Lakers Willing to Sacrifice This Season for Monster Makeover Next Summer?

In a surprise move, the Lakers front office has reportedly challenged rookie coach Darvin Ham and superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis to show in through November they’re worth spending two draft picks on.

Threatening not to trade their 2027 or 2029 first round picks unless the team suddenly starts to play better and win games is a stupid move by an embattled Lakers’ front office that appears to question its own superstars. Have Rob Pelinka and the Lakers’ front office lost faith that James and Davis can win another NBA championship? We’re only 12 games into the season but LeBron is showing his age and AD has not been Bubble AD.

The NBA has ironically been running a marketing commercial built around the idea of LeBron James battling Father Time, played by Jason Momoa, while the true life version of this same battle has been happening real time. Though it’s only been 12 games and James has been hampered by minor foot and groin injuries, most observers would say Father Time is winning. Right now, LeBron has the worst plus/minus on the entire Lakers’ roster.

Meanwhile, Anthony Davis has lost confidence in his outside shot, which has turned what used to be one of the league’s most dangerous three-level scorers into a one-level scorer limited now mostly to points in the paint.
Davis has bulked up and lost some of the quickness and explosiveness from his Pelican days as the Lakers played him more and more at center rather than his preferred power forward position where he can roam free more.

We don’t knw how serious the Lakers’ concerns about James and Davis are but how they and the team play the rest of this month could dramatically change what the team decides to do with Westbrook and their two picks.

1. What Happens If the Lakers Suddenly Show They Can Win?

If LeBron starts playing like a Bionic Man, Anthony Davis like Bubble AD, and the team like they could be great if they had more size and shooting, the Lakers will trade Westbrook and the two picks to give the team a shot.

The Los Angeles Lakers’ best trade option for Russell Westbrook and two unprotected picks is a three-way trade with the Indiana Pacers and the Charlotte Hornets to acquire Terry Rozier, Myles Turner, and Buddy Hield. The goal of the trade is for the Lakers to acquire three new starters in Rozier, Turner, and Hield to give the Lakers starting lineup greater size and 3-point shooting and elevate them to a legitimate championship contender.

The Lakers need to be willing to give up unprotected 2027 and 2029 first round draft picks to motivate the Pacers to complete this trade but should understand that those picks are the gold standard of first round picks. There’s a good chance those post LeBron James picks could be top-five picks by 2027 and 2029 just as the Lakers’ post Kobe Bryant picks turned out to be top-five picks for Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Julius Randle.

Since the Lakers are willing to give up both picks unprotected, they should demand the Pacers give them back a protected first round pick in return, like the 2025 first round pick they received from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Lakers need that pick to sweeten a trade of Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn for the Hornets’ Terry Rozier. While Charlotte will save $70 million in the trade, it’ll still take a first round pick to close the deal.

If the Lakers can play better and win games and James and Davis can show they’re not washed up versions of themselves but just superstars who need a better supporting cast, the Lakers will acquiesce and trade the picks.

2. What’ Happens If James & Davis Lakers Continue to Lose?

If James, Davis, and the Lakers show the front office that the roster is just a trade short from being a contender, then expect the Lakers to keep Russ and the picks and opt instead for a monster makeover this summer.

We’ve always known members of the Lakers’ front office were against trading the two first round picks unless it made them legit contenders. Their preference was sacrifice this year to rebuild strong next summer.
If they can’t make a trade to make this team a legitimate contender, we should save the picks for next summer, when we could have over $35 million in open cap space and three first round picks to sweeten trades.

That all sounds wonderful except for two things. First, how do you get LeBron at 38-years old to buy in to sacrificing one of what could be the last two or three years of his career after promising you’d trade the picks? Bottom line, I don’t see how the Lakers can refuse to make a trade to save this season. After all, Rob Pelinka essentially promised LeBron James he would trade the two picks to improve their size and shooting.

Second, how do you even use the draft picks in a trade because the only players under contract whom you can trade besides LeBron James and Anthony Davis are Max Christie ($1.7M) and Damian Jones ($2.6M).
That’s when the epiphany usually happens and you realize that what the Lakers are trying to setup next summer is $35 million in cap space and a blockbuster trade involving James or Davis and three first round picks.

While sacrificing this season and trading one of their superstars might be a risky gamble, the Lakers have never been a franchise afraid to shoot for the moon when it came to winning, including pulling off a monster makeover.

3. Where Does This Leave Lakers At End of November?

Pelinka’s decision to wait 20 games before deciding what to do with Russ and their two picks has now morphed into waiting to see whether the team can play well enough to end of November to justify investing two picks.

There is an obvious divide in the Lakers’ front office over what the team’s strategy should be as they approach LeBron James eventual retirement and there’s an argument the Lakers should be proactive about the transition. Rather than going all in to win right now, the Lakers should sacrifice this season in order to accumulate a war chest of cap space and draft assets to pull off a monster makeover to a championship favorite this summer.

Pelinka made a huge mistake by announcing the decision to trade the team’s two first round picks was so critical to the franchise future that every one of the front office stakeholders had to unanimously agree to any trade.
That’s what happened before the start of camp when one or more of Rob Pelinka; Jeanie, Joey, and Jesse Buss; and Kurt and Linda Rambis would not agree that Myles Turner and Buddy Hield were worth the two picks.

In the air also is how the Lakers suddenly questioning LeBron James’ and Anthony Davis’ ability to win another championship could end up fatally damaging the strong alliance between the Lakers and Klutch Sports.
Jeanie promised LeBron will be respected like Kobe, and Rob pledged to be the guardian of James’ legacy and promised they were willing to trade the two first round draft picks to make the Lakers legitimate contenders.

Bottom line, regardless of how the team plays the rest of this month, the Lakers are not going to sacrifice this season. That is just not how the they have ever operated and is not something Jeanie is willing to do to the fans. Giving up on a season and breaking promises to your superstar would be a betrayal of the fans, which is the final nail in the coffin of the crazy idea of sacrificing this season for a mythical monster makeover next summer.

In the end, the Los Angeles Lakers have no choice but to do what they can to improve this team. They will pick up the phone and call the Indiana Pacers and make the long overdue trade for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield.

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LakerTom

Lakers fanatic since 1971 when team traded for Wilt Chamberlain. Founder, editor, and publisher of Lakerholics.com, a community for smart informed Lakers fans.