The Los Angeles Lakers failed to live up to expectations in their first season with LeBron James, and while some of that had to do with the amount of injuries the team suffered throughout the season, it also had a lot to do with the way the roster was constructed over the summer.
Instead of surrounding James with 3-point shooters — the proven formula for success with James, one the greatest playmakers of all times — the Lakers’ front office tandem of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka decided to fill the roster with with “tough-minded playmakers” like Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson. The result?
“THBPBPTHPT,” to quote a 6-foot-8, 250-pound friend.
Not everyone was so quick to criticize the experiment, though. On Sunday, Rondo told Kyle Good on the OC Register that injuries made it hard to analyze whether or not the front office’s gamble paid off:
“I just don’t think we had a fair opportunity,” he said. “That experiment didn’t work, probably because we had probably 100 games total missed of court appearances. I can’t really comment on whether it was a good or bad thing. I’m not really sure.”
Rondo’s reluctance to say it was a failure shouldn’t come as a surprise considering he was a big part of the experiment, but maybe he has a point. After all, the Lakers’ three assists leaders — Rondo, James and Lonzo Ball — played just 13 total games together. However, if the front office has to choose between playmaking and shooting this summer, they should probably go the safe route, and choose shooting this time around.
Eight of the top-10 teams in the 3-point percentage this season have already secured a spot in the postseason. Meanwhile, just two of the bottom-10 teams in 3-point percentage are set to make the playoffs. That’s not a coincidence.
The Lakers seemed to have realized their error midway through the season, when they gave up Svi Mykhailiuk to acquire a shooter like Reggie Bullock — a career 39.1 percent 3-point shooter — at the trade deadline, but by then it was too late. Hopefully the front office learns from their mistake and capitalizes on a free agent class that will be rich with 3-point marksmen like Danny Green, Bojan Bogdanovic, Wayne Ellington, Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving. Because while Rondo is right that we haven’t seen the full, healthy results of pairing James with playmakers, it seems like the front office (like the rest of us) has already seen enough.