Los Angeles Lakers super-duper-star LeBron James has already joined the league of LA legends, after netting the team's 17th NBA title during the pandemic-shortened 2020 NBA season. His greatness as a Laker and, overall, as one of the best five players in league history has been more than cemented, with 17 All-Star appearances, four titles (plus ten NBA Finals appearances) and four MVP awards.
But there is one arena in which King James seems to be lacking, and that is roster construction.
Though head coach Frank Vogel appears doomed to receive the brunt of the blame for the club's lackluster 11-11 start to a 2021-22 season that unfairly arrived with championship expectations, it's pretty clear that the defensive-oriented Vogel was not behind the team's wild flurry of offseason moves.
Lakers team president Rob Pelinka may officially be the man responsible for the team's several questionable choices this offseason. But every move clearly had the seal of approval of James. The club traded vaunted role players Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell, plus a first-round draft pick, to the Washington Wizards in exchange for rapidly-declining former All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook and his insane $44.2 million contract his offseason.
LA also let valuable guards Alex Caruso and Dennis Schroder depart in free agency. The team also traded center Marc Gasol, plus a 2024 second-round draft pick and money, to the Memphis Grizzlies for the draft rights to Wang Zhelin.
The team thought it could replace all these departures with veteran role players, and prioritized shooting over defense. The disappointing results speak for themselves, as one of the oldest teams in the NBA has unsurprisingly struggled to defend anybody and been hit by the injury/illness bug in a big way this year.
James as a player has been great when available (though he has already missed 11 games, with a 12th absence scheduled for tonight). But as a shadow GM with way too much , he appears to have gravely overestimated the value of experience over upside, and splashy past-their-prime names over proven, win-now two-way players.