Los Angeles is gearing up for a championship run.
The Lakers have already traded Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks to the Pelicans in exchange for Anthony Davis, but there’s still work to be done.
Los Angeles is trying to free up enough cap space for a third max player. However, there are other problems that need to be addressed.
Here are three things the Lakers need in 2019:
A quality starting point guard
The NBA is a point guard’s league.
The last six NBA Finals have been won by teams with All-Star point guards, and the Western Conference is stacked with talent at the position. Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard come to mind, but the Lakers didn’t have a floor general close to their caliber in 2018-19.
After Los Angeles had a spat with Houston last season, Rajon Rondo served a suspension and was demoted to a reserve role behind Lonzo Ball. But neither Ball nor Rondo were really given the opportunity to be a true point guard because of the Lakers’ brand of positionless basketball. Ball-handling responsibilities were split between them, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and LeBron James, who led the team in assists per game (8.3).
But now Ingram and Ball have been dealt to New Orleans. If the Lakers are able to acquire an established point guard who can be ball dominant, score, and initiate the offense in the second unit — as we all know everything will likely run through James when it comes to the starters — they could take a huge step forward.
Los Angeles has been linked to Chris Paul, D’Angelo Russell and Kyrie Irving this offseason and haven’t had an All-Star Point guard since Nick Van Exel in 1997-98.
The Lakers flat out weren’t good at shooting the basketball last season.
Los Angeles ranked 29th in 3-point shooting percentage in 2018-19 at 33.3 percent and not one starter converted more than 35 percent of their chances from beyond the arc.
James already draws a ridiculous amount of attention on drives, and the addition of Anthony Davis will only increase the frequency of double teams in the painted area. If neither of these Lakers stars can kick the ball out to reliable snipers, their gravity will be wasted.
There are quite a few 3-and-D players hitting the market who could help Los Angeles with this deficiency.
Some essence of a bench
There are a lot of question marks on the Lakers’ roster for 2019-20 and they need to sort things out.
Los Angeles signed Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee to one-year deals last summer and none of them appear to be locks to return. Then there’s Tyson Chandler, who’s also entering unrestricted free agency.
When the Lakers traded away a large chunk of the young core, they thinned out their already questionable depth. Los Angeles’ bench for next season would likely consist of Isaac Bonga, Alex Caruso, Moritz Wagner, Johnathan Williams and Jemmerio Jones were it to be finalized today. To call that personnel shaky would be an understatement, but the Lakers are also reportedly trying to move their contracts in a salary dumping effort.
James, Davis and Kuzma are a solid front line, but this Lakers team would probably fall apart if either of its All-Stars misses extended time in 2019-20 like they did last year. Los Angeles might be the betting favorites to win the NBA Finals in 2020, but its roster’s construction will definitely need some adjustments to make that goal a reality.