Los Angeles Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka began the last offseason by attempting to surround LeBron James with the right pieces to challenge for an NBA title. Now, he is faced with the task of doing it again. Just one month after the Lakers were celebrating their NBA Finals victory with confetti falling onto the court in Orlando, Pelinka has already begun deconstructing the Lakers championship roster and revamping it into one that will defend the title next summer.
The overhaul of the Lakers roster began on Wednesday night during the 2020 NBA Draft, when it was officially announced that the Lakers had acquired Oklahoma City Thunder guard Dennis Schroder in exchange for guard Danny Green and the rights to the No. 28 overall pick Jaden McDaniels.
Because the Lakers owe New Orleans a protected 2021 first-round pick from the Anthony Davis trade, they couldn’t officially trade Green and McDaniels until after the selection was made, per NBA rules.
“We’re really excited about adding Dennis to our core,” Pelinka said. “I think the hallmark of the Lakers in the bubble is that we were a tenacious, competitive, nasty, defensive-minded, physical team. Dennis Schroder is a player that we feel like shares those qualities. He’s a player that other teams hate to play against, but the team that has him and the teammates on his team love to play with him.”
Schroder posted a career-best average of 18.9 points per game, along with 4.0 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game with the Thunder last season, just his second with OKC after spending his first five seasons with the Atlanta Hawks. Schroder also finished second in the Sixth Man of the Year voting after leading all bench players in scoring.
His ability to create shots for himself will bring a new dynamic to the Lakers’ offense that they did not have at the point guard position with Rondo or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Schroder can also serve as insurance for the upcoming year if Rondo or Caldwell-Pope depart in free agency.
“He gives us offensively another elite playmaker, both on the ball in a pick-and-roll situation and off the ball as a scorer,” Pelinka said. “He’s been a player we’ve pursued not just in this trade deadline but before, we pursued him aggressively. But to finalize this transaction and bring him to the Lakers is satisfying.”
The Lakers will miss veteran Green and his reliable defense, since he knows the tendencies of the opposition’s best scorers, but will not miss his 3-point misses that became a burden in the postseason. And while the 28th overall pick did not have tremendous value, it would’ve been a chance to find some cheap, young talent.
But the acquisition of Schroder and his fit with the Lakers present far more upside than what they could’ve gotten out of McDaniels or anyone they might have drafted with the 28th overall selection. Based on last season’s numbers, Schroder instantly slides in as the third-best scorer on the Lakers behind James and Davis.
The Lakers were a bottom-10 team from behind the arc last season. Teams would ease up on Green or Alex Caruso in order to better defend James or Davis. Schroder posted a career-best 38.5 percent from beyond the arc last season and could make teams pay for leaving him breathing room to make those open 3-point shots they gave to Caruso and Green last season.
Green and Schroder were on very similar contracts, but with Schroder being the younger option while offering more to the team was too good to pass for Pelinka and the Lakers. Green and Schroder will be making approximately $15 million this upcoming season. Both players have contracts that expire in summer 2021, giving them flexibility with cap space to possibly resign Schroder on a long-term contract, or Los Angeles could let him walk and prepare for the big 2021 free-agent class.
This trade is just the first of many possible roster moves that the Lakers will be making as they try to put together a team that can proudly defend the title they had brought back to Los Angeles. The Lakers will not be able to bring back everyone from the 2019-20 team, but Pelinka remains hopeful that the team can retain a significant amount of the free agents.
“We’d like to keep as much of our core players together to repeat as possible because continuity is obviously incredibly important,” Pelinka said. “We had, I think, one of our strong points in the bubble. It was such a mental grind for 100 days to be in a medical bubble, away from friends and family, that the team with the best chemistry was going to have an advantage and I felt like that was us. Our guys love playing together and being together so we would like our core to be as intact as possible.”
Continuity will be extremely important this upcoming season as the offseason was shortened significantly for the Lakers, who will only have approximately two and a half months of rest after their last Finals game before they suit up for the upcoming NBA season on Dec. 22, which was shortened to 72 games in an attempt to play through the same pandemic that halted the season and caused the league to shut down back in March.
Jeremy is an intern at News4usonline currently working on his BA in communications at CSUDH. He grew up in the southeast LA neighborhood of Huntington Park and enjoys watching soccer, football, basketball and baseball.