In part III (and the last) of our Lakers’ team building series, we will look at the option I like to call the middle road. If the first option is the slow rebuild and the second option is to try to contend right away, the next logical step is to find something which satisfies both while not going too far in either direction.
The Lakers are uniquely positioned to take this path, too. Now that they have secured the #2 overall pick in the upcoming draft — to go along with the #28 pick they got from Houston — while still possessing 6 players they’ve drafted over the past 3 years in contributing roles, the team has a blend of assets and enough cap space to be players in either the FA or trade market. What we’ll do below, then, is explore what this option might look like and how the front office may go about executing such a plan.
The Case for the Middle Road
At some point, you have to make the jump from lottery fodder to something more substantive. The Lakers are coming off four seasons of missing the playoffs. And while the fruits of those losses are currently developing on this roster (or, in the case of this year’s pick, will soon be), solely depending the internal growth of those players to elevate the roster to the next level is not the only option. And it may not even be the most prudent.
Young players are the easiest the rally behind and see the good in. They are bundle of potential and tools and flashes of what their peak will eventually look like. Things they’re not good at now can be improved on and the things they are good at now will just get better and better. At least, that’s often the approach we take.
We know that’s not true, though. Some players never really improve their weaknesses to reasonable levels. Some young players rest on the strength of what they do well, never really growing their game or turning their plus-potential in a given area into sustained excellence. Some get injured. And some never turn the corner and, ultimately, bust.
Let me state up-front I believe in the talent of the Lakers’ young guys. But hedging against them reaching their full potential by trying to bolster the roster with a star player now isn’t some sort of knock on that belief. Smart teams are constantly trying to improve their roster; to bring in top talent that can supplement what you have in place and, if needed, take the mantle as the team’s best player in order to help raise the level of play from everyone.
Further, when constructing a roster, I am a firm believer in the idea of properly slotting players into best fitting roles and responsibilities to optimize their play (and, in young players, their growth and development). A perfect example of this was when the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol in 2008. Pau went from a #1 option to the #2 in LA which then slid Odom from a #2 option to a #3 or #4 option (depending on how you felt about Andrew Bynum), which helped maximize both players, leading to deep playoff runs.
In discussing this idea with Reed, he made the same point regarding how adding a star player (Paul George was his example) could work the same way for the young players:
Adding a star now, when the core is so young, may slot them into more natural roles/responsibilities, allowing them to develop with less pressure. Think about how SA was able to develop Kawhi, slowly increasing his offensive usage/responsibility year by year as he was ready. This put him in a position to succeed, and avoided media scrutiny that comes during spotlighted growing pains. And none of the core are probably ready yet to be the primary go to scorers/creators, even with someone like Lonzo (potentially) joining them.
Russell is quickly becoming a fantastic scorer and playmaker, Ingram showed strides in the second half, and Randle has stretches where he dominates. But having them serve as secondary options to a Paul George type could put them in more favorable matchups/positions within the offense. And this may be especially true given the skill sets of the team’s core players. Russell and Lonzo are visionary passers, but great passing needs great finishers to really work, which has been lacking to this point. Even Randle and Ingram are great passers in their own ways (Randle more as a Lamar Odom semi-transition creator, and Ingram as a decisive quick ball mover). Having an elite scorer (like George) on the court would help maximize those gifts, and tilt the defense away from Russell/Ingram, providing more favorable matchups for them to get reps and develop.
Lastly, I think we can all agree that if the goal is to one day be a championship team, the Lakers need elite talent. Lots of it. Betting on Russell, Ingram, Randle, or whoever gets drafted at #2 can be argued to death by smart people as wise or not. But, I think all would agree that even if all those guys reach their ceilings (or come close), having great players beyond them isn’t just a nice thing to have, it’s a necessity. Look at the Cavs and the Warriors in the Finals. Look at the level of play they exhibited to get to this point. Now contrast that to what the Lakers have — even if forecasting things out 3-4 years. I think it’s pretty clear the Lakers will need more.
Building on this point, it’s pretty clear that star players want to play with guys who they see as peers. Getting one of those elite level players sooner than later allows the Lakers to set the foundation for acquiring more of these types down the line. Said another way, you have to start somewhere and while you can always look at the young guys on the team and hope they reach that point, we all know nothing is a given. Getting a star on board sets the stage and could be a boon in attracting additional high level players in future seasons.
Executing the Plan
Before we can discuss the execution, I think it’s important to note that there is no single option for going this route. As Reed explains below, there are different variations of what this might look like:
There are a few possible variations, based on timing and what opportunities present themselves:
- Trading for a star this summer (George, Butler) plus using cap room to add a second star this summer (Hayward, Griffin)
- Trading for a star this summer (George, Butler) and reserving cap room for next summer (Cousins, Westbrook, Jordan, Isaiah)
- Signing a free agent star this summer (Hayward, Griffin) and avoiding trading the core now; target another star in 18 FA (George, Westbrook, Cousins, Jordan, Isaiah)
- Be patient for one year; try to sign a star in 18 (George, Cousins, Westbrook), and perhaps another then or in 19 (Butler, Klay, Wall), or 20 (Davis, Kyrie, Harden, Drummond)
I think the basic concept is to find a way to add a foundational star to the young core either this or next summer, and then look to add a second star as soon as possible, based on how the roster is shaping up (with internal core development etc).
