The Los Angeles Lakers came to terms on a contract with Jared Dudley on Tuesday, and the nearly 34-year-old forward is already prepared to get to work on publicly recruiting Kawhi Leonard to join him in L.A.
When asked how a theoretical big three of Leonard, Anthony Davis and LeBron James would compare to other big threes throughout the history of the league Dudley told Adrian Wojnarowski on “The Woj Pod” that it might be the best such triumvirate ever:
“It compares to the Heat, but a little bit more on steroids. And the reason why I say that is because you arguably have three of the top five best players. I think that Wade and ‘Bron were considered that, I think Bosh was a little bit (outside of that)… AD, a year ago you could’ve argued him as being a top two or three best player in the league. Kawhi Leonard this year, taking his team to winning a championship. LeBron, his accolades speak for themselves.
“The difference with these other super teams and the way they’ve happened over the years is that Miami in a way was kind of cool, because it was three guys coming together in different situations. Even though they were hated early, then they were beloved. The Golden State superteam, that team was already a superteam, but they were a superteam organically, and then you add Kevin Durant, the cheat code on that one and then they became impossible.
“If the Lakers get Kawhi, then yes, you’re right there, you have all the talent. But it’s different because I’m signed for the minimum. You’re going to have minimum guys, you’re going to have to have key veterans step up in big moments and it’s not just gonna be easy if you get someone like that. So I look at it as a possibility that I think is good for the league. When it comes to the revenue, you need the Lakers and Knicks good. Obviously the Knicks couldn’t get it done, and we’ll see what Kawhi decides, man, but it’s better for the league.”
Okay, first of all, “obviously the Knicks couldn’t get it done” is some hysterical shade on Dudley’s way out of the New York area.
Aside from that, and on a more serious note, Dudley makes some excellent points. The Lakers’ big three — if they add Leonard — will be as talented or more as any top three players any team has ever had. It’s an NBA 2K team with trade override turned on after you ran out of contracts to salary match.
But he’s also right that the Lakers will have to nail the signings on the margins, because L.A. will need more out of those veteran’s minimum players — like Dudley — than most good teams would require from a player at that salary level.
Beyond Davis, James and (in theory) Leonard, the Lakers would have Kyle Kuzma, second-round rookie Talen Horton-Tucker, Dudley and fellow recent veteran’s minimum signing Troy Daniels. They would also have the room exception, worth $4.8 million, to add an above-average role player, but they would still have to probably fill at least five spots in the regular season rotation with veteran’s minimum players — which could include or not include Dudley and Daniels, depending on head coach Frank Vogel’s preferences.
That’s a lot of weight for that band of merry minimum’s to carry, far more than they would on a normal championship contender, but James, Davis and Leonard would more than be able to make it possible provided that all three stay reasonably healthy. That’s as high-powered of a trio as has ever existed in the NBA, and even if the rest of the starting lineup is, say, Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope back on minimum deals (in theory), it would still be arguably the best starting unit in the NBA. That’s basically three-fifths of an All-NBA Team, after all.
But because of those cap constraints — and if the Lakers sign Leonard — this will be a fascinating experiment in team building, demonstrating once and for all just how much depth matters as long as the top three players in your rotation are ridiculously good. If Dudley’s vision comes to pass, we’ll get to find out.
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