What Lakers' trade for Thunder's Schroder means for Warriors originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
The Los Angeles Lakers are the defending NBA champions, but they know the road to repeat will be more perilous than the one that led them to the 2020 title.
LeBron James and the Lakers were impressive in the bubble en route to winning the NBA title. But with the Warriors returning to full strength, the Los Angeles Clippers having another season to gel and the Denver Nuggets looking to take the next step, the Lakers needed to improve their roster to try and maintain their hold on the Western Conference.
They took the first step toward doing that Sunday when they agreed to send Danny Green and the player they select with the No. 28 pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for guard Dennis Schroder, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Sunday. The deal can be agreed to in principle Monday when the NBA"s trade moratorium is lifted and can be completed Wednesday after the 2020 NBA Draft.
The agreement to acquire Schroeder was made because the Lakers believe they will lose Rajon Rondo in free agency, The New York Times' Marc Stein reported Sunday.
Rondo played a massive role in the Lakers' bubble run to the NBA title. The veteran point guard took a lot of pressure off James as LA's secondary ball-handler, allowing James the freedom to play more off the ball when he was on the court. After an impressive bubble run, Rondo should command more money than the Lakers can afford on the open market.
Trading Green now leaves the Lakers with a need on the wing, which Stein reports will have them target veteran Wesley Matthews in free agency.
This move and the ones that will follow show that the Lakers have some moves up their sleeves as they look to fill out a more complete roster around James and Anthony Davis. The 2019-20 Lakers were a flawed team that won behind the best tandem in the NBA and a turn-back-the-clock performance from Rondo.
At 34 years old, there's no telling whether or not Rondo can give the Lakers that same level of production he did in last year's playoffs. In Schroder, the Lakers get precisely the type of player they were missing. They got a dynamic guard who can handle the ball and initiate the offense when James is off the floor and excel off the ball in catch-and-shoot situations when James is running the show.
Last season, Schroder had a career year, averaging 18.9 points per game while shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from 3-point range. Schroder has had an up-and-down career. He was prickly in Atlanta, sometimes dogging it on defense before the Hawks finally shipped him out of town. That won't fly next to James, who will eject Schroder in a heartbeat if he doesn't buy-in.
The Lakers also did well to rid themselves of Green, who looked close to washed in the bubble playoffs. In shedding Green's salary and the No. 28 pick, the Lakers also gained some flexibility when it comes to free agency.
With very few contending teams having cap space this offseason, the Lakers could be in prime position to make a run at the likes of Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol or Aron Baynes, all of whom likely would be out of their price range in a normal offseason.
The Warriors will return to a Western Conference that will be far more competitive than when they were last at full strength. The Lakers are the reigning champs and are set up to build a much better roster around James and Davis than the one that just won the title.
Schroder is a perfect addition for a Lakers team that needed a reliable third scorer and secondary ball-handler. If the trade also helps them secure either Gasol or Ibaka then the Warriors will face a more difficult task in knocking them off their perch.
As the offseason begins, the Warriors now must make sure every move they make, starting with their plans for the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, are executed perfectly. As the defending champions improve their roster, the Warriors now are under even more pressure to make sure they surround Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green with the best possible role players.
Their title dreams depend on it.