Last year's Los Angeles Lakers graduated with a doctorate in How Not to Build Around LeBron James. This season's team is, by all appearances, determined to avoid the same fate.
Lessons learned have no doubt played a role in the Lakers' thinking. They know last year's team missed the mark. The stakes are also higher. They're no longer dealing with one superstar. Anthony Davis both raises their ceiling and heightens the urgency to get it right.
It reads like a ridiculous question on its face. This season's roster is a much better fit for James (and Davis) than the 2017-18 squad was.
Then-team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka opted for the model unexplored. They eschewed the tried-and-true approach of stocking the roster with shooters, opting instead for ball-dominant playmakers in what was a bizarre attempt to limit James' time on the ball.
The experiment seemed like a bad idea from the onset, and it didn't disappointment in practice.
Maybe the Lakers would have made the playoffs had James never suffered a groin injury. They held the Western Conference's fourth-best record at the time. But the roster was ill-fit to do more than crack the postseason. Los Angeles never profiled as a title contender.
Youth had something to do with it. Failed Davis trade talks in mind, the Lakers ended up keeping kids who were at mission-critical points in their development. Letting a generational gap between James and a fair share of his supporting cast make it to the start of the regular season was a risk in and of itself, but it wasn't unforgivable.
Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Ivica Zubac were there first, and impact prospects should never be moved on a whim—even if that whim is LeBron James' arrival. (Los Angeles ended up moving Zubac on a whim anyway.) The rest of the roster was harder to reconcile.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was the one post-LeBron free-agent signing that made sense. Michael Beasley, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson had their own separate uses but were awkward and half-baked as concurrent additions.
Failing to retain Brook Lopez and Julius Randle, two functional fits, made the optics even worse. The end results didn't help matters.
Los Angeles finished 18th in three-point-attempt rate and 29th in efficiency from beyond the arc. Not since the 2011-12 Miami Heat has a LeBron team placed as low in treys jacked per 100 possessions (23rd), and they at least employed another star playmaker with Dwyane Wade and ranked 10th in outside success rate during a #lockoutugly year.
James' last squad to finish outside of the top 15 in three-point efficiency was the 2006-07 Cleveland Cavaliers (18th). Last year's Lakers were the first of his teams to place in the bottom half of both long-range accuracy and volume since the 2004-05 Cavs.
Digging deeper doesn't make Los Angeles look any better.
The league average on wide-open threes was just over 38 percent. The Lakers hit 34.8 percent of their uncontested triples, dead last in the NBA. Caldwell-Pope, Ingram and James were the only players who appeared in more than 25 games for them and matched or exceeded the league average on those looks.
Meanwhile, only three teams averaged fewer points per spot-up possession, and only three Lakers reached the 60th percentile of efficiency on those plays. One of them, Mike Muscala, didn't even have 20 appearances in a purple and gold uniform.