When LeBron James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018, there was this expectation that high-quality veterans throughout the NBA would flock to the west coast to compete for a championship with arguably the greatest player of all time. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case.
With the exception of Rajon Rondo, who re-signed with the Lakers for the veteran’s minimum in 2019, there isn’t an example of a player that took a meaningful discount to play with James over the last three years, and even then, it can be argued that the veteran’s minimum was Rondo’s value in 2019.
The Lakers could have more success in that regard this summer, but that’s dependent on whether or not they’re successful in forming something that resembles a big three, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (via the Lakers Central Podcast):
“The good news for the Lakers is that there is absolutely a large amount of talk from team executives around the league right now that if the Lakers are able to get a Kyle Lowry or make this home run of getting Russell Westbrook and trading Kyle Kuzma for Buddy Hield, let’s say … there’s a lot of speculation right now that seems founded that the Lakers have a ton of veteran-type players ready and interested to come sign on minimum deals and go chase this ring with LeBron.”
This suggests that players haven’t viewed the Lakers are the clear title favorites in year’s past — including in 2020, the year they won the championship — and that pairing James and Anthony Davis with another star would change that perception of the team. It’s unlikely that been the motivating factor behind Rob Pelinka’s pursuit of a star player, but it’s almost certainly something he’s taken into consideration, especially since acquiring a player in a sign-and-trade would hard cap his team once again.
If the Lakers don’t land a star player via trade this summer, it sounds like there will still be a few players interested in taking serious discounts to team up with James and Davis, but trading for a star player would undoubtedly drum up that interest league-wide.