Let’s group similar ideas and speak to each one.
First, any trade for a star player is going to depend on a variety of factors, but I think determining who to specifically target is the first step. The clear favorite in the clubhouse, I think, would be Paul George. George would, in theory, require the least amount of ammunition to obtain due to his rumored preference to come to the Lakers in free agency in the summer of ’18 and how that might impact the offers the Pacers receive and their asking price. History tells us the longer it goes with George on the roster, the less leverage the Pacers have in a deal as he approaches the summer he can leave without any compensation returning.
As noted in our “win now” post, if I am running the Lakers all of the above impacts what I am willing to offer. As it stands, a list of assets, ranked in ascending order of what I believe would be the preference by other teams, would be:
- 2017 #2 pick
- D’Angelo Russell
- Julius Randle
- Larry Nance
- Jordan Clarkson
- Iviza Zubac
- 2017 #28 Pick
Of that list, I would guess the Lakers view Ingram and the #2 pick on one tier, Russell and Randle on the next tier down, and the rest of the group on the tier under that. If I’m the Lakers, the top tier is not getting traded at all. And, in fact, I would prefer not to deal either Russell or Randle either. That leaves the bottom tier of Clarkson, Nance, Zubac, and the 28th pick. I would feel comfortable trading two of those four, with my order of preference to make available in a trade being Clarkson, #28, Nance, then Zubac.
With that, if a package of Clarkson, Nance, and filler (Brewer’s contract works to make the trade legal) got the job done, I’d jump at that. This is also a comically lowball offer that the Pacers should never even consider. Even if throwing in the #28 pick with Nance/Clarkson, the Pacers should not bite. But that would be as high as I would go. Again, the Lakers are in a position to wait this out because even if they lose out on George via the trade market, they could always try to chase him in the summer of 2018.
Regarding chasing a star FA this summer, there are several options who qualify from a name + skill level standpoint, but a further exploration of fit — be it because of age, position, or other factors — starts to whittle candidates down.
For example, I could make a case for chasing Blake Griffin or even Chris Paul, but neither offers the type of short and long term impact the team should want with a major signing this summer. Both would also likely require a further revamp of the surrounding roster, ultimately leading to a team which ended up more in a “win-now” mode than preferred for the path we’re exploring here. This is especially true with Paul, but even with Griffin, he’d immediately slide into the starting PF role which leaves the Lakers having to move off of Randle and, potentially, limit the minutes Ingram might get at that spot too.
This leaves the best FA target as Gordon Hayward. Should the Lakers be serious about finding a viable all-star level player this summer who checks off all the major boxes, Hayward is the lone guy who really works. He’s only 26, was an all-star this season, can play either wing position, is a very good defensive player, can be a primary scorer on a really good team, and plays a style which is conducive to how Luke Walton wants his team to play. Whether the Lakers could get Hayward is a whole other story, but he’s the exact player the front office should be targeting if jumpstarting things this summer is a real goal.
Of course, the more prudent approach might still be to wait just one more summer to try to get that key star (or, potentially, two of them). The summer of 2018 has a slew of potential FA’s and if the Lakers play their cards right, they could have/could create the needed cap space to flirt with signing two of them. We already mentioned George, but DeMarcus Cousins, Russell Westbrook, and DeAndre Jordan (among others) could all hit the market next summer. In an ideal world, the Lakers could use this next season as a building block/growth year for all their young players and then look to FA in the summer to grab the star(s) that could accelerate their rebuild into hyperdrive.
This may require using a young player or two to dump bad contracts or using the stretch exception to generate space. But, if the Lakers roll over this summer’s cap space to 2018 and then create more through various moves while leveraging Julius Randle’s bird rights to hang onto him, they could end up with a roster of two big name players, Russell, Ingram, this year’s #2 pick (Ball?), and maybe even Randle as the basis of a team that can play and grow together for at least another half decade. By the end of that time frame, the hope would be they’d be ready to make deep playoff runs every season and be in a position to be one of the handful of teams considered true contenders for the championship.
If nothing else, simply writing out the mechanisms of what finding a middle ground would look like steers me more towards targeting 2018 as the first possible year for the Lakers to really make a splash with any big name player acquisition. The likelihood of being able to make a trade this summer without surrendering assets from the top two tiers of the team’s cache is slim. Plus, spending in FA this summer, while fine in theory, is just so unlikely due to the current position of the team’s core and how much proving they still need to do as players.
Further, I’m of the mind that the Lakers do need to continue to nurture their talent and get more information on just how likely they are to approach their ceilings as players. Magic and Pelinka have already laid down the gauntlet for this summer, outright stating their expectation that the young guys come back improved as players and in much better shape. For me, the best plan is to allow them to play that out into the season in order to let them grow and to be able to evaluate them heading into what is likely a crucial 2018 summer.
Make no mistake, I want the Lakers to improve next season. And not by just a handful or two of games. Pushing for a playoff seed — or even getting in — would be a major step that allows the young players to get some much needed experience by playing in meaningful regular season games down the stretch of the year. But, when weighing all of the options for this summer, I just cannot find a viable path to a star player that does not cut into the team’s talent base too much or potentially limit the potential growth of a key player or two along the way to the larger team improvement.
