The signings the Los Angeles Lakers made after landing LeBron James confused a lot of people, including NBA Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Charles Barkley.
Barkely’s basketball takes are usually a little out there, but in this case, his opinion on the way the Lakers constructed their roster is an opinion shared by many, if not the majority, of NBA fans.
Barkely told Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated that he is not optimistic about how head coach Luke Walton is going to balance a roster that now includes a four-time MVP, a supporting cast of veterans with varying personalities, and a handful of players that aren’t old enough to drink yet:
“That’s an impossible scenario for Luke,” he said. “He’s got LeBron who is going to do things his way. He’s got those young kids who are probably in awe of LeBron. He’s got those older guys who are going to try to seek attention. I don’t think Lance and Rondo are going there to be the ninth or 10th guys on the bench and be quiet all year. They’re going to want touches.”
The chief long-term risk of this approach, he argued, was stunting the growth of recent draft picks like Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart.
“I don’t like what [the Lakers] are doing,” Barkley continued, during a promotional interview for his new deal with Panini America. “It’s going to take away from their young nucleus. They’ve got some good young players. You’re trying to set up Lonzo, Ingram, Kuzma. With all that other stuff going on, I don’t know if that’s a good environment for those kids.”
The argument that the young players will be “in awe” of playing with James is a stretch, but Chuck isn’t too far off the mark with everything else he said.
In order to maintain financial flexibility for next summer’s free agent class, the Lakers filled out their roster with inflated one-year deals. In a vacuum, it was the right call to make, but it could backfire sooner rather than later.
Some of the players the Lakers signed to one-year deals aren’t guaranteed to have spots waiting for them on another team next year. Namely Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley, who will be fighting for their NBA lives this upcoming season.
Neither Stephenson and Beasley aren known for their unselfish play and their chuckers mentality could be detrimental to the young players in the second unit like Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma and, to a lesser extent, Svi Mykhailiuk and Moritz Wagner.
However, that’s assuming Stephenson and Beasley get meaningful playing time, and there’s no guarantee they will — especially not over Hart or Kuzma. Even Mykhailiuk was impressive at summer league, and if his hot shooting carries into the regular season, Stephenson could find himself glued to the bench. The same goes for Beasley, who is on the outside looking in at Walton’s rotation as is.
Walton won’t get to see his team on the floor together for a few months. Until then, all we can do is hope he already has a plan, and that Barkley’s concern trolling is unnecessary.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.