By defeating the Miami Heat in six games with a 106-93 in the clincher, the Los Angeles Lakers have captured the 2020 NBA Championship.
The title, their first since 2010, ties them up with the Boston Celtics for the most all-time by any franchise, with 17. They become only the third team since the NBA/ABA merger to raise the Larry O'Brien trophy after not having made the playoffs the previous year, joining the 1976-77 Portland Trail Blazers and the 2007-08 Boston Celtics.
The turnaround is a testament to the greatness of the franchise, who time-and-time again found a way to build a contending team following a lull of several years. In fact, the 2020 Finals appearance extends their streak of reaching the championship round in every decade - the only team to achieve this.
So how did they build the roster needed to accomplish this incredible turnaround? Here's a look:
The Lakers' genuine era of contention began in the summer of 2018 when they signed free agent LeBron James to a 4-year $153 million deal.
However, James' groin injury derailed their first season together but the second has been a success, to say the least. Through a roller coaster of a 2019-20 campaign, which included the franchise mourning legend Kobe Bryant's tragic passing and the COVID- induced NBA hiatus, James has been a true leader for the team and the franchise through all of it.
In the 17th season of his career, the King balled out, receiving selections to his 16th straight All-Star game and a record 16th All-NBA Team. For averages of 25.3 points, a league-leading 10.2 assists, and 7.8 rebounds, James finished second in the 2019-20 MVP voting behind back-to-back winner Giannis Antetokounmpo.
But more importantly, he probably got the silverware that counted - the Larry O'Brien trophy and the Finals MVP. He does have a player option for the final year of this contract, which he can exercise to opt-out of his deal and become a free agent in 2021.
A few days into the 2019 free-agency, the Lakers catapulted into the group of championship contenders when they acquired Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans via a three-team trade.
In exchange, the purple-and-gold shipped Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, the draft rights to De'Andre Hunter (No. 4 pick overall in 2019 Draft), two first-round picks, a first-round pick swap right and cash. Also part of the deal, Lakers traded Isaac Bonga, Jemerrio Jones, Moritz Wagner and a future second-round draft pick to the Wizards, who in return, sent cash consideration to the Pelicans.
The deal was official on July 6th but had been reported more than a fortnight earlier. Here's a breakdown of the draft haul acquired by the Pelicans as part of the trade:
The Pelicans will get the following picks from the Lakers, league sources tell ESPN:- Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) June 16, 2019
No. 4 pick in 2019
Top-8 protected in 2021, becomes unprotected in '22
Unprotected swap in '23
Unprotected first in '24
Unprotected swap in '25
Tremendous haul for David Griffin & the Pelicans.
Might have seemed a lot back then, but surely any Laker fan feels a lot different about that now. AD finished second in the DPOY voting behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, receiving votes for his seven consecutive All-Star Game and was received selections on the All-NBA First Team and All-Defensive First Team.
Davis just played out the fourth year of a five-year $127.5 million deal he signed with the Pelicans. He has a player option for the 2020-21 season, which he can opt-in for $28.7 million and become a free agent in 2021 or opt-out to become a free agent in the upcoming offseason, to either become an unrestricted free agent and sign with another team or re-sign with the Lakers on a new contract.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope & Rajon Rondo
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been with the Lakers since 2017, following four years with the team that drafted him - the Detroit Pistons. He just played out the first year of his two-year $16.5 million contract that he signed in the summer of 2019.
After coming off the bench for much of the regular season (102 of 151 games) during LeBron's first two years with the Lakers, KCP started every game in the season restart in the Orlando bubble and played his crucial role to perfection replacing Avery Bradley, who had opted-out of the restart. In the 2020 playoffs, more often than not, he defended the opponent's best guard or shooter while providing the team spacing with his 37.8% shooting from beyond the arc.
He was one of three free agents from the 2018-19 season that the Lakers brought back. The others being Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee
Rondo signed a two-year $5.1 million contract at the beginning of the year. Throughout the year, the Lakers never had an outright third option on the squad but on their run to a championship in the 2020 playoffs, on some nights, Rondo was the best player from the team's supporting cast. He was the floor general for the second unit and would provide James with valuable rest minutes of playmaking responsibilities.
Just like KCP and Rondo, JaVale McGee returned to sign with the Lakers on a two-year deal as well. His was worth $8.2 million. While he started much of the regular season games - 130 of 143 games since the 2018 season - he made way for the team in the playoffs. In the 2020 postseason, he started in 11 of the 14 games that he played in the West playoffs and in the Finals, he didn't play a minute.
Note: All three players have a player option for the second year (2020-21) of their contract.
Coming off a championship with the Toronto Raptors in 2019, Danny Green signed with the Lakers as a free agent on a 2 year, $30 million contract.
He started all 68 regular-season games he played and averaged 8.0 points for the season, which includes a 27-point Lakers debut against the LA Clippers on opening night. Winning this title with the Lakers, he along with LeBron become two of only four players in NBA history to win titles with three different franchises.
Alex Caruso & Kyle Kuzma
Alex Caruso and Kyle Kuzma were two of the only home-grown rotation players for the Lakers with everybody else being a free-agent signing in 2019 or even 2018.
Caruso came under the Lakers umbrella when he signed a two-way contract with the franchise in 2017, a year after going undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft. A season later, he signed another two-way contract with the Lakers before finally earning his own NBA contract in the summer of 2019 - a two-year $5.5 million deal.
Kyle Kuzma is the only home-grown draft pick on the Lakers. He was picked 27th overall in the first round of the 2017 Draft, after which he signed a 4-year 8.6 million dollar deal.
He just played out the third year of his contract and will become a restricted free agent in 2021 if the Lakers sign the qualifying offer, otherwise, he will become an unrestricted free agent.
Dwight Howard and Markieff Morris
After being on the payrolls of four franchises in the last four years, Howard signed with the Lakers on a 1-year non-guaranteed contract worth $2.5 million. He proved to be a great defensive spark and lob threat off the bench for the team - averaging 7.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in just 18.9 minutes during the regular season. Given, how well he was playing, the Lakers guaranteed his contract in early January.
He also played a key role in the playoffs for the Lakers, especially in the Conference Finals and Finals, allowing the team to field a more defensively oriented squad with him on the floor.
The Lakers signed Markieff Morris to a rest-of-the-year contract on February 23rd, a couple of days after he agreed to a buyout with the Detroit Pistons. While he struggled to find his rhythm in the few regular-season games after he was signed, he provided the Lakers great spacing with his shooting - knocking down 3-pointers at a rate of 42.0% on 3.3 attempts in just 18.3 minutes in the 2020 playoffs - in addition to being an extra mobile body that the team could field in their small line-ups.
Avery Bradley, Jared Dudley, Quinn Cook & the rest
Avery Bradley opted-out of the bubble restart in Orlando for personal reasons but was a crucial part of the Lakers rotation before that, having started 44 of the 49 regular-season games he played. This will be the first championship of his career. Having signed a two-year deal worth $9.7 million, Bradley does have a player option for the 2020-21 season.
Jared Dudley joined the Lakers on a 1-year deal and provided valuable veteran presence on the bench. Quinn Cook was a free-agent signing for the Lakers as well, on a two-year $6 million deal.
Also, among the squad that will also receive championship rings will be Dion Waiters and JR Smith. Waiters was signed to a rest-of-the-year deal just days before the hiatus on March 6th, nearly a month after he was waived by the Memphis Grizzlies, who acquired him from the Miami Heat via trade. The nature of Smith's deal with the Lakers was similar, only thing was that he was signed on July 1st.
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