The Lakers are not operating from a position of power when it comes to trade negotiations right now. While it’s not a fun realization or a particularly enjoyable fact, a team in win-now mode starting 3-10 is going to be treated as a desperate one in trade discussions because, to be frank, they probably are.
Opposing teams currently view the Lakers as a team that can potentially be taken advantage of in a trade as they look to jump back into contention in some type of form. To that point, Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka has stood firm in not making any panic moves, something that one anonymous Western Conference executive commended him on.
In the latest episode of The Crossover NBA Show with Chris Mannix and Howard Beck podcast, the latter spoke about a conversation he had with a Western Conference exec about the Lakers (emphasis mine).
”So here was the quote from the Western Conference executive I spoke to who had mentioned this. He says ‘Washington is the one that I keep thinking that’s going to happen. If you’re the Lakers, don’t you think you can get Bradley Beal? He’s got a no-trade clause, he wants to come to California’ — That was an interesting tidbit of this — ‘He essentially can pick where he wants to go (because of his no-trade clause) and the most the Lakers can really give is those two picks. But if he asks out and says California or bust, the Wizards, because of the no-trade clause, the Wizards do potentially have to take a lesser deal.’ Like if you just put Bradley Beal on the block right now, open to the entire league, you’d get better than Westbrook plus the two picks. I think you’d get a better offer. Although maybe not. Bradley Beal’s contract is massive, maybe someone says ‘hey we’re doing you a favor taking this huge contract off your hands for a guy who can’t carry a franchise. Is Westbrook and the two picks enough? Well, if Bradley Beal says ‘I only want to go to California or I only want to go to the Lakers because I have a no-trade clause and I can steer this thing... So that’s the logic that the Western Conference exec was laying out to me, and he said this: ‘Whatever you want to say about Pelinka, he’s being smart, he’s taking his time.’”
None of this absolves Pelinka from putting together this roster or not making a deal before the season. Each day Russell Westbrook remains on the roster feels like another day lost to being a competitive team in the final years of LeBron James’ career.
Pelinka is basically walking a line right now of needing to find a fair deal while feeling the pressure and urgency to do so. It’s a situation he put himself in and no one else should be facing blame for this, but he’s also not actively making the situation worse.
As for the rest of the quote, it is interesting that Bradley Beal is starting to get more traction as a name the Lakers are interested in. As noted, the no-trade clause removes a LOT of leverage the Wizards would have in this situation. We’ve seen many times how a player can dictate where they want to go in a deal and that’s without them even having a no-trade clause.
Inserting that factor into this situation would basically mean Beal could go to whatever specific team he wants. The Lakers would be wise to position themselves as that team, but nothing seems imminent, there has been nothing indicating Beal specifically wants to be a Laker and the Lakers themselves don’t have a lot of time to wait.
So, while Rob Pelinka is making the right move by not panicking, the Lakers aren’t getting worse. But they also can’t afford to wait forever with this current roster, putting Pelinka in a bit of a potential “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.