Think back on NBA history. Try to remember rookies who stepped in and immediately altered their franchise’s outlook.

Prospects who had early success like James Worthy, Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant joined at least borderline title teams. Tim Duncan may have to a certain extent, though he did so mostly because of some pretty ridiculous luck. Some might mention Michael Jordan, though he didn’t reach the second round of the playoffs until his fourth year, enduring two sweeps along the way. Even LeBron James failed to make the playoffs in his first two seasons and was eliminated early in his third trip to the postseason before finally famously taking the world by storm in his fourth.

The lesson: entrusting the entire organization’s outlook to a rookie without much help from elsewhere on the roster isn’t ideal and rarely works out for either side.

Next season, the Lakers’ young core of D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle look forward to something no Lakers rookie has ever gone through before: the pressure of immediately altering the course of an entire organization. Will the pressure make diamonds, or crush an exciting group of kids under it completely? The Lakers desperately hope for the former as all season, you can imagine potential free agents will be watching from afar.

The Lakers’ offseason has played out fairly well, especially when you consider Mitch Kupchak & Co. had to recover from again being passed up by the top targets of the summer. Both LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan looked at San Antonio and Dallas, respectively, and saw better situations where they might have a better chance at contending perennially.

Russell, Randle and Jordan Clarkson represent the Lakers’ best and, if we’re being completely honest, only asset Kevin Durant might look at with some promise moving forward when he’s a free agent in one year’s time. Sure, the Lakers offer financial flexibility to bring in someone else the following summer, but hasn’t that been their claim this year and last? And look how that’s turned out.

Instead, Durant and anyone else interested in playing for the Lakers will have the opportunity to watch three fifths of the ideal starting lineup compete this weekend in the Las Vegas Summer League.

Fortunately, though, these guys have each other to lean on. We’re operating under the assumption Randle is essentially a rookie, as he played all of 14 minutes before his leg shattered. I won’t go so far as to say the pressure in any way, shape or form led to that tragic injury, but as an English grad, it’s hard not to see some sort of irony there. There was Randle, attempting to hold the franchise up on his albeit broad shoulders, then, CRACK, there he went.

Just as Kobe has multiple times, Randle sat there in a heap on the ground understanding what had occurred looking forward to a long and arduous recovery program. Again, there is no possible correlation between the weight of the franchise and the Lakers’ broken bones and torn ligaments, but I can’t imagine it helps much, either.

In terms of basketball responsibilities, the roster is now somehow littered with players who can create for themselves and, more importantly, others. Clarkson’s stellar rookie season means he’ll have some momentum as he prepares to play alongside Russell, who did pretty well in his lone season at Ohio State, where he carried a mediocre Buckeyes team to a fun run in the NCAA Tournament. He’s been there before, and would seem ready to do so again.

Lakers fans, there’s your backcourt.

The aforementioned Randle, who by all accounts has blown away the coaching staff and front office alike with his work ethic and skillset in workouts this summer has also been there before. In his one season at Kentucky, he carried a young team all the way to the National Championship game despite have under-performed for much of the regular season. Again, he’s been here before, and he’ll have a pretty perfect counterpart in Hibbert, who looks to make up for any of Randle’s defensive deficiencies.

Hibbert has been inconsistent for long stretches, but he’s immediately better than anyone Randle might have played with last year. That’ll go a long way in easing any increased organizational pressure Randle might feel.

Add to that trio and group of veterans up and down the roster who have all been here before and that Kobe guy has done well carrying this organization. Sure, he hasn’t always been the greatest mentor to young players, but one would think he understands what exactly is at stake here. One thing Bryant has always respected has been work ethic, something these kids seemingly have in droves.

At the end of the day, the Lakers and this core find themselves in quite the precarious situation: their success is directly linked to each other. Not just this season, but also for the foreseeable future.

Yes, it’s quite the weight; but it is nice to think Russell, Randle and Clarkson can share the burden.

If you remember last summer, after the Lakers missed out on Carmelo Anthony (and the rest of the big name free agents) they quickly moved on to signing other free agents, inking deals with Nick Young and Jordan Hill (and eventually Ed Davis). Well, this summer seems to be playing out quite similarly.

After it was announced yesterday LaMarcus Aldridge would sign with the Spurs, the Lakers have moved with accelerated pace in the market, agreeing to acquire Roy Hibbert in a trade and sign Lou Williams away from the Raptors as a free agent. They are not done, however, as it is now being reported they will ink another veteran free agent forward:

The Lakers have also released a statement on the ongoing negotiations with Brandon Bass (and Williams):

Los Angeles Lakers have engaged in negotiations with free agent guard Lou Williams and free agent forward Brandon Bass and intend to enter into player contracts with them at the conclusion of the NBA Moratorium Period, it was announced today by General Manger Mitch Kupchak.

A key part of the statement, of course, is “in negotiations with” as the exact terms of these deals are not yet determined — at least with Bass. For more on how the money might work for Bass, let’s turn to Eric Pincus of the LA Times:

The “room exception” makes sense for Bass as that is the cleanest way to sign him without having to make any additional roster adjustments. However, if it were as simple as Bass signing for the $2.8 million that exception would offer, we would likely have that information right now. Instead, then, might we see more roster moves to help clear space to sign Bass (as well as create more space to take on Hibbert’s large deal)?

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Remember how the Lakers weren’t doing anything in free agency? Yesterday morning seems like so long ago. After pursuing, and ultimately (seemingly) agreeing to acquire Roy Hibbert from the Pacers, the Lakers have made another move by adding to their backcourt:

Okay, there’s sort of a lot to say about this so bear with me. I’m going to use bullet points because, well, bloggers love bullet points…

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After missing out on every free agent they targeted this summer, the Lakers are looking to add talent a different way. In sore need of a big man to man the pivot, Marc Stein is reporting the Lakers are in talks with the Pacers:

This was a topic we discussed yesterday, so I won’t rehash a lot of that now.

