The Los Angeles Lakers are going to be the most fascinating team to watch this upcoming NBA season. LeBron James making a huge decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for Los Angeles in the recent offseason has changed the dynamic of the league. The Lakers have gone from a rebuilding afterthought into a must-watch team. LeBron will play with a few talented young players like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. Many veterans like Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee have joined him to form a unique roster. Everyone wants to see how things unfold for this new roster with the best player in the world leading them. There’s the thought process that many trades and signings will change the roster over the next year to become legitimate contenders.
We will look at how the Lakers reached this point in recent memory with some of their most interesting moves. The franchise saw a lot of mistakes go down towards the end of the Kobe Bryant era and the first few years without a superstar leading them. Luckily, many great moves were made throughout the timeline as well to give them the opportunity to reach a relevant place in the NBA again. No sports franchise is perfect, and the Lakers prove that with moves ranging from brilliant to idiotic. Find out just what led to the Lakers struggles and resurgence as a noteworthy team. These are ten recent moves the Los Angeles Lakers got right and another that still haunt them.
20 Got Right: Winning LeBron James Sweepstakes
The most obvious thing to celebrate the Los Angeles Lakers for is their recent signing of LeBron James to the roster. This move is the only reason there’s a lot of optimism about the near future for the Lakers franchise. Any team to add the best player of this era to the roster is already bound for good things.
Cleveland Cavaliers management had to live with the constant fear of James leaving since he only signed one-year contracts each offseason. The Lakers franchise convinced LeBron to sign for four seasons. It shows he’s committing long-term to the team and is here to stay.
19 Haunts Them: Trading D'Angelo Russell
The overall trade of D’Angelo Russell can be argued as a success since it opened other positive things for the Los Angeles Lakers. However, the decision to get rid of Russell due to believing Lonzo Ball was the better player looks like a huge mistake. Russell looked great when healthy for the Brooklyn Nets last season.
Ball struggled in his rookie year and has a lot of glaring flaws like his questionable jump shot. The Lakers could have drafted a rookie better than Ball and kept Russell at point guard. It would see them have a better overall roster to compliment LeBron James. Russell has a better chance than Ball to become a superstar.
18 Got Right: Not Signing DeMarcus Cousins
DeMarcus Cousins joining the Golden State Warriors in the recent offseason was a huge shocker. Most teams skipped on the idea of signing Cousins due to his poor attitude and the timing of coming off a bad injury. One team that Cousins reportedly wanted to join on a cheap contract was the Los Angeles Lakers.
Lakers management decided to pass on Cousins in fear of him hurting the chemistry. There are a lot of young players on the team, and one hugely negative presence like Cousins could hurt them. "Boogie" has had a reputation of struggling to fit in with prior teams. Los Angeles wanted to have a year allowing the young players to mature without negatives hurting them.
17 Haunts Them: Signing Timofey Mozgov
The Los Angeles Lakers made a couple of horrible moves over the past few years that put them in a terrible spot. They could already have a contending roster of superstars and young talents for LeBron James to lead if not for some of the wasted salary cap spots in recent years.
Timofey Mozgov signing with the Lakers was one of the worst free agent additions over the past decade. Following a solid run with the Cleveland Cavaliers as a role player, the Lakers signed Mozgov to a max contract. The current playing style of the league is seeing slow centers get outdated. Lakers management had to give away D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn to convince them to take Mozgov’s contract in 2017.
16 Got Right: Drafting Kyle Kuzma
The only positive thing to come from the trade with the Brooklyn Nets in the 2017 offseason was getting a late-round draft pick. Los Angeles Lakers management decided to take a bet on young prospect Kyle Kuzma. No one talked about him entering the draft, but the athleticism made him stand out to Los Angeles.
Kuzma instantly became one of the top rookies from last season’s draft class. His rookie year saw him putting up impressive offensive numbers and showing a strong work ethic on the defensive end. Many pundits expect Kuzma to become a star playing alongside LeBron James. The Lakers getting him with the 27th pick in the 2017 Draft was a huge steal.
15 Haunts Them: Signing Nick Young To 4-Year Contract
The Los Angeles Lakers once believed that Nick Young could be a star of the future. Young’s charisma and wild NBA playing style endeared him to Lakers fans when he had good games. "Swaggy P's" outside shooting was his strong suit, and that was timely considering how the three-point shot was becoming more vital to the NBA.
