Last season, the backbone of the Los Angeles Lakers' success was their defense. With the moves they've made the past few days, it's clear they are looking to add more offensive firepower while trying to hold on to their defense identity.
Before the draft, the Lakers flipped Danny Green and the 28th pick to Oklahoma City for Dennis Schroder. Then they signed free agent Wesley Matthews on a one-year, $3.6 million deal. They also shocked the NBA world when they convinced Montrezl Harrell to make the hallway switch for two years, $19 million with a player option.
During the regular season this past year, the Lakers offense would fall off a cliff anytime LeBron James went to the bench; their offensive rating was 112.1 with him on the court and 105.2 with him off. A few days into the offseason, they addressed those needs by adding the Sixth Man of the Year, the runner-up and a three-and-D wing.
How might things look in L.A. during the upcoming season?
Can Schroder Fill Rondo's Void?
Making this trade means the Lakers do not expect Rajon Rondo to return after he opted out of his contract. His play in the bubble after returning from a broken thumb was outstanding, as besides being the lead ball-handler on the second unit, he showed the value of having another playmaker on the court with James.
Even though Green was sent to Oklahoma City for Schroder, it was a move to preemptively fill the void of losing Rondo.
Schroder had a great regular season coming off the bench for the Thunder and being part of their three-guard closing lineup, where he averaged 18.9 points per game and shot a career high from the field (46.9 percent) and three (38.5 percent). This past season, he shot 41.4 percent on catch-and-shoot threes on 3.6 attempts. Rondo, meanwhile, shot 39.3 percent on catch-and-shoot threes on only 1.3 attempts.
Schroder is slightly more efficient in pick-and-rolls. According to Synergy Sports Technology, he had a better points-per-possession mark in pick-and-rolls than Rondo this past year (0.912 vs. 0.901). And that's without having a pick-and-roll partner as good as Anthony Davis.
One more big bonus of this trade: the Lakers get younger. Schroder is 27 and beginning to enter his prime. With several of their draft picks heading to New Orleans via the Davis trade, this is one of the few chances they have to get a young player who is more in line with Davis' timeline.
Danny Green's Replacement
Losing Green in the Schroder trade created a need for a three-and-D wing, and that is where the Matthews signing comes in after he opted out of a $2.7 million deal in Milwaukee.
With Green slated to make $15.4 million in the last year of his deal, this is a value pickup for the Lakers. Both Green and Matthews are valuable catch-and-shoot players with the ability to defend on the perimeter, and they put up similar numbers as well, per NBA.com:
Green is a little taller (6'6") than Matthews (6'4"), and they both bring similar energy defensively. The beauty for the Lakers is they were able to replace Green at such a low cost that it allowed them to pull off another big move.
A Surprise Signing
The market for Harrell dropped dramatically after his poor showing in the bubble, but that barely represents who he is as a player. He missed most of the mini training camp and a large portion of the seeding games following the death of his grandmother. He never had a chance to get his feet under him or get back into shape.
However, Harrell had a great regular season for the Clippers. He continued his four-year streak of posting a career high in scoring (18.6 PPG), and he also added a career-high 7.1 rebounds per game while shooting 58 percent from the field.
For the Lakers, he provides an even more dynamic roll option than Howard, as he registered the third-highest pick-and-roll points per possession for roll men (1.31). His ability to roll should allow him and Schroder to form a highly efficient tandem, much like he had with Lou Williams across the hall.
Harrell will most likely continue to come off the bench, but with Davis' ability to shoot, they can play together. This signing will also allow head coach Frank Vogel to rest Davis for longer stretches without giving up too much on the offensive end. In a season with such a quick turnaround, that cannot be overstated.
There is also the added bonus of weakening one of their top rivals by stealing Harrell from the Clippers.
The Lakers are likely far from done, as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Avery Bradley are unrestricted free agents, and losing one or both would be a blow. Caldwell-Pope was another three-and-D wing player who produced at a high level both in the regular season and playoffs. Bradley sat out the bubble, and his presence was missed, as he was the Lakers' best one-on-one perimeter defender. It's also possible that general manager Rob Pelinka has another trick up his sleeve.
The Lakers were locked in defensively last season, and it showed, as they finished third in defensive rating. This offseason they've put a priority on offense and taking some of that pressure off their stars.
Barring another significant move, the Lakers defense will most likely take a step back, but it won't be nearly as big as the step forward the offense is going to take. On day one of free agency, the NBA champions improved their roster while weakening one of their bigger threats.
The Lakers could have chosen to just run it back, but instead of resting on their laurels, they got younger and more explosive. These moves have put them on track to repeat again in 2021.
Mo Dakhil spent six years with the Los Angeles Clippers and two years with the San Antonio Spurs as a video coordinator, as well as three years with the Australian men's national team. Follow him on Twitter, @MoDakhil_NBA.