With the 2020 Finals in the history books after an unusual and impromptu return to the NBA season amid a pandemic, now is a good opportunity to reflect on how the Los Angeles Lakers secured their 17th championship in team history and are primed for another in the 2021 playoffs.
Many top sports news outlets called for a first-round upset of the Lakers by the Trailblazers because of Portland’s small-ball style that could spread the Lakers’ defense thin. After an initial loss, Los Angeles quickly adjusted its offensive scheme and proceeded to win the next four matchups and the next two rounds 4-1 as well.
With a stacked free agency this summer, the champs may have new competition, not to mention injured stars that will be returning to lead their teams — Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant will be back in play for the Warriors and Nets, respectively.
If Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka looks to secure key additions to his roster in free agency, who might he target? The three most key players of the Lakers are Anthony Davis, LeBron James and arguably Rajon Rondo. This trio is a wealth of talent, experience and leadership. On top of James’ leadership, he also hand-selected key pieces of this championship squad. Davis was a talent that James scouted, and the clues came together when Davis signed with the same agency as James, Klutch Sports Group, shortly before Davis was sent to LA.
Many players on the Los Angeles roster vouch for James’ impact and how he rebuilt the franchise, particularly in this season.
“[James] is the system,” said Lakers forward Jared Dudley, according to Newsday. “The coach might call plays, but [James] is calling 80 to 90 percent of the plays when he’s in there. Now coach [Frank Vogel] is really great on Xs and Os out of timeouts.”
Rondo also remarked that James recruited the veteran point guard for his postseason play — the players did not mention the Lakers’ front office as reasons for joining Los Angeles.
James chased Davis as his co-star in Hollywood, as James’ playmaking and vision combined with the latter’s finishing and inside scoring is a deadly combo. On top of that, Davis is an elite rim protector and solid perimeter defender.
Although James calls the majority of play in-game, head coach Frank Vogel’s impact is not to be overlooked. His defensive schemes and ability to adjust are critical to keeping the grand strategy of a series and the season in mind.
The regular season was decidedly average for the Lakers, only marginally better in most statistics. A lack of increase in most statistics from the regular season to the playoffs do not show how Los Angeles was able to sit atop the NBA, and so it comes down to Xs and Os, and how Vogel and James were able to adjust and play chess throughout the playoffs against opposition.