A MODEST PROPOSAL...
PLAY LONZO ALONGSIDE RONDO
No team adds LeBron James and gets worse, but figuring out the optimal combination of players around him is always a process. The most notable of the Lakers' summer signings was Rajon Rondo, who plays the same position as Lonzo Ball, last year's franchise savior. James brings L.A. closer to contention, but not this year. Experimentation should be paramount. So why hold a position battle when you can just play your two best guards?
LeBron will still require heavy usage, but there's potential for advantageous ball movement if the Lakers pair Ball and Rondo, who are both cerebral passers. The rock rarely sticks in Ball's hands—he averaged a meager 3.8 seconds and just north of three dribbles per touch last season, per NBA.com's tracking data—and he shot 32.8% on catch-and-shoot threes, good enough for him to become a positionless cog. While Rondo has long been pegged as a bad shooter, he hit 33.3% of his threes last season and excelled alongside the bigger Jrue Holiday in New Orleans. The ball will zip around the floor, taking the pressure off James to create. And an unselfish approach won't hurt when it comes to recruiting free agents next summer.
COACH LUKE WALTON
2017--18 RECORD: 35--47
PREDICTION: Lose 1st round
SG KENTAVIOUS CALDWELL-POPE
SF LEBRON JAMES [NEW ACQUISITION] (1 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])
PF BRANDON INGRAM (75 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])
C JAVALE MCGEE [NEW ACQUISITION]
PG LONZO BALL (100 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])
Ball's percentage was the fifth-worst ever by a guard (min. 70 attempts). The worst? His new teammate Rajon Rondo's 39.7% in 2014--15.
PG RAJON RONDO [NEW ACQUISITION]
SF LANCE STEPHENSON [NEW ACQUISITION]
PF KYLE KUZMA
(*) NEW ACQUISITION
(#) SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP LOS ANGELES
IT'S HARD to bet against LEBRON JAMES. His presence alone is worth getting to the playoffs and possibly getting to the conference finals if they get injury help. LeBron will do what LeBron does. Whether they get to the conference finals will be determined by LONZO BALL, BRANDON INGRAM and KYLE KUZMA.... LeBron is still the best player in basketball. They will have to play him at the four and the five given their depth chart. But when you put four shooters around him, it doesn't matter what position you call him. That will be a good offense and the opponent will have to guard him with whoever their best defender is.... Lonzo will be a tricky fit next to LeBron. He's almost the anti Kyrie Irving because he's not a great individual scorer and he's wired so much to pass. During the regular season you can make the LeBron-Lonzo pairing work, but when it comes to the playoffs, Lonzo will need to shoot much better to avoid getting exposed.... RAJON RONDO has found a way to be extremely effective in the playoffs. Everyone backs up and dares him to shoot, but he's so savvy that he's found a way to get into the paint and create good shots. He hits a big three every now and then too. Maybe Lonzo can take a page out of that.... Kuzma is a cleaner fit with LeBron than the other young guys because he can play a stretch position and shoot.... People want KENTAVIOUS CALDWELL-POPE to be the new J.R. Smith but J.R. has a lot of moxie, he's played in a lot of big games and hit a lot of big shots.