Overall, then, while I could certainly get behind using this middle road to get the Lakers back on the path to being a contending team, I think it needs to wait at least one summer. Realistically, it may be even two summers. I don’t know if that’s something fans could truly get behind, but now that the team is starting to hoard some good young players, I would lean more towards patience than the alternative.
Michael Kellough says
I say, just sit tight and continue to build through the draft! Hopefully, Magic won’t feel pressured and begin to give away the young players, that we’ve worked so hard to get, and begin to make trades we will live to regret! Be patient, wait! Give this group a chance to develop!
John McGovern says
Blake is a great opportunity…wait a year on PG….Randle is then expendable if he hasn’t improved enough…Ball, Dar, PG, Blake, and 5….with Nance …4 versatile Ball handlers…that is the way to go
A Horse With No Name says
Blake isn’t going to happen. He’s done: chronically injured, different timeline, past his prime.
Great read , picture will be clearer once we know who the Lakers actually draft
Rick in Seattle says
Well written analysis, Darius.
Although you mentioned Gordon Hayward being the best fit among the available 2017 free agents, there are other, less talked about (and probably less expensive) F/A’s that I think deserve some discussion as well.
In order to prepare for “any” future free agent, the FO needs to keep their focus on finding ways to deal with the Deng & Mozgov contracts. They are not as untradable as some have suggested. If the team considers a major trade (i.e. Randle or others), a major factor in any such potential trade should be to find a team willing to take one of them. Example: I’m sure the Knicks could be talked into one or both of them if the Lakers were interested in Carmello. No, I’m not advocating that trade–just using it as an example. Nearly every team has certain players that do not fit or are ‘expendable’.
Speaking of that, another area where the Lakers could find some value while not making major trades this summer, is to use their available cap space to find short-term ‘unwanted’ player contracts that other teams would like to dispose of, and picking up some extra draft picks in the process–sort of the the reverse of the Lou Williams situation. Example: SAS may look to remove a few players IF they decide to seriously go after FA PG Chris Paul. Any added draft picks gained in the process could be used toward the disposition of the Deng & Mozgov contracts.
Otherwise, kind of agree with you that the team basically stands pat for the coming season (unless a player like Hayward becomes a serious possible acquisition). Use the available cap space to bring in short-term unwanted contracts, and keep our powder dry for another season.
Example of a decent possible trade: Mozgov, Brewer & 28th pick to Brooklyn, for the expiring contract of B. Lopez. Helps solidify cap space for 2018,
In the draft, Josh Jackson seems like just a much better fit with what the Lakers need. Do the Lakers really need a 3rd or 4th PG? Jackson fills a bigger team weakness. Plus its possible the Lakers could trade down a spot or two and still get Jackson. I would be temped to discuss a possible trade with Sacramento or Philly. Philly likes Ball a lot, and he fits their roster. Maybe there is a 2for1 trade that could develop.
I don’t see us selecting Jackson unless we traded down to – say #5 – and he won’t be there then.
If we trade down then we must eliminate thoughts of Ball or Jackson.
A Horse With No Name says
Jackson isn’t getting past #3, and may very well be taken #2. It would take a lot to trade out of the top three picks. The currency of the realm is and will continue to be, versatile, 2-way wings. These are the most prized, valued players. Jackson is the best 3/2 prospect since Wiggins. I think he’s better though: every bit the athlete, much better passer. Similar handles and defensive abilities. More fire and even better motor. Truly Kobe-like attributes.
There is a huge recency bias among So Cal laker fans for Ball and what he did at UCLA (he was awesome). I think the laker draft decision makers are going to really carefully evaluate Ball and determine whether or not he can excel at the next level the way he did in college. His flaws are well understood and if they think they aren’t dooming, they will pick him for his tremendous passing. But I don’t think he survives the workout–especially after they look at Jackson. Also, I can’t see Ball thriving in the half-court actions we are seeing in the playoffs. There is tremendous defensive pressure on the perimeter on handlers, and it takes a good to great first step and superlative handles to beat the pressure and drive to the hoop. Ball has neither.
Rick in Seattle says
After Fultz, there are five players that are closed grouped: Ball, Jackson, Tatum, Fox and Smith. If the Lakers were to trade down with Sacramento, they would get one of those prospects at #5. And then, there are several options for #10. In addition, if Sacramento threw in an additional player (as was originally reported), it might be a deal that the Lakers would find hard to pass up. Dennis Smith is reportedly coming in to work out for the Lakers this coming Saturday. Fox will work out the following Tuesday.. Tatum not yet scheduled. Lakers not locked in to any one option, at this point. Good position to be in. .
It would be great if Moz or Deng could be factored in, Sacramento gives up #5 & 10 for Laker #2, plus takes one of the contracts.
Rick in Seattle says
Now your talking, Alan. Maybe we need to nominate you for Sacramento’s next GM. Fresh thinking out-of-the-box, Great idea.
Tar Baby says
I don’t think the Lakers can realistically expect to dump Mozgov or Deng this season for anything other than another bad contract….even with a late first thrown in.
The Lakers only have $63m guaranteed going into 2018 and only Randle as a potential priority signee. With him, #2, and #28 the Lakers should still have $25-30m in cap space left – and that includes both Deng and Mozgov.
Unless they get a no-brainer, I think they should sit on both Deng and Mozgov for at least one more season. After that, they could stretch one and pick up a max free agent.
