The Los Angeles Lakers started 2022-23 on a sour note. LeBron James was injured in the 11th game of the season, and they were one of the worst teams at one juncture due to a 2-10 record. Newly hired head coach Darvin Ham had a plethora of problems from the onset despite the elite star talent on his squad.
James returned last Friday after a five-game absence, and he has been fantastic for the purple and gold. Anthony Davis is quietly having one of the best statistical years of his career. Russell Westbrook seems to have adjusted tremendously to his sixth-man role as the spark plug off the bench.
Everyone knows the mistakes Rob Pelinka made, but why not pull the trigger right now and add reliable pieces who will supplement Los Angeles’ Big Three?
The Lakers lost many of their future assets in the Davis trade with the New Orleans Pelicans, not to mention multiple key role players in the Westbrook trade with the Washington Wizards. Los Angeles let Alex Caruso walk in free agency before last season, too.
The Lakers have been involved in a slew of trade rumors since the summer, linking them to duos like Myles Turner and Buddy Hield, Terry Rozier and PJ Washington, or Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson.
All of these guys, including several others available on the market, would catapult the Lakers to legitimate playoff contention. It might not bring them a championship like the 2020 NBA bubble, which could be the main reason why Pelinka is hesitating to let go of both of his drafts picks in 2027 and 2029.
The reason for Pelinka to let go on at least one of those picks along with possibly moving Westbrook’s massive expiring contract to another organization are the timelines of James and Davis. The former turns 38 in in a few weeks, while the latter is in the thick of his prime.
Some argue that first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 could net the Lakers their next franchise stars, but a lot will change for them and the NBA at large over the next several years.
Los Angeles cannot afford to waste the final years of James and Davis’ partnership. No one is assured of a championship even if the Lakers acquire Turner and Hield or Rozier and Washington, but adding those players would give them a fighting chance in the tough Western Conference.
Pundits and fans saw James’ recent injury history, Davis’ underwhelming play since 2020 and the famous struggles of Westbrook as primary reasons to play this season without mortgaging the long-term future.
Both Davis and James are still top-15 players in the league, so the Lakers must not waste their talent for another season because they are wary of sacrificing draft picks. Age and injury are causes for concern, so Los Angeles needs a quality supporting cast as soon as possible to help lighten the load on its stars.
The players they could potentially acquire would not only help James and Davis this year, but some of them have guaranteed contracts past 2022-23. Westbrook’s contract is expiring and he is unlikely to return, so having someone like Rozier or Hield on the roster long-term would be a boon for Los Angeles.
This dilemma is not going away. The more dominant performances put up by James and Davis, the more pressure Lakers management will be under to get them the help they deserve.