For more background on Hibbert’s availability, though, he had a player option on his contract that he exercised shortly after draft night. That option will pay him a shade over $15 million this season, the final of his contract. Hibbert is available mostly because the Pacers drafted his successor (Myles Turner) with their lottery pick and would like to play faster than they have with Hibbert manning the middle.

For the Lakers, the fit would likely be a mixed bag. They too would like to play faster with their young athletes, and Hibbert doesn’t really fit that mold. However, Hibbert fills a major positional need, is a fine compliment to Randle defensively, and could even serve as a bit of a defensive mentor for Robert Upshaw should he end up sticking with the team beyond summer league.

For all these reasons, I’d support the Lakers making this type of move. Especially if they could nab another asset from the Pacers in the process of absorbing such a large contract and allowing the Pacers to dump a lot of money with, essentially, nothing likely going back in return. For a team like Indy who does not want to pay the tax and would like a manageable payroll, that is a not a minor point.

We’ll see if it is enough to get a deal done, however.

Now that it is official LaMarcus Aldridge will sign with the Spurs (which was the presumed outcome when free agency started), the Lakers have officially missed out on every player they have (reportedly) targeted in free agency. To summarize, they met with Aldridge, Greg Monroe, and DeAndre Jordan. The latter two signed with the Bucks and Mavericks respectively while other “players of interest” like Robin Lopez (Knicks) are now also off the market.

This leaves the Lakers as the team standing up in this free agent game of musical chairs. And, with that, here are 10 thoughts on where the Lakers are now, how they got here, and what comes next:

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So far, free agency has not been going well for the Lakers. Beyond the optics problems with taking meetings and having reports label them as unimpressive, the bigger issue is having top targets decline offers from the team while the speed of the market has taken most other viable options to other teams for more reasonable deals. (Ed Davis bolting for Portland is a perfect example here — while the Lakers broke bread with LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Monroe, DeAndre Jordan, and Aldridge again, Davis decided he could wait no longer and signed with the Blazers for a very reasonable deal.)

Again, stripping away all the optics from this, a more tangible problem has surfaced. Who is actually left on the market for the Lakers to sign? The answer is, well, not many people. Since we last discussed this on Thursday, Robin Lopez can likely be removed from any list as reports have him signing with the Knicks should Jordan choose the Clippers or Mavericks (as he is expected to). For big men, then, this leaves a list looking like this:

  • Kosta Koufos
  • Bismack Biyombo
  • Jordan Hill
  • A bunch of other middling guys like Chuck Hayes, Ryan Hollins, Andrea Bargnani, Greg Smith, Jeff Withey, etc

Of that list, the top three options are all useful in one way or another. If the Lakers signed any of them to help fill their hole in the middle, I’d give a polite clap and go on my way. There’s nothing inherently wrong with taking on any of those guys. It’s not exciting, but chasing excitement is probably what got the Lakers where they are in free agency to begin with.

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In a pretty wild turn of events, it seems LaMarcus Aldridge may not have ruled the Lakers out after all:

This, really did come out of nowhere. It seemed the Lakers truly were out of the running, as the Spurs maintained their status as the frontrunner and the Suns making moves from the outside to swoop in and sign the seemingly soon to be former Blazer. But here the Lakers are, making another pitch:

What exactly does getting it right mean? After reports the Lakers’ initial pitch was focused too much on off-court opportunities and not enough on how things would work on the floor, this second meeting will be purely basketball:

We can make jokes about this, and I’m guessing the Lakers won’t make too much headway in this meeting. But, in saying that, while the Lakers do not have a lot of proven talent to pair with Aldridge today, they can talk Byron’s offense and how Aldridge fits into it as a centerpiece players. If Byron is able to articulate how Aldridge will get the ball in his sweet spots, have ample opportunities to work in the hub of the offense from the elbows, and be a pick and pop partner with Kobe, Clarkson, and D’Angelo Russell, that is more in line with the type of information he might want to hear.

I mean, look at his shot chart:


If looking at the types of shots Byron’s offense produces and the types of shots Aldridge seems to build his game on, there is actually a pretty big overlap. If the Lakers could combine this type of information (in more detail, of course) with a discussion on how they might also acquire a Center to pair with Aldridge in the starting lineup, that might further aid their cause:

I am by no means getting my hopes up here. If I were a betting man, I’d say Aldridge ends up with the Spurs or the Suns. But the Lakers are going to get their chance to make a second first impression and see where that gets them.

As discussed earlier, the Lakers have dwindling options in free agency as many of the most desirable players were snatched up in a frantic first 24 hours of activity. One of the more appealing options left on the market as of Thursday morning was the Lakers’ own free agent, Ed Davis.

The market moves quickly, however, and reports now have Davis no longer available:

First things first, this is a very reasonable deal for Davis. It is slightly above the Mid-level Exception, but in a climate where many players are getting more per/year money than that and inking longer contracts, the Blazers did well for themselves getting Davis for slightly more than a $6 million annual average.

For the Lakers, however, this is pretty rough news. Unless they have another option lined up, this is the type of deal they could have easily offered Davis to stick around. Considering Davis said he would like to stay with the team and, reportedly, that interest was mutual, it is difficult to see why there could not have been a mutual agreement with the end result him being in a Laker uniform next season.

When you consider the Lakers’ depth chart at Center and the fact Davis’ deal still leaves room for, roughly, a 25% max salary slot that would have still allowed the team to chase other players, it’s harder to see why something couldn’t get done.

In other words, if you weren’t fully frustrated before, this type of deal for Davis with another team likely inches you closer to that point.