General manager Rob Pelinka is making one thing clear: No one—except for LeBron James—is safe.
The question of who will start for L.A. is undoubtedly a loaded one, especially when it comes to Lonzo Ball. The Lakers signed veteran point guard Rajon Rondo this summer, a clear sign they'll be having an open competition at that spot. Rondo has been a regular starter in 11 of his 12 NBA seasons.
Rondo is joined by Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and LeBron as an interesting set of veterans to add to a youth-laden locker room. The Lakers have been regularly referenced as a potential Kawhi Leonard destination—thus stripping some of the youth—but Pelinka said the team is excited about its young players.
One such player who was surprisingly sent out the door was Julius Randle, who signed a team-friendly two-year, $18 million contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. Randle is a productive 23-year-old coming off the best season of his career, but Pelinka said the team was not ready to make any long-term commitments.
"We did identify going into this offseason to keep cap flexibility going into 2019," Pelinka told reporters.
The Lakers' only veteran long-term contract on their books aside from James is the Luol Deng albatross. Deng will make $18.8 million in the 2019-20 season but is a clear candidate for a salary dump or the use of the stretch provision. The Lakers likely would have stretched or traded Deng this offseason had another star free agent (e.g., Paul George) made the trip with LeBron.
Pelinka said that despite signing LeBron, the front office isn't resting on its laurels and only has one goal in mind.
"We don't celebrate signings. We don't celebrate roster additions. We celebrate championships," Pelinka said.
As currently constituted, these Lakers are not a championship contender. Perhaps no team but the Golden State Warriors really has a chance next season. But by fostering an environment based on merit and competition, Pelinka and the Lakers are likely hoping to push Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma to grow as players—making them more palatable co-stars for LeBron or even better trade bait.