The Los Angeles Lakers have been a walking disaster this season. They are in 10th place in the Western Conference standings and in danger of missing the play-in tournament after having the second-best odds to win the championship in the preseason.
The Russell Westbrook trade has come back to bite the Lakers. With $76.5 million invested in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the LakeShow gave up Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and a first-round pick to acquire Westbrook, one of the most expensive players in the NBA and a guy who is not a good fit next to LeBron and Davis since he can’t shoot. To no one’s surprise, adding a high-usage point guard who doesn’t spread the floor hasn’t worked out for the Lakers.
While Westbrook may be the face of one of the most disappointing seasons in Lakers franchise history, he’s a symptom of a larger issue, according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. Per Pincus, Los Angeles has a pattern of letting value go without recompense.
The Lakers didn’t re-sign Alex Caruso this summer. The defensive pest signed with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles lost him while getting nothing in return. This is just one of the moves Pincus outlines as internal mistakes by the Lakers.
Pincus: Lakers Have Shown Master Class in Devaluing Players & Picks
Pincus, who covers the Lakers for Bleacher Report, believes the franchise has shown a master class in devaluing players and picks. He detailed several bad moves by the purple and gold, dating all the way back to 2018.
“2018: Waived Thomas Bryant, who became a productive starter after the Wizards claimed him off waivers,” Pincus wrote. “If a young, talented big who can shoot the ball doesn’t fit your plans, why not trade him? 2018: Revoked future All-Star Julius Randle’s qualifying offer to let him walk as an unrestricted free agent. Randle was the No. 7 pick in 2014. 2019: Traded Svi Mykhailiuk and a second-round pick to the Pistons for Reggie Bullock, who left as a free agent after the season. Two smaller assets gone to rent the services of a veteran shooter. L.A. didn’t even make a playoff run.
“2019: Traded Ivica Zubac (and Michael Beasley) to the Clippers for Mike Muscala, who left as a free agent after the season. The Lakers wasted another quality draft pick (No. 32 in 2016), gave the Clippers a starter and haven’t had anyone as good at center. 2020: Traded Danny Green and a first-round pick to get Dennis Schroder, who left as a free agent after the season. It was a significant step as L.A. broke apart its championship defensive identity, and it also threw away a first-rounder.
“2020: Traded JaVale McGee and a second-rounder to the Cavaliers for Alfonzo McKinnie and Jordan Bell (waived immediately) to make salary-cap room for Marc Gasol. After the season, McKinnie was waived, and Gasol was traded with a second-round pick and $250,000 to the Grizzlies. McGee is playing a valuable supporting role for the first-place Suns. Neither Gasol nor McKinnie is in the NBA. That journey cost two second-round picks. 2021: Traded Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and a first-round pick for Russell Westbrook, which has been covered ad nauseam.”
The Lakers won the 2020 championship at the Walt Disney World bubble over the Miami Heat in six games. LeBron, Davis, Talen Horton-Tucker and Dwight Howard are the only players from that team on this year’s squad. Avery Bradley was on that title team as well and he’s on the Lakers this season, but he didn’t play in the bubble.
LeBron is still arguably the best player in the NBA despite being 37. He’s averaging 30.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists this season. However, Davis can’t seem to stay healthy and the roster around the King and the Brow is flawed.
With that said, it may make sense for the Lakers to trade LeBron and Davis this summer and rebuild.
Lakers Should Consider Trading LeBron & Davis
LeBron can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2023. To avoid losing him and not getting back anything in return, the Lakers may have to trade him this offseason.
Los Angeles could probably get draft picks and a young star for LeBron. If LBJ gets traded, it would make sense for Davis to get moved as well, something ESPN’s Brian Windhorst touched on.
“People in the league who have a lot of experience say they should trade them both,” Windhorst said on his podcast. “And because again, it makes some sense. I just don’t think they can do that and I think this is going to be a severe, serious conversation that probably could hang over Lakers games.”
The Lakers don’t have any first-round picks in the 2022 draft. As it stands, they have two first-round picks in 2027 and 2029. Trading LeBron and Davis offseason could change that, so it will be interesting if vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka considers doing that.