Best case scenario, another team decides they don’t want to pay the supermax and dumps their star player a la DeMarcus Cousins/Sacto. in that case, those contracts can help make salaries match.
Basically all the guys who have been top-30ish players, from James and Durant on down, who have changed teams recently through FA or FA-driven trades, made the changes to move up in the standings. Even James’ return to Cleveland took place against the backdrop of Bosh’s health deteriorating, Wade getting old, and Cleveland being able to trade the first pick for Kevin Love. And, accordingly, the first rumors to come out about Chris Paul have him “seriously considering” the Spurs.
So, based on recent history, there is pretty much no chance that Hayward would even consider coming here, and I think that if he and his people meet with the Lakers, it will simply be out of courtesy to Magic and Pelinka. George is different, but I am skeptical about that as well, and that is one of many reasons that I do not think that the FO should try to trade for him. The FO needs to stay the course, hope that the young guys can make significant strides, hope that whomever they draft at 2 is an ASG-level guy, and move on opportunities down the line from what we have to hope will be a stronger foundation of talent.
We agree 100% – strange bedfellows.
The Lakers are too far down for any other approach to be sensible. This team was dead last in the NBA in DRTG and point differential, and does not have any players who are close to ASG level. The upside is that some of these guys either just reached or have not yet reached legal drinking age. Add that to the Dengov deals, and there is not much to do but hope that the four lotto picks (counting the upcoming one) and Zubac develop into a core that can set the FO up to make some moves, like the Lake Show guys he acquired set up Jerry West to bring in Shaq and Kobe 21 years ago.
Aside: I will be very vexed if Jerry West joins the Clippers. Whatever the history between Phil and The Logo, West should finish his grand NBA journey with the team that drafted him back in 1960.
A Horse With No Name says
Very solid reasoning. The only possible scenario where Hayward might sign, is if there is a promise from George’s agent that George will follow Hayward to the lakers in free agency. If I were Hayward though, I’d definitely leave Utah on account of the terribly slow pace they play at, which really doesn’t allow him to flourish in the way that he could in Luke’s offense, for example. As much as I am loathe to admit, the Celtics seem a likely destination for him.
There’s a lot to like about the Jazz. They have a good young coach. Gobert is All NBA at 24. Hayward is an All Star at 26. They have solid depth.
The problem is that some of their key young players have stalled. Favors doesn’t fit well with Gobert (as he has no range — more of an old school PF) and Exum is still all potential and no production.
The question is are the Jazz still ascending or have they peaked? If the goal is to make it deeper into the playoffs then they need to add talent. And with Hayward being a free agent this summer they are at a critical juncture.
I think the Jazz will move Favors, Exum and a pick on draft night in an effort to get more front line talent. The question is will that be enough for Hayward to re-sign there.
I see a lot more middle road opportunities, beginning with the next weeks. If the Lakers seem almost certain to choose Lonzo, I’d expect the 76ers to at least consider making a trade proposal for Russell involving draft picks. If it’s Laker’s next year’s first–an easy “no.” If it’s this year’s #3, probably not. But this year’s #3 and next year’s Laker’s first? Tough to turn down. It could change everything. Of course, there are many other possibilities that might involve the Lakers before draft night–and others almost immediately after.
If the Clippers team falls apart, Blake Griffin might want to come to the Lakers. A sign and trade that might be acceptable to everyone would send Blake to the Lakers, Deng and Clarkston to the Knicks, and Melo to the Clippers.
The Nets might be willing to trade Brooks Lopez to the Lakers for Mozkov and Brewer.
We need to make moves that open up even better possibilities in the future–always trying to get pieces that fit–or, better and better ways to get those pieces. I don’t think that Howard would consider the Lakers anyway, but he is an overlap if the Lakers do get Paul George either this year or next year. If the Lakers draft Lonzo, he’s an overlap with Russell. These guys could work with each other–but they don’t seem to be the best fit.
Rick in Seattle says
Your suggestions are just the kind of thinking that the Lakers FO is hopefully focused on. Your 3-way sign & trade proposal with NY & Clips is a good one.
If that trade and the Brooklyn trade were to pan out together, wouldn’t that be a magical moment? (pun intended)
Of course, we wont know what Griffin plans to do until his opt out (June 28). His decision may be determined by whether Chris Paul decides to sign with San Antonio.
But, if your two trade proposals were successful, here is what the result might look like:
(2017 1st), Russell, Ingram, Griffin, Lopez,
(with Lopez likely leaving in 2018 for George).
If George backed out, or Lopez meshed better than expected, Lakers would have the Bird rights to resign or extend Lopez.
Also, lately there has been a lot of talk about trading Clarkson. Ii’s been speculated that he would be a good fit in Chicago.
But, what would Chicago send back? Perhaps a resigned Nikola Mirotic!
Mirotic is a very good 26 yr old, 3-point-shooting power forward. He could really help Walton to space their offense. Trading Clarkson’s salary for a resigned Mirotic would result in pretty much be a wash as far as gaining any cap space, unless Chicago could be talked into taking Brewer. Just food for thought….
I like that you guys are leaning towards keeping what we have for another year.I also am concerned about lonzo being such a distraction with the old man and the cameras and tape.This guy needs to step way back and let his kid blend in with the pack. It’s inevitable,where ever Lonzo goes ,he is a target and it will hurt his confidence in the beginning.I agree with the author, We need to make a serious run at the #8 seed.What about Nick? and a small raise short term.Tarik or Thomas ?Keep our powder dry this year , Fire at will next year.
