How the Lakers can bounce back next season, plus Collin Sexton joins the show.
Mannix and Beck dive into what could be an interesting Lakers offseason (with an assist from L.A. Times Lakers beat writer Dan Woike), the Clippers’ recent surge, Chris Paul’s spectacular playoffs, the Nets’ injury woes, and more. Later, Cavs point guard Collin Sexton joins Mannix to discuss his situation in Cleveland, going up against top playmakers, matching up against his former coach, Chris Paul, and more.
Dan Woike: [The Lakers] were in a really good position before Anthony Davis grabbed his Achilles. They were still in a pretty good position before Solomon Hill dove into LeBron James’s ankle trying to get a steal. And injuries happen, and you ride that out. But how different do you need to be? What’s your appetite for change? Because the vibe that I got kind of coming out of the season was that they felt pretty good about their talent level. It’s not like they need to get a lot more talented. They’d like to shoot the ball, better be a little more efficient on offense. But that was a team with a really good defense, a dominating defense. And there’s no reason to suspect that they wouldn’t be for a third straight year if they kind of come back.
Howard Beck: Well, that’s, I think, all true. And I understand when Rob Pelinka in the exit interview day says we have a championship roster. And listen, if LeBron and Anthony Davis are healthy, I don’t think any of us disagree. But they weren’t healthy. And the drop-off to the next tier of players they have is steep. And a lot of the guys that we were all praising them for picking up in the off-season didn’t exactly deliver. So let’s take it from there. Let’s assume a full season of health by Anthony Davis and LeBron. Are we still sure they have enough Dan? And if not, where are the places where you think they are most vulnerable and maybe even have some regrets about who they swapped out?
Dan Woike: I mean I would say yes. I’ve been under the belief that healthy LeBron and healthy Anthony Davis is good enough for like the last two years, to be honest. Those players are special enough and impactful enough on both sides of the ball that it kind of elevates everyone around them. Like, if you have competent role players, you’ll be O.K. What was super interesting about their offseason was it seemed like they tried to hedge against that sort of notion a little bit by like, you know—let’s take a little bit off their plate offensively.
Let’s go sign Dennis Schröder, who is pesky on defense but for sure is a guy who could get a bucket. Let’s go sign Montrezl Harrell, who is not pesky on defense, who sort of exists to play with energy and get buckets like let’s try that stuff. And if those guys missed some time, whether it’s two weeks with COVID-19 or an ankle sprain or just sort of like the bumps and bruises that were sure to come with that shortened offseason, that they would have guys sort of in the wings ready to take on bigger roles. And it just never really materialized. That identity never really settled that way. There were flashes of it occasionally where you could see sort of what they were trying to do. And I think that team performed admirably enough, especially on defense, like it was never an issue of playing hard or anything like that.
They always pretty much played hard for the most part defensively. But I think that Harrell’s finding was a miss. I don’t think there’s really any question about that. This is, this was sort of their big free-agency guy. The move that they had to make was, they had their mid-level exception. They gave it to Montrezl Harrell. And by the first round of the playoffs, he’s not in the rotation. Like, that’s not good. You don’t want that. And then I think secondarily, Schröder is a guy who had a pretty good season, shot the ball poorly from the three, and was out of the lineup with COVID-19 related stuff twice for big extended chunks, played through some injuries when he was around. But just, I don’t know, had a couple of really dreadful games when they needed him to be impactful with Anthony Davis hurt.
So the Lakers know all of this stuff. But it’s sort of like, well, what do you do? You’re capped, you’re paying LeBron James and Anthony Davis $70 million dollars next year. What do you do when you have two superstars? Like Bird rights Matter and the guys who you have Bird rights for, that’s how you keep your team sort of functioning. And so you’re kind of stuck with Dennis Schröder. Even if you don’t think he’s a perfect fit. But I think he might be.
Chris Mannix: Yeah, I mean, I guess one question I would have about Dennis Schröder is, does Magic Johnson’s opinion matter at all within the Lakers at this point? I mean, Magic had those comments about Schröder where he said, “I don’t think he’s a Laker.” I mean, Magic has no power anymore. But does that influence anyone over there?
Dan Woike: I mean, I think he’s so closely tied to having power and that organization is so sort of small in a way that. Yeah, I think that gets noticed for sure. I think it’s like, you know, present to Magic Johnson a list of alternatives and let’s discuss them. They’re going to pay $41 million to LeBron next year. $35 million to 80, 26 combined to KCP and Kyle Kuzma. And you know you’ve got a player option for Montrezl Harrell out there around $10 million and you’ve got Marc Gasol under contract, which who knows if he even wants to come back after the way that went down last season. So your role players and sort of your big money guys are kind of already spoken for. So unless you think you can use that mid-level and hard cap yourself again to go sign a starting point guard. I don’t know how you’re doing better than Dennis Schröder for a player that’s going to make $9 million next year. Is Kyle Lowry going to take the mid-level to come be your point guard? I don’t think so.