LeBron James, since the beginning of his career, has always looked to surround himself with shooters — to free up the lane and space the floor.
But he may be looking to change that strategy for team building now that he’s in Los Angeles.
In looking at the Lakers’ free-agent acquisitions, they don’t make sense as pieces that would normally fit in James’ puzzle. Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee — none of these guys can really shoot, and they’re all ball-dominant players. But both Stephenson and Rondo have a high basketball IQ, and they really get after it on the defensive end, especially Stephenson.
On that subject, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst recently published an article on how the Lakers are being rebuilt, specifically what Johnson pitched to James. And it looks like James would be altering his style of play — slowing the pace down a bit more to control the tempo, while favoring a more defensive-minded strategy.
What Johnson pitched to James was a team stocked with tough-minded playmakers like Stephenson and Rondo who could free up James to finish in the lanes and from the post, rather than having to create the lion’s share of the offense himself. Rondo and Stephenson are also defensively versatile, as their length enables them to be effective defenders in switches. That also follows with the talents of the 6-foot-6 Ball, who showed the ability to be an elite rebounder and defender for a guard in his rookie year.
“I know some people are rolling their eyes, but I like what the Lakers have done,” a rival Western Conference executive said. “You can find shooters. They’ve taken some in the last few drafts. Playmakers matter and are harder to find.”
It’s unclear exactly why James and Johnson are looking to do this, but we believe it has to do with dethroning the Warriors. Golden State has established itself as a dynasty, winning titles in three of the past four seasons, by shooting lights out from the perimeter, so challenging them and limiting their space could certainly be a sound strategy to defeating them (if that’s even possible until Kevin Durant and/or Klay Thompson eventually depart, at some point).
The Rockets attempted to beat the Warriors by outscoring them — that didn’t work. What James and the Lakers are trying to do may be a bit more successful, but we’ll just have to wait and see.