I’d like to see some more creative options in these articles. For example, building a package around the #2 pick plus the 3rd tier. That should be good enough to attract Paul George or Jimmy Butler, in my opinion. I see no game changers in the next draft, so why not. And George has a very close relationship with Westbrook 🙂
Another thing everybody tends to forget is the situation around the Warriors. This summer they will need a lot of adjustments in order to make room for Curry’s new deal. Will they be able to keep KD? Maybe Klay would be an expendable asset? They were quite aggressive last summer shopping Barnes.
Nobody talks too about the #28 pick. I insist I see no game changers in the draft, but I’m intrigued about one player: Notre Dame’s PF Caleb Swanigan. Not sure why the guy is falling in draft projections. Another two guys I like: Tyler Dorsey and Sindarius Thornwell, which may be valid role players.
We will need also some creativity to get rid of Deng and Moz contracts. The Knicks are an easy target for this kind of deals, but players like Moz can have a very good fit, let’s say, in Portland or Phoenix. I see Deng back in Miami too. Brooklyn in full rebuild mode is another target in both cases.
And regarding the free agency, there are a few players I would avoid adding unless opportunity comes up. These players are Hayward (still under development in my opinion), Cousins (character issues), Griffin (a bit overrated) and Paul (too veteran). For the next two seasons, the only free agents I like are Westbrook, George, Thomas and DeAndre.
I say build for at future where the cavs and the warriors start to age some. No point cashing in our chips just to make the second round. Right now we would need three all stars and a deep bench to get past GSW. The west is theirs to loose for the next two years or more. Buils for 2020. Sucks, but that’s the reality.
The urge to get better quickly led to the Mozdeng fiascoes. Let’s set our sights 2-3 years down the road when salary cap considerations may force the current Superteams to break up.
Darius, very well thought out. I feel the Lakers need to wait until FA to aquire players, otherwise the trading teams are going to wind up taking the top two level Lakers as you mentioned.
What a team it would be if Westbrook and George were on the Lakers with a rim protector and half the current number of young Lakers. I like the point of having passers and finishers. If we were able to ad a third free agent such as Hayward, the Lakers could really contend for a championship.
I’m not convinced Ball will actually turn into an NBA all star because he can pass, it’s the “finishers”, that win championships. Ball might be successful if he can pass and shoot threes. At the moment, he might be the safest player in the draft, I can’t evaluate him because he hasn’t played one minute as a pro.
A team with the above players, including Magic’s untouchable Ingram would be fun to watch. Supplement with three good defenders, maybe a Klay Thompson type, the Lakers would amazing.
Now we have moved from a team full of prospects, to the Field of Dreams. Add Westbrook &, George, the rest of the good players, all stars, will come.
Rick in Seattle says
Darious, would love to see a discussion of the 2017 free agent class, as well as an assessment of how they might impact on the Lakers. Previously, you mentioned Hayward as potentially a good fit with the Lakers–although the prevalent opinion is that he will either remain with Utah or go to Boston.
Obviously, we don’t have the final list yet, as there are quite a few players with a player option (or early termination agreement, in the case of Paul & Griffin), who have yet to make their final decision (Griffin’s decision is not due until June 28).
Beyond Griffin, among the most discussed group, I still like Millsap and Ibaka.
Unfortunately, Millsap’s age works against him. And, both are likely to to earn close to max money and will therefore be out of consideration.
If we look beyond the top-10 free agents, there appear to be several 2017 free agents who might be decent role players at much less than max rates, and who could add value to the current Lakers core.
Perhaps we could take a closer look at Kentavious Caldwell-Pope-a defensive-minded guard, or perhaps Jrue Holliday. Both are reasonably young and would fit into the current Lakers core.
What about shooting guards? C.J. Miles & Dion Waiters will also be available, probably at affordable prices. Or what about Marreese Speights or Dewayn Dedmon at backup center? Both are available.
Just a few examples to consider–players who possibly could be had at reduced prices, who could add value to the current rebuild.
As an FYI, Free Agency will be in full bloom about this time next month. Thanks.
Good article, Darius. I entirely concur that the Lakers should stand pat (more or less) until the next summer before making any major moves (beginning with a strong bid for Paul George).
I say this for two reasons. 1) I believe that the Lakers still don’t know what they have in their young core. All of them are still developing (including the older players of that core such as Clarkson and Nance). Certainly, Ingram, Zubac, Russell, and Randle are on the upward trajectory of their careers not to mention the two incoming draft picks from this year’s draft.
As a result, we’re looking at a moving target. Trading any of these young players now would be the equivalent of betting against their careers. In short, I think we need more certainty with regard to the young core before we start shipping them out. Right now, there are simply too many unknowns with too many young players.
2) If we put ourselves in the shoes of opposing GMs, whom do you think they’re going to ask for in any possible significant trade? Clarkson? Nance? Mozgov? Deng? Hardly.
Rather, they’ll try to pry Ingram loose. Almost certainly, Brandon’s name will be mentioned. They might also make overtures for our forthcoming #2 pick or for D’Angelo Russell or possibly Julius Randle. If the Laker’s say No to any of the above, the other GMs will then politely (or not so politely) hang up. It’s that simple. Their role in life is not to do the Lakers any favors. They’re out to get as much as they can for as little as possible. If they can decimate our team, they’ll do it. This is the world we live in. We must be very cautious.
