The Los Angeles Lakers have a tough decision to make over the next four days. Do they keep the current roster intact and hope its great talent and chemistry will cover the need for a second playmaker and wing defender? Or do they risk being perceived as acting callously by breaking up a close knit roster fans have grown to love in the aftermath of Kobe’s death? That’s Rob Pelinka’s first big decision as the Lakers’ VP of Basketball Operations.
LeBron James has made it clear he doesn’t think the Lakers need to add another piece to win the NBA championship but will he still feel the same if the crosstown Clippers make a move to significantly improve their roster? Right now there’s a consensus the Lakers, Clippers, and Bucks are pretty evenly matched up as legitimate championship contenders, which speaks to the obvious motivation for each front office to make moves to improve.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, the big trade for Anthony Davis and the contracts they signed last summer have put them in a position where they lack the valuable trade pieces and picks the Clippers and Bucks possess. That makes it more difficult for the Lakers to put together more desirable trade packages than either the Clippers or Bucks, which leaves them at risk of not keeping up if their competitors make big moves before the deadline.
Complicating the situation is the possibility Darren Collison might decide to end his retirement or Andre Iguodala might buyout his contract with the Grizzlies. Collison is said to want to join either the Lakers or the Clippers. Grizzlies want a first round pick for Iggy but supposedly have a backup deal to trade Iggy to the Mavs for filler and a second round pick. Lakers are the favorites for Collison because they can give him more minutes and money.
Since Darren Collison is a free agent, Pelinka has likely already talked to his agent and knows whether Darren is going to join the Lakers. If Collison is coming, then the Lakers will need to open a spot to add him to their roster. If the Lakers have to make changes to the roster and tamper with their great chemistry, it makes more sense to do it via a 2-for-1 or 3-for-1 trade rather than just waiving a single player to open up the roster spot.
The problem is the 2-for-1 and 3-for-1 trades likely to be available for the Lakers are not going to bring back a player who can solve their need for another playmaker or wing defender, which is why Collison is so critical. Should the Lakers get a commitment from Darren, there’s a good chance they can then make a trade for a more consistent and versatile version of Kuzma, like the Kings’ Nemanja Bjelica or the Wizards’ Davis Bertans.
Upgrading the roster by swapping Kuzma and Cook for Collison and Bjelica would be the kind of savvy move that would make the win-now Lakers a better team without adversely affecting the great chemistry they have.
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