As much as Rob Pelinka and the Lakers front office have chased a third star since acquiring LeBron James and Anthony Davis, it was an entirely different team composition that won the team a title in the bubble in 2020.
There’s some irony to the fact that the Lakers basically backed into a successful roster, but it does show the blueprint for how to win a title with their two superstars. And after veering FAR away from that formula in recent years, the Lakers appear to have, again, backed into a potentially successful roster.
Turns out putting players in proper roles and using actual role players, and not players on veteran’s minimums, leads to success. Who knew!
In a recent piece from Dave McMenamin of ESPN, Anthony Davis talked about this year’s team and how it reminds him of that title-winning team.
“If we actually have a full summer, full training camp, go through an entire season, who knows the position we’ll be in,” Davis said. “ ... The team we have now, we feel like not only can we make noise this year, and I like our chance against anybody to be honest. You put anybody against us, I like our chances. ... Who knows what we could be, what threat we could be next year and then years to come if they work it out and are able to keep this group together.”
He already sees parallels with this year’s squad to the 2020 title team.
“We have less bigs, for sure, but I think adding D-Lo, Vando, Beas, gives us that identity again,” Davis said. “With Beas filling that KCP [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] role as a shooter. D-Lo is like that [Rajon] Rondo wizardry with the ball and finds guys. ... Vando with the AC [Alex Caruso] role that he played. Even bringing Rui with the Kuz [Kyle Kuzma] role. So, obviously that team was special. ... But I think this team has potential to be like that team.”
Now, how accurate are those comparisons? Ehhhh. There are some similarities. Malik Beasley isn’t the defender of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s caliber, but does have more gravity offensively. D’Angelo Russell isn’t as crafty nor does he have the basketball IQ of Rajon Rondo, but is a significantly better offensive weapon.
Jarred Vanderbilt does fill a pseudo role that Alex Caruso did as a limited player who finds success in his specific roles because of his IQ. The Kyle Kuzma-Rui Hachimura comparison is a little flimsy, too, but the base of a wing that score is there in both of them.
The real value in the role players in the bubble team, though, was how well they fit with one another, both on the court and off. That roster was one that complemented each other and was willing to take back seats when necessary.
While we don’t really know if the latter aspect applies to this roster, the former does. This is a team that has swapped pieces in and out in its short time together and still found success.
Is it a talented enough roster to compete for an NBA title? Well, that’s to be determined. Perhaps a full offseason and training camp together, and a season learning to play with one another, will lead to improved results. As things stand, it’s a group that is struggling to secure a play-in spot but also one that hasn’t been whole for basically any time together.
The idea of the roster construction, though, is the same as the bubble team. And the Lakers sound set to run it back with this roster, so perhaps we’ll get an answer to this question eventually.
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