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Have the Lakers shown enough to invest more in this season?

A Russell Westbrook trade is the only potential out the Lakers have from their current malaise.

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At 0-4, this Lakers season is almost dead on arrival. No NBA champion has ever won a title after beginning the year with four losses. The Lakers under Dr. Jerry Buss were never 0-4 to start a season, but it’s now happened three times since his passing. Spoiler alert: the other two teams did not make the postseason.

The one thing that could dramatically change the tenor of the 2022-23 campaign is if the Lakers traded Russell Westbrook, but that is the only move that the front office has in its pocket.

Thus far, the Lakers brass has indicated that they are unwilling to make a trade that doesn’t make the team a contender. And with the team winless through four games, it’s fair to argue if any potential deal could have that large of an impact. Rob Pelinka and co. want to see some spark out of the rest of the roster before committing two future first-round picks to improve this season.

But that logic falls short in a number of ways. First of all, this roster is incomplete. It was clearly put together with the intention of replacing Westbrook, whether the thought was Kyrie Irving or a couple of role players from another team. You don’t sign two centers and add more non-shooters to the lineup while still having a point guard who isn’t a shooting threat. That’s malpractice.

So if the roster is unfinished, it’s on Rob Pelinka to complete the job. It’s impossible to evaluate this team when it’s still a collection of mismatched parts instead of a coherent squad. A team that is 0-4 may seem like it’s more than two role players away from cooking with grease, but if it’s the right two players, their effect wouldn’t be additive — it would multiply the existing talents on this roster.

Secondly, the Lakers owe it to LeBron and their fanbase to put together a team that is capable of at least contending for the postseason, and they haven’t done so yet. To follow up last season’s dumpster fire with this year’s holding pattern is a middle finger to the fan base. In the NBA, you’re either selling contention or you’re selling hope, and when the Lakers don’t outright own their own first-rounder until 2026, this current team can promise neither.

It’s also disingenuous to say that a potential Westbrook trade, which would require sending away two first-round picks, would only help the Lakers this season. The gains of this year, if a real roster is put together, would carry over to future Laker teams. Turning a max contract like Westbrook’s into mid-tier salary slots would help with roster building. The players the Lakers acquire don’t have to be one-year rentals — they can keep them for longer, and maybe finally develop some continuity in the process. The younger players on this team, who would likely be cap casualties if the Lakers stand pat and try to become a free-agent destination in the offseason — would actually have a suitable environment to develop in and maybe get a chance to stick around. The last L.A. title team was built with players who stretched their wings during developmental years and then were able to contribute on the big stage.

Sure, the price is high to surrender two first-round picks to escape the mess that the Lakers created last offseason. But the window for LeBron James is now. The window for Anthony Davis is now. There is no guarantee that the Lakers will have players as good as either of them in 2027 or 2029, so why prioritize those years when the stars are in Los Angeles at this very moment?

And besides, the thought of giving away a high draft pick to the New Orleans Pelicans again is sickening. The Lakers simply can’t be terrible this season, not in one of the best drafts in recent memory, and have to live with the consequences of that pick swap for years to come.

The bad vibes are already starting to creep in on this roster, and we’re only four games into the season. This situation is simply untenable, and the Lakers have to get out of it.

On the latest episode of “I Love Basketball”, which was hosted on Twitter Spaces and merged into a crossover with “The Hook”, Raj, Sabreena, Anthony, and Aaron get into all of this and discuss whether a Russell Westbrook trade would make sense for the Lakers.

You can listen to the full episode below, and to make sure you never miss a show, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or Google Podcasts.

And for a short-form recap pod, check out Lakers Lowdown, in which Anthony Irwin recaps the previous day’s news and gets you ready for the day ahead in LakerLand, every weekday morning on the Silver Screen & Roll Podcast feed.

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