The first-round loss stands as the earliest postseason exit in James’ career and certainly not how the team wanted to defend their 2020 NBA title.
So entering this offseason, Los Angeles elected to reshape the roster with veterans to complement their best players.
The Lakers traded for Los Angeles-native Russell Westbrook, then went on a free agency binge to fill out the roster.
These players, in addition to James, Marc Gasol, and Westbrook, now give the Lakers eight players with at least 13 seasons of NBA experience and six of the 12 oldest players in the league.
Oldest players in the NBA
1. Haslem – Heat
2. Iguodala – Warriors
3. Carmelo – Lakers
4. LeBron – Lakers
5. Gasol – Lakers
6. Millsap – Free Agent
7. Tucker – Heat
8. Paul – Suns
9. Gibson – Knicks
10. Ariza – Lakers
11. Howard – Lakers
12. Rondo – Lakers
— pickuphoop (@pickuphoop) August 30, 2021
With the NBA returning to a full 82-game slate for next season, Los Angeles head coach Frank Vogel will need to be judicious with how he doles out the minutes among these players.
The reality, though, remains clear: not all of these veterans will enjoy a regular spot in the rotation.
Too Many Players For Consistent Minutes
Los Angeles has assembled a roster that has made a combined 59 All-Star appearances.
Many of these players have been frontline starters in the past, but as they’ve aged, some have transitioned to specific roles.
Rondo, for example, went from being a four-time All-Star and perpetual starter with the Boston Celtics, to a journeyman role player appearing on this eighth different team in eight seasons.
Players like Anthony, Gasol, and Howard have had similar career trajectories.
Even Westbrook has bounced around the league.
So bringing together these disparate talents remains one of Vogel’s top priorities next season.
But the biggest issue for Vogel and the Lakers coaching staff next season will be dividing the minutes among these veteran additions.
An NBA game features 240 minutes of available playing time.
But last season, the top 13 players on Los Angeles’ new roster averaged a combined 320 minutes played.
So it’s clear, some players will see a dip in minutes played.
Last season, Gasol played a career-low 19.1 minutes per game with the Lakers, and that was before the recent roster additions.
Howard, meanwhile, checked in with a career-low 17.3 minutes per game while with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Anthony also logged a career-low in minutes per game, averaging 24.5 per appearance last season with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Rondo established a new career-low mark as well between his time with the Atlanta Hawks (14.9) and Los Angeles Clippers (20.4).
Ellington Most Likely To Ride The Bench
The Lakers’ signing of Ellington seemed to fill a clear need on the team.
Last season, Los Angeles made 35.2 percent of three-point tries as a team, ranking 21st in the league.
Considering James is most effective when surrounded by shooters, that roster makeup just wasn’t good enough.
Entering his 13th season in the league, Ellington nets 38.2 percent from three-point land for his career.
He made 42.2 percent last season with the Detroit Pistons.
But when looking at the roster construction for Los Angeles, it’s hard to envision a consistent role for Ellington.
But that’s something he’s comfortable with.
Wayne Ellington is a team-first guy 💯 pic.twitter.com/QCuwGEGsQo
— LakeShow (@LakeShowCP) August 27, 2021
Bazemore, a reliable defender who made over 40 percent from three last season, provides a positional versatility that Ellington does not.
What’s more, the Lakers demonstrated faith in Talen Horton-Tucker by re-signing him.
Ellington remains a specialist who will see the floor in specific situations, but he might not have a regular role in the rotation.