This summer, the Lakers officially switched gears from tanking to chasing titles. The master plan was to bring in a pair of all-star caliber players to lead the talented young core deep into the playoffs. On one hand, they succeeded by signing the best player on the planet in LeBron James. On the other hand, they failed to sign a second all-star to pair with James. For now.
To keep that plan a reality, they were forced to round out their roster with veterans on expiring contracts so they could maintain cap flexibility for next summer when several top players become free agents. Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Kawhi Leonard are likely the main targets the Lakers will be gunning for.
Some of those players might even be on the trade block before they become free agents, but should the Lakers make any offers? The easy answer would be yes, the Lakers should do whatever they possibly can to fill their weakest position (C) with the best center in the League aka Anthony Davis.
That trade would almost be as big as LeBron signing with the Lakers in the first place. They would instantly become title contenders, instead of waiting for next year to seriously challenge for the title. LeBron can’t possibly stay this good forever, so the sooner the better.
But on the other hand, how would this trade (or any other trade) affect the Lakers for the rest of the LeBron era? The biggest drawback to any trade would be the loss of talent that the Lakers would likely have to give up. Let’s be honest, no one is giving the Lakers an all-star for KCP, Beasley, and McGee. A more realistic trade would have to include Ball or Ingram (the talent), paired with a combination of Rondo, KCP, or Beasley (the salary filler), and maybe even Svi, Moe, Hart, or Kuzma (the sweetener).
While that’s actually not a bad trade for the Lakers, losing 2 members of the core 4 drops them down a notch from having a fairly deep bench, to just having average bench depth. For LeBron to lead these guys to the promised land, he needs the young guns. Not only are they talented, but their relatively tiny rookie scale contracts allow the depth that the Lakers currently enjoy. When your core players are some of the cheaper players on your roster, you’re in a good spot.
The alternative to making any trades is to just play out the season and add any of the above mentioned players next summer, while simultaneously keeping all the young (and cheap) core players. It would cost a season of LeBron’s prime as they wouldn’t be a title favorite this year, but if they add AD or KD next year while keeping the core, they could actually begin the season as a favorite to win the title.
It all boils down to patience. The Lakers have gotten to this point by being extremely patient for several seasons worth of tanking. If they can manage to be patient for just one more season and sign another top free agent instead of making a trade for him, they could potentially have the best Lakers team we’ve ever seen.
Kobe was Kobe, and there’ll never be another like him. He had Shaq, and he also had Pau. But he never had a quartet of youngsters quite like Ball, Kuz, Hart, and BI.
Follow Ryan Ramsey on Twitter @DoubleR818