It came with a little surprise this offseason when LeBron James signed his extension with the Lakers without much fanfare or pressure. A man who has often used any sort of leverage he can to keep pressure on a team to compete opted not to do that and signed an extension with the Lakers, letting them off the hook in some capacity.
So, while the team may have made assurances that they would be competitive this season, there’s nothing really keeping that pressure on them. The result is a franchise that has waited and waited and waited for the right deal in the months that have followed.
In his most recent piece for Sports Illustrated, Howard Beck detailed the Lakers current stance and reluctancy in trades.
When James signed a two-year extension in August—committing him through the 2024–25 season—he did so with assurances the Lakers would do whatever was necessary to improve the roster, even if it meant trading future first-round picks. But team officials have been extremely reluctant to part with those picks —a position that’s irritated James and his camp, as Chris Haynes of Turner Sports reported last month.
The Lakers have remained adamant that they would only do a deal if it made them a contender. And the only potential type of deal that would accomplish that singular goal is one for a star player...which the Lakers don’t have the assets for. That circular reasoning has led to them standing pat, staring at the abyss of the trade market without seriously considering any options.
If they remain adamant about trading for a star, which it appears they are, the name that keeps routinely popping up is Bradley Beal. According to Beck, he’s the player the Lakers could be currently holding out for.
Yet sources around the league believe that Lakers officials, led by Pelinka, are holding out hope for a revival, and holding on to the draft picks in the hope they can parlay them into a bigger prize, such as the Wizards’ Bradley Beal.
To the Lakers I say “good luck!” It feels nearly impossible to conjure up a trade with the assets the Lakers have available that would even make the Wizards pick up the phone for Beal.
At some point, I think (or hope?) the Lakers come to their senses and try for some more realistic options, though that may even be up in the air with Anthony Davis’ lingering injury.
What has been made clear multiple times over, though, is that the Lakers are going to remain patient and continue searching for stars, a trait the franchise has always had, for better and for worse.