The biggest move of the NBA offseason was unquestionably LeBron James moving to the Lakers. As soon as that happened, analysts immediately started to wonder who would be joining him in Los Angeles, with Kawhi Leonard, Boogie Cousins, and Paul George all candidates, at least until George announced he was staying in Oklahoma City.
Since yesterday’s announcement, the Lakers have certainly been active, but not in the way many were expecting. The Lakers brought back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, added longtime LeBron foil Lance Stephenson, and JaVale McGee for good measure.
Then, having renounced Julius Randle’s cap hold today (clearing the way for Randle to sign with the Pelicans), the Lakers added Rajon Rondo, presumably in an effort to scare Lonzo Ball’s jumper straight. (“Lonzo, being a great passer and defender is great, but if you don’t get a J, you’re going to be more known for your Connect 4 games than your on-court games.”)
Traditionally, in Miami and Cleveland, the best way to win with LeBron is to surround him with players who can defend and shoot threes. In Rondo, they added a player very similar to Lonzo Ball, who already struggles to shoot. Lance Stephenson can’t shoot. KCP is in theory a shooter, and he did make 38% from deep last year, but he’s still not exactly the perfect fit alongside LeBron.
Meanwhile, the Warriors added DeMarcus Cousins on a one-year, $5.3 million deal. Cousins is coming off an Achilles injury that’s going to limit him to a maximum of about one month of regular season basketball at most ahead of the postseason next year, and the Warriors more than any other team can afford to stash a player like that and not worry about a down year. And hey, maybe the Lakers preserve cap space and then make a run at healthy Boogie next summer, or maybe they still add Kawhi by trading someone like Ball and therefore making the Rondo acquisition more understandable.
But what if they stick to the pattern? Who is the player that would inspire the most laughter among NBA Twitter if phones lit up with a Woj or Shams notification? There are a few names to consider. Let’s rank them from most plausible to least, and remember that it’s going to be hard to top Lance Stephenson.
Perk always pops up around LeBron despite having no apparent basketball value anymore. And while he is under contract with the Cavs for next season, it’s only for a little over $2 million. That’s not exactly an obstacle.
LeBron always needs someone to yell at! Chalmers actually played 66 games for the Grizzlies last year, which is hilarious in itself.
Just imagine! Imagine Dwight somehow going back to the Lakers! (He was actually solid last year in Charlotte, for what it’s worth.)
Magic adding Carmelo as some kind of desperation move to match Golden State’s headline generation would be too good, especially once he actually started playing. It’d be another fun offseason of Anthony talking about how he was going to revert to his Olympic Melo playing style before he immediately camped out in the post and demanded the ball on multiple possessions.
There plenty of other names, too, but there’s one that would be the best, if we even just got a slight hint of it:
Imagine it. The Lakers are playing solid basketball behind LeBron and whoever, and battling for a playoff spot. Then a few key injuries happen, and we get a cryptic video of Kobe putting up shots in an empty gym. Then we get a rumbling, a few reports and podcasts talking about how “Yeah, Kobe thinks he can still play, but it’s not going to happen.” Then Kobe calls Magic and forces his way onto the roster, just for temporary help, he’ll say.
But then he doesn’t go away over the offseason, even as the Lakers add another star and the Warriors lose Cousins, presumably, all in a long play to ensure LeBron can’t gain on Kobe’s ring count.
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) May 28, 2018
It’s obviously not going to happen, but there’s at least a nonzero chance Kobe has already considered it.