Lakers Committed to Trade to Build Around LeBron James

LeBron James, Rob Pelinka, Los Angeles Lakers

Getty LeBron James, Rob Pelinka, Los Angeles Lakers

In a summer that has been filled with trade rumors, the Los Angeles Lakers still own both of their future first-round picks and have failed to add any additional star talent to their rotation.

Yet, according to Rob Pelinka, who spoke with reporters on September 26 for the Lakers media day, the team remains committed to improving their roster by whatever means necessary, in order to provide LeBron James with a championship-caliber roster.

“Let me abundantly clear: We have one of the great players in LeBron James to ever play the game, on our team. He committed to us with a long-term contract, a three-year contract. So of course we will do everything we can, picks included, to make deals that give us a chance to help LeBron get to the end.

He committed to our organization, that’s gotta be a bilateral commitment. But let me be also clear, that you have to understand the CBA and the Stepien rule…You have one shot to make a trade with multiple picks. So if you make that trade, it has to be the right one, you have one shot to do it, so we’re being very thoughtful around the decisions on when and how to use draft capital in a way that will improve our roster,” Pelinka said.

As Pelinka said, trading away both the 2027 and 2029 first-round picks are going to be the Lakers’ best shot at significantly upgrading their roster via trade, and as such, the organization will need to feel vindicated in their decision to sign off on any potential deal – which means, we can expect a long and arduous amount of due diligence to be undertaken before we see any new addition this season – if at all.


Lakers Considered Both Donovan Mitchell & Kyrie Irving

Speaking on a September 27 episode of Brian Windhorst’s Hoops Collective podcast, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported that the Lakers were previously willing to part with their two prized draft picks twice throughout the summer, first for Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets, and second, for Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz.

“I’ve been told that, listen, had the Lakers been able to acquire Kyrie Irving or the Lakers been able to acquire Donovan Mitchell, both those players, the Lakers were willing and able to move both those picks… The deals available to them, they didn’t feel like they could get back a player that’s such a difference maker like either of those two,” McMenamin explained.

Unfortunately, Irving decided to remain with Brooklyn for the final year of his contract, and Mitchell was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a haul of players and draft assets. So, the Lakers will now probably bide their time, waiting for the next disgruntled star to become available before they start dangling their most tradable assets once again – but that might me we don’t see any legitimate movement until next summer.


Lakers Could Hold Out For 2023 Free Agency

If the Lakers are truly committed to building a sustainable roster capable of challenging for championships over multiple years, they may see the best course of action to be standing pat until next summer when Russell Westbrook’s contract comes off the books.

According to The Athletic’s Jovan Buha and Sam Amick, Los Angeles will have close to a max cap space slot available next year and will have a plethora of talented players to try and pry away from their current teams.

“With the salary cap projected to be $134 million, Los Angeles could create upwards of $30 million to $35 million or so in cap space. If their widely known interest in Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving isn’t satisfied via trade by then, Irving could reunite with James the easy way when he’s an unrestricted free agent. Other notable free agents could include Khris Middleton (player option), Fred VanVleet (player option), Andrew Wiggins, Tyler Herro (restricted), and Jordan Poole (restricted),” Amick and Buha wrote on September 16.

In theory, the Lakers could add a legitimate star to their rotation via free agency, and acquire a difference maker via trade, and by doing so, could quickly become a roster capable of contending for a championship throughout LeBron’s final two years under contract with the team.
Of course, LeBron isn’t getting any younger, and that may mean the pressure is on for the Lakers to find and execute a trade sooner rather than later.
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