As a result, I see any blockbuster trades as being very difficult to come by, not only now but perhaps over the next few years. It’s probably almost impossible to “steal” an outstanding player from another team as we did with Pau Gasol. Those kinds of transactions happen every 30 years.
We should not expect miracles. Instead, we should stay the course, develop our young talent, improve our record (hopefully), and pursue Paul George aggressively in 12 months.
That seems to me like the best strategy. Meanwhile, in two years we could have a very strong team. At least, that’s my hope.
Marc Gasol, of course, went to Memphis in the Pau deal so it was not a steal as things turned out.
RR is correct. Most really good players move to teams to increase their chances of winning a title. If they want money they can simply stay put, because their existing teams will always be able to offer the best deal. This of course is a little bit of a quandary in that it is difficult to form a foundation that a really good player can look at and say that if he came here – it would put us over the top. This is where the draft picks (including the one we are about to make), need to do more. While Randle, Ingram, and DAR are all going to be decent players, none of them have yet to demonstrate to capability that would attract a superstar to come here. Magic + Rob may surprise us and pull off the monster deal (I certainly have more hope now than I did under the previous regime), however the presence of the boat anchor contracts of Deng and Mosgov, the fact that we do not have all of our future picks, and the fact that we have zero proven stars is not a good starting point. An attempt to swing for the fences now would be – let’s just say challenging. Perhaps we should just make the pick, see if we can sell the swamp land (Deng or Mosgov) to an unsuspecting investor, and see if there are any bargains in FA. So FA may not be too eventful for the Lakers which may not be a bad thing. If that is the case, then our 3 current youngers and the 4th one we are about to take will have all the opportunity in the world to prove themselves and increase their value and our teams’ value to potential future FA.
Anon: “No point cashing in our chips just to make the second round. “ Wow – – the second round? (he says in Jim Mora voice) You realize we have not been there since Mike Brown was present in our coaching chair?
IMO, This is our best strategy. If a viable free agent comes (Dion Waiters), so be it. Else D. Fox or Josh Jackson. As we are seeing a good defense with an explosive offense wins championships. Klay Thompson, Russ, PG13 and DeAndre will all be available soon. If CP3 and/or Blake or Reddick leave ole Clipperland, we are set to pounce on DeAndre because they will be in full rebuild mode. Back to being the all too familiar Clippers of old. Adding PG13 and DeAndre to Fox, Russell and Ingram would be a nice mix of scoring and defense. Who knows what other stars might want to join that team….
If the FO can acquire Hayward through FA and George through trade (giving up Randle, Clarkson and #28–with the above two there will be no playing time for Randle) then that would be a game changer. Very good wing defenders, up and coming backcourt, Moz and Zu as rim protectors and pnr recipients, that’s a solid team. Not GSW good of course, but better than LAC and maybe making a run at top four in West. Would Hayward sign if LAL had a deal in place for George? I’m sure our FO will explore that option.
I’m confused at the enthusiasm for Westbrook. His style is not Luke’s style, and Luke is the Lakers for the foreseeable future.
If the FO can’t do the Hayward/George sign/trade, then LAL should hang tight and be opportunistic with mid season deals. As one commentator said, GSW will need to waive a few players to make the Curry/Durant signings work.
It’s very telling IMO that Darius seems to be rating the Lakers’ top two assets as a draft pick and Ingram. Telling and worrisome because neither of these assets are anywhere close to being proven NBA players, let alone franchise cornerstones.
On the other hand, the loathsome Celtics may well vault past Cleveland into the ’18 Finals.
Or is this just a nightmare I’m having?
No nightmares allowed. I have been told that everyone is excited and it is frowned upon to be such a buzz kill.
By the way, in 2012 I wrote a very lengthy post called “My Nightmare”.
Reality turned out to be even worse.
Robert I am totally excited, just not about the Lakers prospects anytime soon.
I’d be thrilled to be wrong about this.
I wonder if not already then when will our sales tax be the #1 issue deterring our success in bringing free agents here and will it affect us in keeping our youth.This is a factor that must be addressed by the NBA and our new GM/President/Owner if excellence is our mission,this Huge disadvantage will kill us and other CA teams at the negotiating table when we are low bidder. Look at it this way, if Mozzy/Deng get traded, They get a nice big raise. I wonder if this is why Mitch and Jim’s Bids where so high and desperate. I think this may be a model affecting our future market if not corrected Now.
Sales tax I dunno I live in the Bay Area where the sales tax rate runs from ridiculous to totally ridiculous. It doesn’t make me want to go live in Florida or Oregon simply to save on sales tax.
My Bad- State income- bone headed move
Travis Y. says
The problem I see many teams making is cashing in on a mid tier player.
For example, paying max money for a top 15 player and potentially top 25 player makes sense. This would equate to a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd team All NBA player.
Cashing all of our cap space for someone like Ibaka, Millsap, Lowry is foolish. The only teams that should consider an all-in move are teams who are a top 8 team.
This was the problem with the Lakers cashing in on Mozgov and Deng. This doesn’t move the needle and is a path we should avoid.
