For the third consecutive season, the Los Angeles Lakers passed on pulling the trigger at the NBA Trade Deadline. This time, their inactivity was more surprising than in years past considering their place in the standings (ninth) and the state of the team (messy).

In March of 2021, the Lakers could have acquired Kyle Lowry for Dennis Schroder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Talen Horton-Tucker. They were unwilling to include THT — a misfire at the time that looks even worse now. This year, despite their limited options, the Lakers were expected to do something, anything, if for no other reason than to infuse different energy into the building.

As nearly everybody prognosticated when the Russell Westbrook trade went down: the Lakers were going to be stuck with the roster they cobbled together last summer. Shaking things up only became more challenging with the season-long struggles of Westbrook and Horton-Tucker, plus the fact that Kendrick Nunn is yet to debut with, evidently, the most bruised bone in the history of knees.

It was always going to be impossible for the Lakers to make a trade that would dramatically move the needle and vault them into contention. LeBron and Anthony Davis pushed the front office to deplete its resources to acquire Russ. It's entirely reasonable for the front office to challenge the players to try and make it work, rather than surrendering future assets because they haven't done so thus far.

Rob Pelinka lacked leverage operating from a place of desperation. Teams rarely want to help out the Lakers, anyway.

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So, the Lakers will head to the Bay to face the Golden State Warriors on Saturday with the same group that currently sits four games under .500, is coming off its worst loss of the season, and is embroiled in behind-the-scenes tension.

“Ultimately we didn’t find a deal that had a net positive effect for the short term success of the team and the long term, and those are both things we consider,” Pelinka said on a conference call after the deadline.

All that said there were a few potential deals that would have been logical.

https://open.spotify.com/episode/7BEKJ8uOsZPkRay9BYms1V?si=ebc07e8b5900415d

1) A more expansive trade with the Houston Rockets

ESPN's Brian Windhorst indicated that the Lakers and Rockets might have discussed a deal that would have sent Westbrook, THT/Nunn, and the 2027 first-round pick to Houston in exchange for John Wall and Christian Wood. As I detailed a few weeks back, this is a deal the Lakers should have done in a heartbeat if it was truly on the table.

Wall is potentially an upgrade over Westbrook — assuming he'd embrace a lesser role more willingly than Russ. More importantly, Wood would be a coup. He's 26, on a team-friendly contract (3 years, $41 million) and, as a stretch-5, would make an ideal fit alongside LeBron and Davis.

2) Test the Sacramento Kings

When the Kings are looking to get frisky on the trade market, it's prudent to give them a ring. It's not impossible to imagine some iteration of the THT/Nunn/1st package netting them either Buddy Hield or Harrison Barnes. Both players are quality wings — guys who can truly help you win multiple playoff games — solid fits, and under 30 years old, I don't mind the cost.

A few other near-misses that fell apart due to draft compensation disagreements, according to various reports: Khem Birch, Chris Boucher, Goran Dragic, Cam Reddish, Alec Bucks, Dennis Schroder. Meh. I understand Pelinka opting to keep the Lakers' only tradeable first-round pick over any of those players. That pick — along with the 2029 1st, which becomes eligible to be traded on July 1, could be essential to finding a Westbrook taker this summer.

3) Clear a roster spot

After not making a move, the Lakers will turn to the buyout market. Yet, they didn't use the deadline to shed one of their non-rotation veterans on a minimum contract. They had a plethora of second-round picks and $4.4 million in tradeable cash to strike a deal similar to the one that purged Rajon Rondo.

Instead, Los Angeles will be forced to outright waive either DeAndre Jordan, Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington, Avery Bradley, or Dwight Howard in order to add a piece — a route that will cost an extra $7 million or so in luxury tax (which Jeanie Buss cares about).

The Lakers have had a mixed track record on the buyout market in recent years. In 2020, they signed Markieff Morris, who ended up playing a valuable role on a title team. In 2021, they added Andre Drummond, who was a DNP in Game 6 vs. the Phoenix Suns and soured the team's relationship with Marc Gasol.

I'll leave you with Richard Jefferson's and Kendrick Perkins' reaction to the Lakers' new gameplan: