Lakers Fans Need to Trust Rob Pelinka's Secret Plan

GM Rob Pelinka is playing chess while fans are playing checkers.
2024 USAB Men's Training Camp In Las Vegas
2024 USAB Men's Training Camp In Las Vegas / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

On Monday on the Dan LeBatard Show presented by DraftKings, David Samson, host of Nothing Personal, called out LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers for cheating the system by the way they stayed under the first apron of the salary cap that was introduced this year with the new NBA collective bargaining agreement.

“The Los Angeles Lakers are so full of [expletive] and LeBron is the key conductor of that,” Samson said.

The Lakers, according to him, have a massive boulder of nepotism they have to carry with the signing of Bronny James. However, is GM Rob Pelinka playing chess while we play checkers as fans?

What is the Apron System?

No, it isn’t the one you cook with. According to the Washington Post, simply put, the apron system has been put in place to shackle the “fat-wallet” franchises. When you think of those kinds of franchises, you think of big cities: Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and Miami. Teams must spend 90% of the NBA cap which sits at $140.6 million. When you hit certain “aprons,” very similar to just going over the luxury tax in the old system, there are severe penalties.

LeBron James took $2.7 million under the max contract he could’ve gotten. That money is made up with Bronny James’ guaranteed contract he just signed, which is very rare for any second-round pick. I believe David Samson, who has been a general manager for the Miami Marlins in baseball, might have a point.

I know what you are thinking. That stuff is way over my head. Rich Eisen on his show had SI’s Chis Mannix on to dumb it down for the casual fan.

"It’s a bookkeeping pay cut – it keeps the Lakers under the first apron and gives them wiggle room during the season – at the midseason mark … Lakers could use draft capital and could make a deal under the new CBA [via trade]. They did not want to trade their draft picks unless it was for an elite player. The Lakers don’t want to sacrifice their future for two more years of LeBron James."

Chris Mannix, SI

I believe it’s ironic that the Lakers get scolded by the media for being smart. Is it a sort of grey area? Maybe. James’ deal is a 1+1 deal, meaning he has a regular contract with a player option after the season. Kendrick Perkins of ESPN, about a week ago, said this showed this could be the last season for LeBron James.

There have been rumors the Lakers could offer everything they have in draft assets in a deal with whoever gets the No. 1 pick in the 2025 NBA Draft to land phenom Cooper Flagg, who is currently playing with the USA Select team that helps train the USA National Team for the Olympics this summer. Flagg hasn’t even stepped on the floor for the Duke Blue Devils yet but he likely would’ve gone #1 overall if he had been eligible this draft.


The connection is none other than Lakers’ coach, JJ Redick. Being a former Duke star himself, he and the Lakers have to know that Flagg is getting LeBron James type of hype out of high school which is hard to get in this age of social media.

Redick is friends with James, but that can’t be the only reason he got the job. Next year’s draft class is supposed to be one of the best in recent years. The free-agent class is also massive with names like Jalen Brunson, Aaron Gordon, Lauri Markkanen, and Brandon Ingram. If LeBron James retires and you trade for the number one pick in Cooper Flagg, you will have a clean roster besides, maybe, Anthony Davis, Cooper Flagg, Max Christie, Bronny James, and Dalton Knecht. The rest could be trade chips. The Lakers could go from a play-in team to a championship favorite in 2025-2026.

The Lakers have received a lot of backlash from fans and the media. The chess pieces are coming into position and Rob Pelinka may know what he is doing. If he pulls off Copper Flagg, Pelinka may get himself a statue. That opens a new ceiling for the Lakers and we must trust the process.

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