After signing one of the most coveted free agents of 2018, LeBron James, the Lakers were in a time crunch to sign free agents that could assist their newest member. A day after James’ announcement, the Los Angeles Lakers renounced Julius Randle, making him an unrestricted free agent. This allowed the Lakers to gain about $11.6 million dollars in cap space and to go on and sign: Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson and re-sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Los Angeles Lakers 2018 Free Agency Moves
The ‘One-Year Contract’ Crew
The 12-year veteran point guard Rajon Rondo agreed to a one-year, $9 million-dollar deal with the L.A. Lakers. The former New Orleans Pelican played 65 games last season averaging 8.3 points and eight assists per game. He was also ranked sixth in total assists last season, with 533 assists. Rondo is mostly known for his nine seasons with the Boston Celtics where he was a 4-time All-Star and averaged 8.5 assists per game. He was also a key member of the 2008 NBA Champion Boston Celtics with everyone simply marveling at his intense defense and stellar passing.
Rondo can bring that same defense, precision passing, and experience to the Lakers. Besides influencing this young roster, Rondo can serve as a mentor to second-year guard, Lonzo Ball. As a team that promotes defense, Rondo will fit perfectly on the defensive end while also finding opening looks on offense. The starting PG position is still up for grabs, but expect Rondo to play serious minutes.
The purple and gold re-signed shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on a one-year, $12 million-dollar deal per ESPN. He played 74 games for the Lakers last season, starting in all of those games. KCP averaged 13.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. What the stat line won’t show is the defensive technique that Caldwell-Pope brought to each game last season. Many times, it was his defense that saved games and gave the Lakers second chance opportunities. Re-signing KCP reiterates the Lakers agenda: defense.
One of the odder free agency signings was Lance Stephenson agreeing to a one-year deal with the Lakers. James and Stephenson had a rough relationship dating back as far as 2012. Tension has grown over the years and Stephenson’s antics have even turned meme-worthy. Yet, it is once again clear why Stephenson would fit in with the Lakers this season.
Last season with the Indiana Pacers, Stephenson played 82 games averaging 9.2 points, 2.9 assists, and 5.2 rebounds per game. Stephenson has been known to handle the ball with grace meanwhile attacking the rim with colossal force. Not only can he execute offensively, but he can also perform defensively. If Stephenson can be consistent, James’ recruitment efforts would be a success.
To finish off their free agency signing spree, the Lakers signed former Golden State Warrior and two-time NBA Champion, JaVale McGee to a one-year contract. As a Warrior, McGee played 65 games and averaged 4.8 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. He also finished around the rim and added rim protection on the defensive end.
The 30-year-old veteran will be adding to the already defensively stacked Lakers. This 7-foot center will make any opposing players’ job difficult if they are trying to get to the net. McGee’s length and athleticism will allow the Lakers to keep up with their opponent on both sides of the court.
Magic Johnson‘s Defensive Agenda
Although most people would think that these are desperate moves from LeBron James and the Lakers after losing out on Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins, these modifications were actually planned. According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, Magic Johnson and James discussed these moves for hours. Clearly, the Lakers are pushing for a more defensive type of team.
It might be a cliché, but defense wins games and this is the direction that the Lakers are trying to step in with the recent free agency signings. Not only are they giving themselves a defensive push, they are also setting themselves up for free agency next year. The Lakers’ new look differentiates themselves from the rest of the league but will it be enough to take them to the NBA Finals?