Are the Lakers better off without Kawhi?

The Los Angeles Lakers missed out on pairing Kawhi Leonard with LeBron James and Anthony Davis after Leonard signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. A Kawhi, LeBron and Davis combo would have been great, but are the Lakers better off without Leonard?

2013 Los Angeles Lakers 2” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

After the Los Angeles Lakers were able to acquire Anthony Davis, they opened up enough room to sign a third max contract player. With Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving and others already off the board, L.A. had their sights set on Kawhi Leonard.

Just a few days ago, Kawhi Leonard made his free agency decision, choosing the Los Angeles Clippers over the Lakers and Toronto Raptors. Not landing Kawhi may seem like a huge blow for the Lakers, as the combo of him, LeBron and Davis would have incredibly tough to stop. However, the Lakers may be better off without Leonard.

I know it sounds crazy for a team to be better without Kawhi Leonard, but hear me out on this one.


Roster with Kawhi

Had the Lakers signed the Kawhi Leonard, the Lakers would have had a roster consisting of three of the best players in the NBA. That sounds awesome, but it takes more than three guys to win basketball games. By adding Kawhi, the Lakers would have had a roster consisting of pretty much the following:

  • LeBron James
  • Anthony Davis
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Kyle Kuzma
  • Jared Dudley
  • Troy Daniels
  • No name players who won’t help them win

Had the Lakers signed Leonard, their roster would have been real thin. Outside of Leonard, LeBron, Davis and Kuzma, all the Lakers would have had were depth guys. Not guys who could help them win off the bench, but depth guys. Guys who probably shouldn’t play unless the absolutely have to. Sure, the Lakers would have been able to sign a couple more guys to minimum contracts, but they wouldn’t have been anything more than depth guys either.

One of the biggest problems the Lakers had a season ago, was their frequent usage of backup players in a starting role. Yes, injuries had something to do with that, but regardless, they played guys who shouldn’t have been on the floor way too often. That obviously helped lead the Lakers to missing the playoffs.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. Would the Lakers have made the playoffs with the above roster? Yes. Would they have been a good team? Yes. Would they win a championship? I’m not so sure. It would have been great to have at least one of these guys on the floor at all times, but who would have been around them? As proven by Kawhi Leonard’s Raptors, it takes a team FULL of capable players to win a championship. This Lakers roster would have been far from that.


Roster without Kawhi

The Lakers’ roster with Kawhi Leonard would have been good, but their roster without him may be better because of how well rounded they can be. After missing out on the biggest free agent available, the Lakers made a series of great moves to fill out their roster. Let’s take a look at what their roster looks like now.

  • LeBron James
  • Anthony Davis
  • Kyle Kuzma
  • DeMarcus Cousins
  • Danny Green
  • Rajon Rondo
  • Quinn Cook
  • Troy Daniels
  • Jared Dudley
  • JaVale McGee
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
  • Avery Bradley
  • No name players (Alex Caruso, Zach Norvell Jr., Talon Horton-Tucker and Johnathan Williams)

As you can see, because the Lakers didn’t sign Kawhi Leonard, they were able to make several moves they wouldn’t have been able to make before. They were able to sign DeMarcus Cousins and Danny Green to fill out their starting lineup. Next, they were able to sign Rajon Rondo, Quinn Cook, JaVale McGee, Kentavious Caldewell-Pope and Avery Bradley to fill out their bench rotation. There’s no way they would’ve been able to acquire a roster this deep with Kawhi Leonard’s contract.

Without Kawhi, the Lakers now have a well built roster. They’ve got a lineup of guys who should be starters (LeBron, Davis, Kuzma, Green and Cousins). They’ve got a lineup of guys who can make valuable contributions off the bench, but won’t be relied upon to carry the team (Rondo, Cook, McGee, Caldwell-Pope, Bradley, etc.) Finally, they’ve got guys who may play occasionally, but shouldn’t play often.

This Lakers’ roster has a lot more depth and a lot more possibilities than it would have had they landed Kawhi Leonard. Throw that in with the possibility of them acquiring Kyle Korver (recent free agent after being waived) and maybe adding Andre Iguodala (Grizzlies are seeking a trade, but may come to buyout agreement).

Not adding Kawhi Leonard allowed the Lakers to build a solid roster from head to toe, rather than having a roster consisting of three stars, one young player who’s on the rise and a bunch of no names. This Lakers roster is legit, and they may not be done making moves just yet.


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