The Lakers may have signed LeBron James, but that didn't immediately guarantee a title for Los Angeles. They still need to get past the rest of the West and that means going through the Warriors. The entire NBA has been spending the last couple of seasons trying to figure out a formula to take Golden State down.
Will the Lakers, led by James, be the team to discover that strategy? They're certainly going to try something different. While many teams have tried to add shooting to counter Golden State's shooting, the Lakers are taking a different approach. They've signed players such as Lance Stephenson, Javale McGee and Rajon Rondo. Lakers GM Rob Pelinka says this is to bring defense and toughness. They're not going to try and outdo the Warriors at being the Warriors. Via The Orange County Register.
Lakers GM Rob Pelinka spelled it out last week, confirming reports that the surprising moves for Lance Stephenson and Rajon Rondo were Johnson's choices, not LeBron's.
"Earvin and I had a conversation and LeBron echoed this sentiment," Pelinka said. "I think to try to play the Warriors at their own game is a trap.
"No one is going to beat them at their own game so that's why we wanted to add these elements of defense and toughness and depth and try to look at areas where we will have an advantage."
The Lakers will be the latest team to bring a different strategy to countering Golden State. The Spurs went with size, going after players such as Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge. The Rockets tried a switch heavy defense and isolation heavy offense. The Cavaliers attempted to surround LeBron James with shooters and use his talent to propel them past Golden State. All of these strategies eventually failed at the hands of the Warriors, so you can't blame Los Angeles for trying something new.
Let's just hope there's more to this than bringing defense and toughness. You need shooters to survive in the NBA today and the Lakers' biggest weakness before James even showed up was shooting. Bringing on veterans not known for spacing the floor just feels like a bad strategy. Not to mention these defensive-minded veterans are passable on that end at best. Rondo hasn't been a great defender for years. Stephenson is more of an agitator than a shutdown defender. McGee gets blocks, but he doesn't anchor a defense with rim protection.
Maybe the Lakers will find a way to combine these signings with James, and their talented youth, into a system that's effective. Right now though, the Lakers will have to prove these signings are going to work, because skepticism is warranted. Pelinka is right. You can't beat the Warriors at their own game, but zagging this hard in the other direction while everybody else zigs could prove to be their downfall.