Only cash in for a top 15-25 player. That’s it!!! Grow our youth and cash in on real talent. It’s that simple. The hard part is discipline and is why Kupchak and Jim had to go.
This was a solid series of articles that gave us the necessary details about where the Lakers are as a franchise and where they can go. I like the idea of not pursuing instant gold and instead building the team using the young players as the foundation. For example, “tall” point guards take more time to develop but also have longer careers. Russell improved last year and may continue to improve for the next few years.
My concern is that the NBA game is evolving and signing FA’s now may result in chasing types of play that will be obsolete in 2 or 3 years. At the beginning of this season “3 and D” wings who could shoot the corner 3 were the holy grail of modern basketball players. Houston went into the playoffs heavily invested in creating and taking corner 3’s. Two things went wrong with this. Teams have reworked their defenses to take away that shot and players who stand in the corners are the slowest to get back on defense. If you are counting on your corner 3 specialist to also be your lead defender in transition, the other team will have a distinct advantage and your lead defender will wear himself out sprinting the length of the court each possession. Cleveland and Golden State are not shy about jacking up 3’s and yet they only took a combined 12 corner 3’s out of a combined 72 three point attempts. Shooting near the top of the arc results in less running and better position for transition defense. From this perspective a backcourt of Ball and Russell has a chance to be dominant on the offensive end.
If the Clarkson trade talk is for real, I would look for something on this front if he can be packaged with D or M contracts. The Lakers still seemed to be focused on 2018 for any significant moves,using this year to see if the new regime can help in the development of the young core.
A Horse With No Name says
Point of Clarification to Fred: The 3 & D wing was never the rage–far from it–rather it is a role for limited skill wings. A team has an athletic guy whose skills aren’t great, but with practice can shoot the corner three–the closest and easiest spot for making them. If he gets good enough from there, he starts shooting 3s from the elbows, and so forth. Maybe the original poster boy for the 3 & D role is Bruce Bowen: annoying, borderline dirty player who could make the corner three. What was the rage this season and going forward is a wing who can shoot (like, from anywhere), pass, handle and defend. Triple threat skills and great athleticism. Unfortunately, these are rare birds and why teams covet them. They have one in Ingram (hence, the untouchable tag), and they have the opportunity to draft another–which I believe they will.
Horse – Point taken and it looks like Jerry West might agree with you on Jackson.
There’s a certain rhythm to building and maintaining an NBA basketball team: San Antonio the best example. The Lakers have gone dangerously out of rhythm, but our new leadership has already begun to right the ship. The trick now is to build a program of pragmatic continuous improvement with the right mix of youth and veterans (and salaries) at all times. Not too many changes in personnel from year to year. For example, as a target, I’d like to see at least 9 returning players from last year’s team.
In terms of draft assets, we’ve recently over-achieved with two first round picks to be added in this draft. In terms of future assets, we’re only one first round pick short. Supposing we only add our two first round picks to next year’s squad, we’ll be overbalanced with youth–the two picks replacing MWP and (probably) Swaggy after already unloading three veterans last year while getting only veteran Corey Brewer back.
The pragmatic continuous improvement model almost demands a certain amount of trading for veterans for next season–especially if Mozgov and Deng are on the trading block–and the Lakers expect to improve our win-loss ratio (especially if we’d like to make the playoffs).
My roster has us with 10 core players deep. The #2 and 28th will not be depended upon to break the #10 core until much later in the season.Mozzy/Deng will be evaluated hard by this FO . and interested buyers.In my opinion , one will crack this 10 core players this year and one will be traded. the other will be stretched next year,I am struggling with this roster because I like our young players.,However,I feel that our Defense will improve by being in games for the whole 48,Requiring players to perform or sit earlier , And playing your best players to win every night.Our outside shooting from the 4 and 5 are killing the offensive rythem by moving it one more time late in the shot clock.Y solution to this is to draft a high ranking shooter at 28 preferably a longer 4 and alot more talented and atheletic than Ryan Kelly. I absolutely love Nance/Randle, But that shot is not coming from that area on the floor yet, I think it might be available at that 28th pick to increase talent and competition.Last year I wanted Nick gone, This year I think he can be a big difference maker for us to get to that 8th seed. Extend him short term at a bargain price.Lets see what we can do with No Tanking available.
IMO – #2 is almost a forgone conclusion. It is #28 that we should be spending our time talking about. After looking things over I have a list of players the Lakers should draft at #28, in order – i.e. if the top player is taken earlier, the Lakers should draft the next down in the list. I have left out lottery picks because I think they will all be gone by #28, but the top of the list does include players that should be drafted before #28.
1 – John Collins
2 – Justin Patton
3 – Justin Jackson
4 – Edrice (Bam) Adebayo
5 – Ivan Rabb
6 – Terrance Ferguson
7 – Ike Anigbogu
8 – Caleb Swanigan
9 – Jordan Bell
10 – Johnathan Motley
11 – Rodions Kurucs
12 – Semi Ojeleye
13 – Anzejs Pasecnicks
14 – P.J. Dozier
15 – D.J. Wilson
16 – Wesley Iwunda
This is my list, in order of preference. How about differences, or additions?
This pick is so important,I think DJ wilson and Caleb swanigan help us alot at the4,Jordan bell may be rodmanish and gone at 28. Johnathan motley is a absolute monster but doesn’t spread us out.Pasecnicks video is amazing but he is a 5. I hope for john collins,love DJWilson and would be very happy with your8 9 or 10.
