The Lakers have a superstar problem. Despite winning a championship on the backs of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and a collection of steady role players, Rob Pelinka has been transfixed on the notion of landing a third star. Unfortunately, he accomplished that goal in trading for Russell Westbrook. Fascinatingly, despite winning with two stars and failing miserably with three, the Lakers are once again passing on depth for the mere chance at bringing in a third max contract. In almost a year and a half of title irrelevancy, Pelinka and the Lakers appear not to have learned anything at all.
At last year’s trade deadline, the Lakers decided not enough could be done to take that miserable roster from the bottom of the conference to championship contention and thus didn’t do anything.
In the offseason that followed, Pelinka held off on a Westbrook trade while keeping an eye on the Brooklyn Nets and Kyrie Irving specifically. No move came to fruition.
Heading into training camp, the Lakers decided to wait a quarter of the season before trading Westbrook so as to see what else the market might produce. That’s gone swimmingly.
Now, as the Lakers sit with just two wins 10 games into the season, Pelinka and the front office are once again foregoing trades that could replenish much needed depth for the chance at a reported “mystery superstar.”
This is a staggering disinterest in learning anything whatsoever from failure. But how else would this play out when those leading Lakers to this point have not only not been held accountable for those mistakes but were seemingly rewarded for them. Not only was the temperature of Pelinka’s seat not turned up, he was extended. Jeanie Buss rewarded him for last season.
Let’s just say reports of the Lakers’ waiting game are true — and there’s no reason to believe they aren’t. Pelinka is waiting for a player capable of turning a team that currently sits at 2-8 (and very well could be 2-9 after they play the Clippers tonight) into one that viably competes for a championship. There are maybe a handful of players who fit that description and none who can be acquired for Westbrook’s bloated contract and two first round picks.
So the Lakers, who would probably fairly easily be a .500 or higher team with, say, Myles Turner and Buddy Hield, are in free-fall down the standings waiting for a star who almost assuredly isn’t coming.
Some names who’ve been rumored or mentioned in league circles are DeMar DeRozan, Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard. DeRozan doesn’t fix everything that’s wrong with the Lakers by himself. Beal and Lillard come closer to doing that but almost definitely aren’t available given their teams’ starts to the season and their commitment to those cities.
Turner and Hield are, on the other hand, available and do go fairly far in filling the Lakers’ need for interior size and shooting on the perimeter. Hell, the offer from Utah of some combination of Jordan Clarkson, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vandebilt and others, is more intriguing than it was months ago given what those guys have done to ignite Utah’s incredible start to the season.
But no, here the Lakers are, once again waiting for a quick fix when it usually takes years to build a championship roster, as evidenced by their own most recent championship roster.
The process that eventually culminated in that 2020 title started years prior when the Lakers signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in 2018 and drafted the prospect who would eventually be traded for Anthony Davis. They developed Kyle Kuzma over multiple seasons before he was ready to contribute to winning at that level. James is the most impactful acquisition of the last decade-plus for the Lakers and even he wasn’t able to singlehandedly take them from the malaise of the 2010s into the playoffs that first season. They eventually traded for Davis, signed veteran role players, and went on to win one of the most fulfilling rings in franchise history.
If you were to judge by just their own actions, though, they have no idea how all that came to be or what made that team special.
At some point, Pelinka is going to have to stop looking for that single move that transforms the Lakers from the garbage fire they’ve been since he successfully pulled off what he thought was that kind of move in bringing in Westbrook, and start building something piece by piece. Based on these recent reports, though, the Lakers are doomed to yet another season of irrelevance as we hope he figures that out.
This week on a live version of “The Anthony Irwin Show,” I spoke to Aaron Larsuel about the flaws in Pelinka’s approach, the risks involved and whether the Lakers think this season is worth saving.
You can listen to all that and more on our latest episode in the player embedded below, and to make sure you don’t miss a single one moving forward, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude and you can follow Honi at @HoniAhm. 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.