Voltaire once said “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” It was the line I used on my wife when I proposed. It’s worked out pretty well for me but hey let’s play this safe and not ask Jen. The Lakers, partially because of past success in trades, and perhaps because they’ve been scarred by their own recent failures, have fallen victim to paralysis by analysis. That needs to change, quickly.
Heading into the season, the Lakers had some good options for reshaping the roster. They waited out the summer and headed into camp with 37 small guards. They even traded for another one! It hasn’t gone well!
Now, they sit 11-16, still desperately need to tweak the roster but are apparently hell-bent on landing a third star even despite how that approach has played out with Russell Westbrook and how it went when they surrounded LeBron James and Anthony Davis with solid role players who space the floor.
Oh and hey apparently we all have to sit here and wait for the complacency to end for another month or so. Fantastic.
Had the Lakers simply made a sensible move ahead of the season, yes, they would’ve risked some opportunity cost, but the team would be better right now and could arguably be near the top of the west standings because of how mediocre the conference has been.
And sure, 29 other teams are probably interested in the likes of Kevin Durant, then to a lesser degree Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard and certainly much lesser extent Kyrie Irving. So the Lakers’ interest in those guys is by no means some groundbreaking story. But those other 29 teams are also apparently more self-aware given the state of their asset chest than this front office.
Also, if they’re sitting on their hands foregoing good trade options in the hope that maybe just maybe an all star falls in their lap, then they’re at a very real risk of waiting too long to fix the roster.
Quick side note: I’ve already written about DeMar DeRozan not being worth the wait, but I think we can probably say some of the same stuff about Beal. He’s a fantastic player but he has defensive limitations and, given his likely cost, I’d much rather just go ahead and grab a few useful role players even if it means they won’t have a shot at him down the road. Opportunity cost swings both ways here.
This all can still be some elaborate scheme where the Lakers don’t wind up making a move after unending scorn from fans every time they test balloon their latest farfetched idea. We can’t eliminate this as a possibility, as Rob Pelinka and the front office has leaked and at times explained every excuse under God’s glowing sun why a trade hasn’t happened yet.
My personal favorite was at his introductory press conference last media day, Pelinka explaining the Stepien rule to everyone listening, sounding like someone who had just Googled it, himself. I guess I’d also be hesitant to pull the trigger having been fleeced in, what, three straight trades now since the Davis deal was put on a silver platter for him.
The most maddening part of all of it (and yes, this rotates) is how difficult they’ve made a relatively easy task seem. Pelinka and his team have roughly $65.2 million in expiring contracts (plus a host of minimums), two first rounders and a grip of second round picks. All they really need to do is turn Westbrook, Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn into a few more stable role players. The idea this is some mythical task is obscene.
Pelinka had the hard part done for him. James and Davis both forced their way to the Lakers. Cool. There are your two stars any other executive would die to have. A couple years ago, he even had plenty of role players who fit with them, as well as a bunch of picks and a couple exceptions to improve the team. Instead, he’s stripped down that championship roster and now can’t seem to make up his mind on how to build a contender around two top-15-ish players in the NBA, one of whom is playing like and MVP and that isn’t even James.
Sorry, but if the front office can’t make this work, what the hell are they doing still employed? Oh, that’s right. Jeanie Buss doesn’t fire friends. She either extends them after godawful seasons or waits for them to resign with no warning and bring all that embarrassment to the franchise only to welcome them back every time they hop on the trade machine.
Miraculously, James and Davis have been able to keep the Lakers within striking distance despite playing alongside at least a couple guards at almost all times who can barely ride the rides at Six Flags. Again, they’ve done and continue to do their job. The front office can set its next arbitrary deadline whenever they want, but all it continues to appear is as if they don’t trust themselves to fix this. Given recent history, I get it, but they are running out of road and that can is looking pretty worn down.
This week on “The Hook,” I discussed all this with Aaron Larsuel, then got into an interesting conversation about parity in the NBA and whether the league is really ready to market that kind of league. We finish with his story of how he auditioned for Master Chef and turned them down.
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.