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Missing out on Kawhi Leonard could be blessing in disguise for the Lakers

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It was confirmed by Adrian Wojnarowski on Saturday morning that the Los Angeles Lakers have missed out on Kawhi Leonard. The NBA Finals MVP is heading to their Staples Center rivals, the Clippers, along with All-NBA wing Paul George.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ hopes of a superteam have been crushed. Then again, you could easily argue that those two alone are a superteam.

Wojnarowski followed the biggest news of the offseason by breaking the move of Danny Green to the Lakers on a two-year, $30 million deal.

Ramona Shelburne added that the Lakers will bring back JaVale McGee on a two-year, $8.2 million deal with a player option. McGee, Shelburne reported, will probably start at centre.

Shelburne was also the first to report that the Lakers will be re-signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on a two-year, $16 million deal.


The key here, as we can tell from the speed of these moves, is that the Lakers clearly had a Plan B lined up in the event they missed out on Leonard. Not doing so after all these days would’ve been reckless, of course, but with a relatively small numbers of free agents left on the board, it was imperative they moved quickly to fill out their roster alongside Davis, James and Kyle Kuzma.

Getting Leonard was obviously the priority for the Lakers – as it should have been. They would’ve had three of the top 10 (maybe better than that) players in the league, and no franchise can turn down that opportunity, even though it would’ve left them with players on minimum to fill out the supporting cast.

With Leonard, Davis and LeBron all needing to be load managed, it would have presented its own challenges throughout the regular season. It would’ve been a nice problem to have, of course, and they would’ve been overwhelming title favourites, but it’s never quite as simple as it seems when throwing stars together.

In Green, though, they have the perfect complementary player alongside LeBron. A knockdown three-point shooter and excellent defender, Green is a catch-and-shoot specialist. Filling the roster with that type of player is exactly the formula around LeBron.

Caldwell-Pope can be a streaky shooter, but like Green, he excels on catch-and-shoot opportunities. With LeBron and Davis likely to draw double teams aplenty, there are going to be open looks in the corners as help defenders drop into the paint. Caldwell-Pope knocked down a high percentage of his shots from the left corner last season – we can expect more of the same in 2019/20.


McGee is the more surprising deal. The veteran seven-footer enjoyed a career-year with the Lakers last season, however, posting his best ever points per game and most minutes per game since he was starting for the Washington Wizards as a 24-year-old at the start of the decade. It feels like a lot of money for McGee, though adding a five was a necessity and it gives them the option of going super-big with a line-up of: LeBron, Green, Kuzma, Davis, McGee.

Missing out on Leonard is obviously a disappointment. It hurts that bit more that he’s teaming up with another All-NBA level player in the same city.

The upside is that it allows the Lakers to have a deeper roster and add role players that fit well with LeBron and Davis. Fit was an almighty issue for the Lakers last season, and within minutes of Leonard signing with the Clippers, they made moves that were far more sensible.


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