New Davis deal, bench scoring boost – How LeBron's Lakers 'won' the offseason

Oleh Ben Spratt 4 Disember 2020 22
New Davis deal, bench scoring boost – How LeBron's Lakers 'won' the offseason

NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers show no signs of slowing as Anthony Davis' new contract caps a stunning offseason.

Davis has re-signed with the Lakers – a deal reportedly worth $190million over five years – to stay in Los Angeles and link up with superstar team-mate LeBron James again heading into the new campaign.

This was the latest in a series of moves that have prompted many to claim the Lakers "won" free agency and the various trades that go with it.

Using Stats Perform data, we assess just how impressive Rob Pelinka's business has been.

KEEPING KEY PIECES

The most important deal the Lakers have done was the one that never seemed in any doubt. Davis is coming back to team up with James, who has also re-signed.

James ended 2019-20 as the Finals MVP, unhappy not to also have won the regular season award, but it was Davis who turned the team's fortunes around following his blockbuster trade from the New Orleans Pelicans ahead of the season.

His arrival gave the Lakers the best superstar duo in the league, as Davis became the highest scoring team-mate of James' career – averaging 26.1 points per game.

Only James Harden and Russell Westbrook at the Houston Rockets (61.5) and Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum at the Portland Trail Blazers (52.2) averaged more points per game last season than James and Davis. Both Houston and Portland lost to the Lakers in the postseason.

Davis is not the only important player returning either, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope signing a three-year, $40m deal.

Having played just four prior postseason games in his entire NBA career, Caldwell-Pope established himself as the third man in LA as he started all 21 Lakers playoff encounters en route to the title, averaging 10.7 points – behind only the big two – in 29.0 minutes.

REPLACING RONDO & CO

The next big step was for the Lakers to replace those champions leaving the team – notably Rajon Rondo, Danny Green and Dwight Howard.

Rondo did not start a single game in the postseason but featured in 16 at an average of 24.7 minutes, offering a scoring option off the bench with 8.9 points.

But 'Playoff Rondo' was very different from regular season Rondo - and the Lakers need a level of consistency from key role players in the coming season as they surely face spells with James on the sidelines, the quick turnaround a tough ask for an ever-present veteran.

So, with Rondo leaving for the Atlanta Hawks in free agency, the move for Dennis Schroder in a trade for Green made perfect sense.

Schroder is a far steadier regular season performer, averaging 14.1 points per game across his career and 18.9 last season for the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he came off the bench in 63 of his 65 games.

His return actually drops slightly in the postseason - 13.1 career, 17.3 last season - but the German remains a more reliable option than Rondo.

Schroder can help to replace the three-point shooting lost with Green's departure, too.

He made (1.9) and attempted (5.0) more three-pointers than Green last regular season (1.8 made, 4.8 attempted), while his accuracy was also better (38.5 per cent to 36.7 per cent).

Indeed, with Wes Matthews also signed to a one-year, $3.6m contract (1.6 made, 4.4 attempted, 36.4 per cent), Green should not be missed at all. The same applies to Avery Bradley (1.3 made, 3.5 attempted, 36.4 per cent), who opted out of the bubble and then joined the Miami Heat.

With Philadelphia 76ers recruit Howard, meanwhile, the Lakers could argue they actually landed an upgrade.

Marc Gasol – a fellow former Defensive Player of the Year – comes in on a two-year deal equivalent to a veteran's minimum after JaVale McGee was traded.

The Spaniard should replace Howard's defensive output, snatching more defensive rebounds (5.5 per game last season versus 4.9) and steals (0.8 versus 0.5) but making fewer blocks (0.9 versus 1.1).

At six-foot-11, Gasol will be able to guard a Nikola Jokic or Jusuf Nurkic, but crucially, unlike Howard, he is also a playmaker, averaging 3.3 assists last year – more than Davis (3.2) - to Howard's 0.7, and shoots 38.5 per cent from three.

OPTIONS OFF THE BENCH

Beyond just filling the roster amid the numerous departures, moves for Schroder and Montrezl Harrell - on a two-year, $19m contract - give greater depth to the Lakers' scoring options.

Harrell – who can share minutes at center, Gasol presumably playing the Ivica Zubac role – was the Sixth Man of the Year for the Los Angeles Clippers and he and Schroder led the NBA in bench scoring in 2019-20.

Schroder had 18.9 points per game when not starting, while Harrell weighed in with 18.4. Kyle Kuzma led the Lakers in this regard with a comparatively measly 11.4 points.

Indeed, the Lakers were 11th in the league for scoring off the bench last year, a whole 11 points behind Harrell's stat-leading Clippers.

Some smart offseason business now gives the champions a whole new dimension as they aim to continue making the most of this James-Davis window.

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