau.
Then, you have Ellington who won an NCAA championship with North Carolina. Despite Anthony and Westbrook never winning a title, both are gold medal Olympians, while Anthony owns three gold medals altogether (2008, 2012, 2016). If anyone questions the focus of what is at stake, you shouldn’t.
Grading Rob Pelinka
Let’s run through this real quick. The Lakers thought they didn’t need a third superstar, so they went out and brought in the 2020 Sixth Man of the Year in Harrell and the 2020 sixth man runner-up in Schroder. That didn’t work and both are gone. Instead, the team replaced overall depth with a 2017 MVP in Westbrook, who is coming off his fourth triple-double in a season.
Outside of the big three, you essentially replaced Schroder and Caruso with Bazemore and Nunn. You then replace Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope with Ellington, Ariza, and Monk. As for Kuzma, you bring in Anthony. As for Drummond and Harrell, you replace him with Howard and hope for the best with Gasol.
While the moves to replace the younger generation don’t look sexy, this was an all-around successful effort by the Lakers. Personally, fans should love the addition of Monk and Nunn. For about $6 million, you got two players who averaged double digits and shot well from outside. You bring in a player in Howard who just fits well with this group and can bring on and off the court value.
Don’t sleep on Anthony either. He averaged 13.4 points and shot 40.9% from three-point range. The Lakers complemented players like LeBron and Westbrook with shooters. Both like to get to the rim and draw defenders. There will be plenty of open opportunities. Now, it’s the players’ job to convert. Overall, you have to just tip your hat to Pelinka on convincing some of these players to come to town. In the end, an A should be issued for this performance.