Over the last two seasons, the Los Angeles Lakers have set a variety of different deadlines for when they feel like they can judge this team.
Can’t judge this team until Trevor Ariza and Kendrick Nunn play.
Can’t judge this team until 20 games in.
Can’t judge this team until Dennis Schröder and Thomas Bryant are back.
Can’t judge this team until Dec. 15.
Can’t judge this team until after other GMs get back from their holiday vacations.
On the latest episode of ESPN LA’s “Lakers Talk” radio show, Jovan Buha of The Athletic gave host Allen Sliwa the latest update on the Lakers’ ongoing self-evaluation process, and while he reiterated that the front office is hoping to have some view of whether or not the Lakers (currently 7-12 overall) are good at basketball or not by Dec. 15, it’s clear that the only thing they know right now is that they don’t know yet:
“Everything I’ve heard from multiple sources is that Dec. 15 is the date they are now targeting. I had initially heard and reported that Thanksgiving range, 20-25 games, but the truth is the Lakers don’t feel like they have a great grasp on this team. And with LeBron missing multiple games, with AD missing a couple of games, with Dennis and Thomas not starting the season healthy and then those guys now emerging as key rotation players, Pat Beverley being suspended as well... yes, they’ve had the Big 3 for 10 of the 19 games and they are only 3-7 with those three playing together, but overall they want a little bit more of a sample size to determine ‘what do we have here, which pieces fit, which pieces don’t fit and who do we want to keep, who do we want to flip?’”
As I did in my earlier article on Buha’s other report from this radio hit, I would argue that, at this point, all this postponement does imply that the front office has made a value judgement on this current group, found it wanting, and wants to be proven wrong about that before making a deal. If they thought that a single trade that they can afford with their current draft pick supply would fix this, it seems likely they would have made it by now rather than go into the season with a roster that was clearly overloaded with guards to prepare for the long-rumored Russell Westbrook trade that never happened.
The Lakers can continue to say and leak that they can’t judge this team yet all they want, and maybe this group can show that it’s better than its record, but it's hard to imagine a scenario at this point that convinces Rob Pelinka, Kurt Rambis and the rest of the team’s brain trust that they should send out their only currently tradeable first-round picks to overhaul the roster nearly a third of the way through the season when they haven’t done so yet, or even appeared to get very close to doing so.
And since they have already started to trial balloon the seemingly inevitable “well, it’s hard to make a trade in December because other GMs want family time” leak, it seems equally likely that the next one is going to be “well, you know trade talks only really heat up close to the deadline in February” followed by “we just didn’t see a deal that was worth it and would rather see what this group can do if they’re healthy in the postseason” and/or some small moves on the margins that don’t give up much (if any) meaningful future draft capital. And if that’s indeed how things go down and the team continues to waste season after season despite owing their draft picks to New Orleans, we aren’t going to have to wait nearly as long for the fanbase to judge this front office as it's taken the latter to try and judge this team.