However, Young's maturity issues and inconsistent play caused him to disappoint. Los Angeles regretted signing Young to a four-year contract. The reputation of Young fell from a potential future star to a forgotten role player during his time on the Lakers. His contract was one of the reasons the Lakers struggled during that time frame.
14 Got Right: Re-Signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
The recent offseason for the Los Angeles Lakers featured many new names joining the team. One glaring issue with the team makeup entering the season is the lack of outside shooting. LeBron James thrives most when having a plethora of sharpshooters to give open looks to.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the only above average three-point shooter on the roster. The Lakers convinced Caldwell-Pope to re-sign on a one-year contract. KCP disappointed in his first season in Los Angeles, but LeBron is now on the roster. Don’t be surprised if Caldwell-Pope is the second leading scorer on the team due to the open shots he’ll receive all season.
13 Haunts Them: Acquiring Roy Hibbert
The Los Angeles Lakers tried making a few risky moves towards the end of Kobe Bryant’s tenure with the team. Bryant was aging, and the Lakers hoped to find new talents to give him a chance to compete one more time before the end of the run. One of the bigger names brought in was former All-Star Roy Hibbert.
The stock of Hibbert dropped dramatically thanks to his career falling apart in Indiana. Hibbert fell from an All-Star to someone struggling to receive playing time within a few seasons. The Lakers traded for him and believed they could solve his and their woes. Hibbert instead continued to play horribly, which led to the Lakers dropping even lower in the pecking order of the NBA.
12 Got Right: Letting Julius Randle Walk To Free Cap Space
The most criticized move by the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason saw them let Julius Randle leave in free agency to join the New Orleans Pelicans. Randle took a very fair salary, but he wanted more than one season guaranteed on the deal. Lakers management refused to offer anything beyond one year.
The plan for Los Angeles is to become a true contender to the Golden State Warriors by next offseason. Major names like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, and many others will be on the market. The Lakers need to do anything possible to ensure at least one max contract slot is open. Randle was not worth giving up the cap space freedom to add a legitimate superstar.
11 Haunts Them: Signing Carlos Boozer
Carlos Boozer was another one of the desperate veteran acquisitions by the Los Angeles Lakers made around 2014. Teams started to give up on Boozer due to his decline. The work of Boozer saw his stock drop from All-Star power forward to someone struggling to get a look.
Lakers fans soon realized why no one else wanted to add him to their roster. Boozer was subpar on defense as usual and became below average on offense. It was a depressing time for the Lakers franchise to see terrible teams underperform during the final few years of Kobe Bryant’s career. Players like Boozer joining the team were a major reason why.
10 Got Right: Refusing To Re-sign Isaiah Thomas
The Los Angeles Lakers made a surprise move at the trade deadline last season when trading a few players to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Isaiah Thomas was the biggest asset they received back. The All-Star point guard was one season removed from MVP contention, but a brutal hip injury led to him falling apart.
Thomas failed to impress for the Lakers. The team planned to keep him in contact if they failed to land any big superstars. LeBron James joining Los Angeles destroyed any chances of Thomas returning. Both guys failed to develop chemistry together in Cleveland. There’s no way the Lakers could have risked upsetting James by bringing back Thomas.
9 Haunts Them: Signing Rajon Rondo
One recent move that is already haunting Los Angeles Lakers fans and Lonzo Ball is the addition of Rajon Rondo. The former All-Star's basketball IQ is always a wonderful thing to have on a roster. However, there are too many flaws to his game when it comes to fitting in on the Lakers roster.
LeBron James’ need to have great shooters in the lineup with him has been mentioned. Rondo is among the worst outside shooters at the point guard position. Both Rondo and James have the same offensive mindset of running the offense to get open shots. Rondo will just slow down the offense while taking time away from Lonzo’s development.
8 Got Right: Drafting Brandon Ingram
The Los Angeles Lakers have had quite a few top-level draft picks over the past few years. One perk of having terrible seasons is the ability to land the best prospects entering the league. Ben Simmons was taken with the first overall pick in the 2016 Draft, leaving the Lakers with a tough choice as the second pick.
Los Angeles selected Brandon Ingram with the hopes of him becoming a future star for them. Ingram looks significantly better than the other players selected after him. LeBron James reportedly viewed Ingram as a great piece, and it was a major reason he signed with Los Angeles. The Lakers made the right pick when taking Ingram in 2016.
