The Los Angeles Lakers title defense didn’t last very long last season.
LeBron James and the Lakers, fresh off the shortest offseason in league history, suffered through an injury-riddled campaign that saw them exit in the first round of the playoffs.
James missed 26 of the team’s final 30 games with a sprained ankle, and Anthony Davis missed extended time during the year with a strained calf.
The Lakers slipped to the seven-seed, entering the Play-In Tournament and toppling the Golden State Warriors.
But after taking a 2-1 lead against the Phoenix Suns in their first-round series, another injury to Davis submarined their title defense.
Los Angeles lost in six games to the eventual Western Conference champs.
LA’s New Big Three
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) August 10, 2021
The Lakers didn’t want to stand pat with a flawed roster that struggled through the Western Conference.
The team didn’t want to waste another year of James’ career, considering the 17-time All-Star is entering his 19th season in the NBA.
So Los Angeles went all-in around LeBron.
The Lakers shocked the NBA world with a draft day deal for nine-time All-Star and triple-double maven Russell Westbrook.
Los Angeles shipped off nearly a third of their rotation to land the two-time scoring champ and one-time league MVP.
The polarizing move brings Westbrook, the Los Angeles-native, home and should alleviate pressure from both James and Davis.
Westbrook can more than shoulder the load offensively for long stretches of the regular season, which should allow James to bide his time for the playoffs.
This addition immediately reinvigorates the Lakers’ title hopes.
Davis, James, and Westbrook stand as the most talented trio in the Western Conference.
The Lakers currently stand tied with the Brooklyn Nets for the best odds for the 2022 NBA Championship.
Lakers Retool Roster Around James
The Lakers will introduce Carmelo Anthony and Kent Bazemore on Monday; Russell Westbrook on Tuesday
Kent Bazemore at 2:30 PM PST
Carmelo Anthony at 3 PM PST
(T) Russell Westbrook at 1 PM PST
(T) Rob Pelinka, Frank Vogel are also expected to take part in media availability 💜💛 pic.twitter.com/GpMooeG239
— The Laker Files (@LakerFiles) August 9, 2021
Adding Westbrook wasn’t the only move in Los Angeles.
The Lakers added James’ 2003 NBA Draft classmate, Carmelo Anthony, to a one-year deal in free agency.
After bouncing around the league following his All-Star run with the New York Knicks, Anthony reinvented himself as a bench scorer with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Last season, Anthony averaged 13.4 points in 24.5 minutes per game, netting a career-best 40.9 percent from three-point land.
Anthony’s addition also alleviates halfcourt scoring pressure off James and Davis, considering he’s scored over 27,000 points in his career.
To fill out the remainder of the roster, Los Angeles opted for veteran role players with specific skill sets.
Ariza and Bazemore should provide capable defenders to deploy on the perimeter around Davis, James, and Westbrook.
In Ellington, the Lakers added one of the best three-point shooters in the league.
Ellington makes 38.2 percent of his three-point attempts for his career, and he’s coming off a season in which he netted 42.2 percent from deep.
Howard provides an interior defensive presence.
Monk hit 40 percent of his threes last season.
Nunn, meanwhile, built himself from an undrafted player to a 15-point per game scorer.
These talents should help maximize the final years of James career.
The Lakers have also been linked to free agent guard Isaiah Thomas, who’s coming off an 81-point performance at a Seattle Pro-Am.