Now that the Lakers’ hopes of acquiring Kyrie Irving from the Brooklyn Nets this summer are all but gone, they have no choice but to pivot to their plan B, C, or even D.
Los Angeles spent the last two months pining after Irving, going as far as reportedly offering both of their tradable first round draft picks in exchange for the seven-time All-Star. And because of matters out of their control, the Lakers are back to square one — still trying to find the best way to dispose of Russell Westbrook.
However, this time, the Lakers have exactly one month left before training camp, and only three weeks before LeBron James’ mini-training camp that will be held in San Diego this year. Time and leverage are no longer on their side. While many teams have concluded their summer moves with a finalized roster, the Lakers still have work to do.
So the question now for L.A. is whether they are willing to gamble on the unknown by pursuing a less appealing trade package (compared to how much they wanted Irving), or simply run it back with the existing core that’s showing no eagerness or desire to strengthen their partnership.
Remember, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook just concluded arguably the most disappointing season in franchise history. In the 21 games the trio played together, they lost 11 of them and rendered a net rating of -3.5 in the 395 minutes they shared the court. Despite the old legs they were surrounded by, there’s no reason to believe the Lakers should or even want to to run it back with this trio.
And that is why, with few options remaining, the Lakers need to seal a deal with the Indiana Pacers or Utah Jazz now instead of wasting another year with Westbrook, who reportedly no longer wants anything to do with the purple and gold.
Myles Turner and Buddy Hield aren’t Kyrie Irving, but they sure provide a new dynamic and fresh start to this Lakers team. If the Lakers are also dead serious about wanting Anthony Davis to be the focal point of the team, perhaps acquiring a stretch-five and defensive anchor big like Turner can ease AD’s defensive load in a way that no point guard — neither Westbrook nor Irving — can.
Guys available from Indiana: Myles Turner, Buddy Hield— Silver Screen and Roll (@LakersSBN) August 23, 2022
Guys available from Utah:
Patrick Beverley, Jordan Clarkson, Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley
Who would you prefer?@AnthonyIrwinLA and @AaronLarsuel are discussing the Lakers' options here: https://t.co/z4FYKtLI5v
You can say pretty much the same thing about Utah’s package of Jordan Clarkson, Bojan Bogdanovic, or Mike Conley. These deals don’t automatically make the Lakers a championship contender, but these players sure fit better around the duo of James and Davis as opposed to the hyper-limited Westbrook on offense.
The least the Lakers can do is to give LeBron James (who they promised they would go all-in for after he signed his contract extension) and Anthony Davis a fresh start and another chance of contending for a championship — even if it means sacrificing more assets down the road.
Are two future first-round picks worth giving up in exchange for players that don’t profoundly raise the Lakers’ ceiling the way a real superstar like Irving does? Probably not, but it’s still a risk the Lakers should take if the alternative means staying put with Westbrook. That’s just what happens when you strike out on your first option and have less than five weeks to build a championship contender.
The Lakers need to prioritize a fresh start instead of carrying over all the bad blood from last season and this offseason. How is Westbrook expected to buy into Darvin Ham’s vision if he knows the Lakers spent all summer trying to ship him out of Los Angeles? And speaking of the first-time head coach, it’ll be unjust for Rob Pelinka and co. to hand him a roster that is rife with mediocrity and disunity.
Ultimately, this summer for the Lakers will now always be associated with their failed attempt in acquiring Irving — similar to how the summer of 2019 concluded with them unable to land Kawhi Leonard. And like two offseasons ago, the Lakers had no choice but to pivot to their Plan B, which eventually led to the franchise’s 17th championship.
No one knows if this detour will lead L.A. to the mountaintop once again, but it’s clearly the best option moving forward for both the Lakers and Westbrook.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.