I liked the article a lot, it represented exactly my thoughts on our best and likely course of action. I am against the commonplace narrative that we have a ton of things to change or that we are just “awful”, which you can catch on ESPN or even here sometimes. We have a ton of quality young talent on this team and I get frustrated as so many pundits and fans tend to discuss their potential *as if they know it*, just because they are 2-3 years from showing us the player will each become.
Our young players have basically one or two years of experience, and each has shown flashes of real talent and higher ceiling. Which ones of you (Darius, Film Room, and everyone else included) had bravely forecasted by the end of their second year that Steph Curry or Steve Nash would become multi-year MVP’s? That Marc Gasol would become as good or better than his brother? That 18yo Kobe would dominate the NBA for two decades? Only busts tend to become obvious early. There are very few Lebrons and Magics and Shaqs, who bring a combo of physique and skills that’s unmatchable from the start.
This coming season we’ll have the last three #2’s, beastly Randle (Magic and Worthy love his potential) and Zu, any one of them has the tools and opportunity and FO guidance to develop into a top15 player. Nance and JC are still improving and already above average players, and they ought to get to legit starter level. The FO already basically said we’ll use the cap room for a top15 in 2018. It’s one thing to trade multiple lesser players for a star, and another to trade multiple promising recent lotteries for a top15, where one or more can surpass the original star, plus have a much longer career horizon, given their youth. And what’s the hurry? Facing GSW in Round 1? Which I believe we’ll do anyway next year, without a trade or FA, and with Mozdeng benched. Last year’s 10-10 start or the closing win streak were not aberrations but previews. As Worthy said in an excellent recent clip, they are young but they are already quite good and can compete in the league now.
As Worthy said in an excellent recent clip, they are young but they are already quite good and can compete in the league now.
Again, the Lakers were last in the NBA in DRTG, 23rd in ORTG, and last in point differential. They are not a competitive team right now. As to the young guys, mentioning historical outliers like Steph Curry and Marc Gasol doesn’t really accomplish much other than making people feel better or serving as a talking point. I recently posted lists of the #2 and #7 picks, going back about 10-12 years. Curry is almost certainly the greatest #7 pick in NBA history and most #2s do not become stars, either.
That said, there is certainly reason for hope for this group, if it happens, and I think it will:
Those five could develop into a pretty good lineup.
Well I thought Curry was something special early one – although of course I didn’t expect him to become THIS good. Anybody who says they did, including anybody not his mom, is flat out lying. 18 yo Kobe I considered pretty special too; can’t say any of the current Lakers core comes to close to either of them in their youth. Now to be fair Curry did come into the league relatively late compared to DAR, Randle or Ingram. But still.
Yeah, Kobe was clearly special early on, and as I mentioned, put up an 18.5 PER at age 19.
Mark C. Allen (@mcallen3) says
The problem with this, otherwise very astute, analysis is that if fails to consider the opportunities that are out there for the Lakers as part of the equation. Wilt, Kareem and Shaq all ended up in LA because the teams that had them really did not want the long term financial obligations that came with keeping them. The Lakers should be (and I’m sure are) looking for those situations now. E.g., consider this list of the teams with the biggest payrolls:
LA Clippers $114,756,766
San Antonio $112,017,779
Anything stick out? Yep, look at number 3. Detroit is screwed. Not only are they over the cap, the have a huge FA signing coming up in KCP. Someone is going to be given Andre Drummond. Will SA want to keep paying LA? Bet not, given the egg he laid in the playoffs. Not saying the Laker should take on either of those contracts, but I am saying there are going to be opportunities to build around the overpriced, but useful.
Rick in Seattle says
Mark, you are entirely correct.
There are (and will continue to be) opportunities around the NBA to pick up unwanted players. Much to the Lakers dismay, we have two of our own (Deng & Mozgov).
But the point I think you are making is excellent. The teams you identified are clearly over the cap & need to find ways to remove bloated contracts in order to move forward.
Lakers would be in position to bring in short-term bloated contracts, particularly if it includes the removal of Deng or Mozgov.
We watched that happen last year with Golden State (which I’m sure Walton remembers). In order to sign KD, they had to dispose of the contracts of Bogut & Barnes–which Dallas quickly latched on to.
Lakers could have done that last year, but were already locked in to Deng & Mozgov. Safe to say, Kupchak did not keep his powder dry and rushed into two botched signings–a lesson he learned the hard way!
Detroit is in a pickle, they cannot move unless they dispose of some contracts. Same with Cleveland. Would the Lakers be willing to take Kevin Love for Randle & picks?
If San Antonio want Chris Paul, same story! Gotta get rid of some big contracts. Not easy to do.
Teams like Brooklyn are in the drivers seat. They have the large expiring contract of Brook Lopez ($22.6 mil) and have cap space to take on some major contracts.
Lakers cannot do that until they get rid of the Deng/Mozgov contracts.
But you point is well taken. Be smart. Look for opportunities. They are out there!
Again, the best way for Lakers to go IMO, is draft a good player at #2, then use the current roster and everyone plays for a spot on the 2018 team. Next, unload Moz /Deng contracts even if that means linking to contributing players like Clarkson. Magic has stated 2018 is when the team will pursue free agents and the bloated contracts need to be gone to sign them.