Going into the season, the Los Angeles Lakers front office made a pledge to stay committed to the team’s young core, despite the pressure to make win-now moves with LeBron James on the roster. They didn’t want to take any shortcuts, they wanted to make something that would last for years to come — and all that good stuff.
However, at some point in the season, they changed their stance on that.
Obviously, there is no better example of their shift in tone than the fact that they reportedly offered each and every one of their core young players in a trade for Anthony Davis, but the moves they actually made at the deadline showed their desire to win now as well.
In an interview with Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka talked about the team’s decision to trade two of their more promising young players in Ivica Zubac and Svi Mykhailiuk for veteran depth:
“Magic and Luke and I, and with Jeanie too, we all sat down before the trade deadline and talked about some things on the roster that we really wanted to tweak or improve, and one of them was perimeter shooting. Bullock is an elite catch-and-shoot guy, one of the best in the league,” Pelinka said. “Svi is an amazing player and was hard to give up as a rookie, (but) we kind of wanted a guy that can do it now in Reggie Bullock.
“He’s had a 43 percent 3-point shooting season,” Pelinka continued. “He’s an elite, elite shooter. When we have a guy like LeBron, we want to give ourselves the best chance to go deep in the playoffs, and we felt he was a key piece for that.”
Bullock’s reputation of being 3-point sniper was a big part of the reason that the trade sending Mykhailiuk and a second-round pick to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Bullock was generally well-received. It also helped that he grew up a giant Lakers fan. However, the trade that sent Ivica Zubac and Michael Beasley across the hall to the Clippers was a little harder to understand.
The 21-year-old center was in the midst of his best stretch of his NBA career, and the Lakers had the opportunity to make him a restricted free agent this summer. Instead, they traded Zubac to their cross-town rivals for a floor-spacing big man on an expiring contract in Mike Muscala.
Pelinka told Bresnahan that the decision to trade Zubac came down to them wanting to “diversify” their options at center:
“It was hard to trade Zu. (He is a) great young player but we feel Muscala can spread the floor, stretch five and play some forward as well. Against, just open up the court for our drivers like Rondo, LeBron, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo when he comes back,” Pelinka said.
“We just felt like if we tweaked our roster a little bit from a chemistry standpoint and added some shooting, we can just make that push for that eighth spot or seventh spot, get into the playoffs and then let a player like LeBron do what he does in the playoffs.”
And that’s great! In today’s league, centers that can space the floor are extremely valuable! The only issue there is the Lakers could have kept one of the best shooting centers in the NBA this season by re-signing Brook Lopez, who was reportedly interested in staying in L.A.
Lopez instead signed with the Milwaukee Bucks for the veteran’s minimum. He’s shooting a career-high 38 percent from behind the arc on a career-high 6.4 attempts per game. Comparatively, Muscala is shooting 34.2 percent from 3 on 6.9 attempts per game.
Was it smart of the front office to go out and get shooters at every position they could? Absolutely! But should they be commended for doing something they should have and could have done in the summer without giving up real assets? That’s debatable.