The Lakers’ defense of their 2020 NBA title has been well below expectations. And because of that, GM Rob Pelinka is looking to revamp the roster.
In his post-season exit interview with the Lakers, Pelinka discussed the vision he and owner Jeanie Buss have for the Lakers. Their objective ? To “smartly build” a championship caliber roster.
“Jeanie and the Owners Group have given the front office the power to do one thing and that is to intelligently create a roster to win championships,” Pelinka said. “It has been the trademark of this team since Dr Buss acquired it, and continues to be today. Obviously, the 30 teams in the NBA are limited by a salary cap, we have to so be very smart in the way we put the whole puzzle pieces together, but there is only one goal, and that is to do it smart to have a championship caliber team.
“I think next year, of course, I hope all of our fans can come back and be a part of the building, we owe them the job to start the retooling process and have a championship caliber team that can make them special. things next year, and that’s the driving passion and there’s an alignment there between Jeanie, the front office, the coaches and our players that that will always be the goal. “
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It certainly sounds like a good approach for the Lakers. They don’t have to get too aggressive in their quest for another title. After all, they still have LeBron James and Anthony Davis on their team. James missed 27 games and Davis missed 36 in the 72-game season, which ended with the Lakers at 42-30 and seeded No.7 in the West.
The Lakers have the opportunity to reshape the roster around James and Davis. The Lakers have just five players on the squad with guaranteed contracts for the 2021-22 season: James, Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and Marc Gasol. Montrezl Harrell has a player option worth just under $ 10 million while Alfonzo McKinnie’s $ 1.9 million contract is unsecured.
This leaves the Lakers with plenty of spots on the potential roster and therefore, plenty of opportunity to bring in new veterans to adjust to James and Davis as they look to fit in better than the 2020-21 squad.
That said, Pelinka seems comfortable trying to bring back at least some of the “core of players” the Lakers have.
“In terms of free agency, again we feel like we have a core of players who can do special things,” Pelinka said. “And I have no doubts that, again, without some of the unforeseen circumstances of this year, the challenges that we had to face, we would be a championship caliber team, so the objective is to try and keep this group of base together.
“And, of course, with players like Talen Horton-Tucker, Alex Caruso, and Kyle Kuzma – players that you draft or bring into your two-way system and groom and develop – there’s a level of pride in that, and what the Lakers have been able to do with these players to make them grow. So of course our intentions would be to keep our core together and have a championship team. “
The Lakers could bring back players like Horton-Tucker and Caruso to keep some continuity while strengthening areas of weakness with outside help. This is perhaps the smartest way for Pelinka to build the squad, especially as Los Angeles struggled down the home stretch in large part due to injuries to James and Davis.
Soon we’ll see what the Lakers do, but one thing is certain. Another appearance in the play-in tournament as a No.7 seed in the West and a subsequent first-round loss won’t be enough.