7 Haunts Them: Signing Luol Deng
The past few seasons have seen the Los Angeles Lakers working extremely hard to shed salary cap space and free up enough money to sign free agents to max contracts. One player that no team wanted to take on in a trade was Luol Deng.
Lakers management made a horrible decision when signing Deng to a max contract. Not only was Deng already declining, but no one wanted to offer him that much money. The Lakers bid against themselves and ended up regretting it. Deng recently agreed to a buyout with Los Angeles, and will be playing for the Timberwolves in 2018-19. They are finally free from his contract, but it led to enough damage being done.
6 Got Right: Trading Jordan Clarkson And Larry Nance Jr. To Cleveland
One of the most underrated moves pulled off by the Los Angeles Lakers was trading away Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Isaiah Thomas. It looked odd that the Lakers would give away young players like Clarkson and Nance, but it made perfect sense.
The Lakers had more cap flexibility losing those contracts and was able to give more playing time to the other young players with higher ceilings. It also managed to hurt the flexibility of the Cavaliers having two contracts on the cap moving forward. The trade helped the Lakers and hurt the Cavaliers in the long term which made the decision easier for LeBron James to switch teams.
5 Haunts Them: Signing JaVale McGee Over Brook Lopez
Many Los Angeles Lakers complained online when realizing Brook Lopez signed with the Milwaukee Bucks to a one-year contract for less money than JaVale McGee. It was a surprising move in general when the Lakers signed McGee away from the Golden State Warriors.
The offensive game of McGee is non-existent outside of easy dunks or layups in the paint. Lopez struggled during his only season in Los Angeles, but he is one of the best three-point shooting centers in the league. A big man like Brook would have the potential to once again average 20+ points per game playing with LeBron James. Instead, the Lakers went with someone that can’t even shoot free throws.
4 Got Right: Turning Down Kawhi Leonard Trade
The Los Angeles Lakers had a great shot to add a second superstar to the roster this summer. Kawhi Leonard demanded a trade away from the San Antonio Spurs and made it clear he wanted to play for the Lakers. San Antonio, however, demanded all the Lakers' top young players along with assets.
Los Angeles turned down the Spurs' offer, and Leonard was then traded to the Toronto Raptors. Many reports still indicate that Leonard plans to become a free agent in the summer of 2019 with the Lakers his top priority. Los Angeles will have their chance to sign Kawhi without giving up any young stars. They even get to see if he’s back to 100% before committing to a long-term contract.
3 Haunts Them: Drafting Lonzo Ball Over Jayson Tatum
The worst move by the Los Angeles Lakers over the past few seasons saw them invest too much in Lonzo Ball. Magic Johnson bought into the hype of Lonzo potentially becoming a superstar point guard. The chance for Lonzo to emerge into a star is still there, but it looks bleak due to the horrible shooting he showed last season.
Jayson Tatum, however, looks like he is already bound for an All-Star spot as early as this season. Boston Celtics fans saw Tatum step up and almost take them to the NBA Finals with injuries to other stars. The Lakers could have kept D’Angelo Russell and drafted Tatum instead of losing on both to take Lonzo.
2 Haunts Them: Replaced Mike D'Antoni With Byron Scott
The Los Angeles Lakers have struggled to find a head coach since Phil Jackson left. Mike D’Antoni was the hope to lead them into the future, but a terrible team chemistry hurt him. Between the turnover of young players and Kobe Bryant aging, D’Antoni never got a fair shot. The Lakers made a horrible move when replacing him with Byron Scott.
A poor outlook from Scott saw him hurt the young players' development by giving more playing time to veterans. During this time frame, D’Antoni joined the Houston Rockets and helped them become the second best team in the league. The Lakers would have been better-suited holding on to D’Antoni, especially given how bad Scott was.
1 Got Right: Giving Magic Johnson Control Of Franchise
The state of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise was in disarray when Jeanie Buss made a bold move. Following many disappointments, she decided to go back to a trusted Lakers icon by making Magic Johnson the President of Basketball Operations. Johnson had full control to make basketball decisions to change the roster up.
The presence of Johnson played the biggest role in LeBron James deciding to not only sign with the Lakers but also commit for four seasons. Between his decisions improving the roster and having a genius mind for basketball, James trusts Johnson to lead the Lakers franchise back to a title.