That's understandable. Good teams are almost always trying to get better in the offseason. And the Lakers may have a bit more reason to push than other defending champions.
Through no fault of its own, L.A. avoided the five opponents with the highest 2019-20 SRS (a measure that combines point differential and strength of schedule) in the postseason, including the two teams that had a higher rating than it did.
The playoff path is almost certain to be more difficult in 2021.
That means more firepower may be necessary for a successful title defense, and one area of weakness is the backcourt.
Player efficiency rating's flaws have been analyzed ad nauseam, but it remains a decent catch-all for gauging raw production. And by that measure, L.A. was outproduced by both point guards and shooting guards this season, according to 82games.com. The gap at the 1 was substantial.
So it should come as no surprise that an old rumor regarding the Lakers and one of the game's most famous point guards is back.
“I think both sides were reluctant when they went into in January, February. I don’t think the Lakers wanted to make a major move because they thought they could do something on the buyout market. And I don’t think the [Detroit] Pistons wanted to make a major move because Derrick was happy there. You know, the Lakers wanted to be involved in case the Clippers got involved or someone else, the Bucks or the Nuggets, whoever. So there was interest but not too serious. Now, everything has shifted a little. Now, they’re both in a position to where a deal is much more likely now.”
Detroit is in the middle of a rebuild. Trading Andre Drummond, who was making 27.1 million in 2019-20, for John Henson, Brandon Knight and a 2023 second-round pick more than signaled that.
Now it's time to see what kind of return the Pistons can get for Rose and Blake Griffin.
Both come with injury concerns, but Rose went a long way toward settling his last season.
Had Detroit been a better team, he would've had a strong argument for Sixth Man of the Year consideration, thanks in part to per-75-possession numbers that were eerily similar to those from his 2010-11 MVP campaign.
- 2010-11 Rose: 26.7 points, 8.2 assists, 1.7 threes per 75 possessions, plus-0.9 relative true shooting percentage
- 2019-20 Rose: 25.7 points, 7.9 assists, 1.3 threes per 75 possessions, minus-1.0 relative true shooting percentage
His on-off splits would've boosted his candidacy on a better team, as well. On the season, the Pistons were minus-2.0 points per 100 possessions with Rose on the floor, but that number plummeted to minus-5.1 when he was off.
That's solid evidence that if you pair Rose's knack for getting into the paint with a big man who can either trail his drives or pop out to the perimeter to space the floor, good things happen. And of course, L.A. basically has the Super Saiyan version of Wood with Anthony Davis.
That pairing would fit together seamlessly, particularly in the short stretches in which LeBron James is on the bench. An offense designed around a two-man game with Rose and AD could help the Lakers better survive stretches without their GOAT candidate.
Having Rose and LeBron share the floor would be a bit more complicated. Both are better on the ball, and Rose is far from a floor-spacer. The 2018-19 campaign is his only one with an above-average three-point percentage. His career mark of 30.4 is well below the league-average mark of 35.5 since 2008-09.
But that problem, if we even want to classify it as such, would certainly be of the first-world variety. Rose would likely have a bench role in L.A., as he did with Detroit, and his minutes could be staggered so that he's most heavily featured when LeBron is out.
And when sharing the floor, Rose's below-average three-point shooting wouldn't necessarily crater the offense. Each can get to the rim in a heartbeat, and kick-outs to the other could result in drives past defenders scrambling to the line, rather than three-point attempts. Even without deadeye three-point shooting, Rose is more than capable of moving opposing defenses.
The big question about all this, of course, is what it might take to actually get Rose on L.A.'s roster.
In terms of satisfying the collective bargaining agreement, a swap of Avery Bradley and Rose works. That's the benefit of Rose's modest salary. But Bradley would have to pick up a player option for that to happen. And the fact that he's on an expiring contract does nothing for Detroit. Rose is too.
What this deal would likely come down to is what kind of draft compensation the Lakers would be willing to surrender. They already gave up the farm for AD last summer, so we're talking second-rounders. And they don't even have one of those till 2023, so a couple of them might not be enough.
Rose is 32 years old. And despite playing 50 of a possible 66 games, there will always be reason to worry about his health, given his extensive injury history. The chances of another team giving up a first-rounder for him aren't off the charts. If L.A. offered its 2020 first-rounder (which actually can be moved a month after the draft), it might get the deal done.
If Detroit wanted to play hardball, it might insist on the player involved being Kyle Kuzma. He's older than you think (25) and on an expiring deal himself (meaning Detroit might have to pony up for his second contract), but he obviously holds more long-term value than Bradley.
If the Pistons insist on getting him back, the Lakers might balk, but it shouldn't drive them away from the table. Avoiding Kuzma's restricted free agency wouldn't hurt, and Rose probably helps more in the short term.
The answer to the question posed in the headline may not be a definitive yes, but there are plenty of reasons to at least try.