This is the story you know:
Last summer as the Los Angeles Lakers built their team around new star LeBron James, they loaded up on ball handlers who were light on shooting ability and passed on adding reliable big men, assuming James would play more in that role. It was a plan, ratified by James, that included playing up-tempo and taking playmaking pressure off him as he moved into the later stage of his career.
It did not work. The Lakers couldn’t shoot and the floor shrunk on James. They ended up going on a monthslong quest for big men. Point guards Lonzo Ball and Rajon Rondo got hurt. James took over the majority of the ballhandling anyway; he played the fastest pace of his career at age 34; and two months in, he suffered the worst injury of his career. The Lakers finished 37-45 and missed the playoffs.
Now, the Lakers want to write a new story. It goes like this:
James will be the primary playmaker — as he has been on his teams for the past 16 seasons, planned or not — with Rondo back as a probable backup making $7 million less. The roster now has a spate of 3-and-D players, with Danny Green, Avery Bradley and Jared Dudley joining a re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
A blockbuster trade for Anthony Davis, the return of Kyle Kuzma and the addition of DeMarcus Cousins will give the Lakers a dramatically more robust front line, with Davis there to share James’ scoring and playmaking load.
Put James and Davis in a pick-and-roll, spread the floor with those shooters (who also will work hard at the other end) and let the magic happen. Throw in the possibility of adding a champion such as Andre Iguodala and another veteran role player along the way — perhaps even another shooter such as Kyle Korver — and the formula is there.
“There’s no question this is a much stronger team that fits around LeBron better,” said one league executive.
“They started backups a lot last season, and they had some guys on their bench that shouldn’t have been in the league,” said one scout. “If they stay healthy, they have a playoff lineup now.”
“They added Anthony Davis; if they did nothing else, they were going to be way better,” said another league executive.