Offense+3rd Star or Defense+Depth? Why Lakers Should Choose the Latter!

Last summer, LeBron wanted Russell Westbrook. This summer, he wants Kyrie Irving. As expected, the Lakers front office again appears ready to give James what he wants and trade for Irving despite last season’s lessons.

So far, the Lakers have done everything right. They hired a charismatic young defense-first head coach who runs a modern NBA offense in Darvin Ham and revamped their roster to be younger, longer, and more athletic. All the Lakers need to do to miraculously bounce back from last year is trade for players who complement and help James and Davis rather than players who will take valuable touches and points away from them.

Ironically, the Lakers find themselves in almost the same situation as last summer, when they pulled out of a Buddy Hield trade at the last minute to instead trade for Russell Westbrook to become the team’s third superstar. Today, the Lakers know they can trade Westbrook and two first round draft picks to the Pacers for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield. Yet, they can’t resist waiting for a chance to trade for Kyrie to be their third superstar.

Kyrie Irving and Joe Harris or Myles Turner and Buddy Hield? Offense plus 3rd star or defense plus depth? Here’s why the Lakers should choose defense plus depth and trade Westbrook for Turner and Hield:

1. Turner and Hield Won’t Take Touches From James and Davis

Rule #1 for Rob Pelinka and the Lakers is don’t do things that will take away from LeBron James and Anthony Davis. While Kyrie Irving is a huge upgrade over Russell Westbrook, he will take touches from LeBron and AD.

On the other hand, Myles Turner and Buddy Hield will complement and make it easier for LeBron James and Anthony Davis by giving them the spacing and support to enjoy career seasons and regain top-5 standing. Strategically, the last thing the Lakers should do is take the ball from LeBron James and Anthony Davis but that is exactly what happens when you add a third ball dominant superstar like Russell Westbrook or Kyrie Irving.

There’s no argument that replacing Russell Westbrook with Kyrie Irving would be a major upgrade for the point guard position and for the Lakers superstar big three. The question is whether a superstar big three is best. There’s an argument two superstars and a deeper, more versatile roster is a better championship formula than three superstars and a shallower, less versatile roster as there simply aren’t enough touches for three superstars.

The Lakers were lucky injuries kept LeBron and AD from having to sacrifice touches to Russ last season. They need to realize trading for Kyrie Irving will definitely take away touches from LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

2. Turner and Hield Will Make Lakers Better Defensive Team

The Lakers need to follow up their successful hiring of charismatic young defense-first head coach Darvin Ham by trading Russell Westbrook for the package of players that will make the Lakers a better defensive team.

It’s one thing to say defense wins championships but another to follow through when it comes to making trades but that’s the challenge the Lakers are facing right now. Should they trade Westbrook for offense or defense? Having committed to a 4-out offense with two bigs, the Lakers would be forced to gamble by having an untested young player in Thomas Bryant or Damian Jones start at center should they end up trading for Kyrie Irving.

Trading Westbrook for Turner, on the other hand, would give the Lakers the elite defensive anchor they desperately need. Myles Turner led the league in blocked shots past two seasons and is still only just 26-years old. Turner protecting the rim also frees Davis to play the four and roam the paint as a help shot blocker or play the three and become the Lakers’ wing stopper, which has become today’s most important defensive role in NBA.

Pairing Myles Turner, who led the league in blocked shots the past two seasons, with Anthony Davis would give the Lakers the best defensive front court duo in the NBA and 48 minutes of elite rim protection every game.

3. Turner and Hield Are Better Fits for Head Coach Darvin Ham

The Lakers only have to look back at the disconnect between the front office and the coaching staff last season to understand the importance of an organization to be on the same page and working in the same direction.

Being a first time head coach in the NBA is a daunting enough challenge without having also to deal with the front office not giving you the players who best fit the kind of offense and defense you want to run as the coach. Asking a brand new head coach like Darvin Ham to resurrect a legendary franchise after one of the worst seasons in its storied history is enough without asking him to deal with Russell Westbrook or Kyrie Irving.

The Lakers would be smart to give Darvin Ham the players he needs to make his offense and defense work. That means a proven rim protecting, floor spacing modern center and aggressive attack dog at point guard. Myles Turner would be the proven shot blocker and 3-point shooter Ham needs instead of an untested youngster and Patrick Beverley could be the 3&D point guard Ham needs instead of the defensively inept Kyrie Irving.

The Lakers need to resist the lure of a third superstar and focus on giving defense-first head coach Darvin Ham the players he needs to build a championship defense by trading for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield.

4. Turner and Hield Will Make Lakers Deeper and More Versatile

The problem with three superstars is it forces teams to build out the rest of their starting lineup and rotations with unproven young players, over-the-hill veterans, or guys coming off injuries who only make the minimum.

The result is a team that is extremely vulnerable to injuries to their big three and lacks the quality in the other starters and first backups off the bench to win, especially when it comes to the high pressure of the playoffs. Building a deep and versatile roster is impossible when you’re paying all three superstars max salaries. Not only are there not enough touches for all three players but there’s no money left over to build the rest of the roster.

Part of the goal of trading Westbrook is to transform him into three players earning $47 million combined. If they trade for Turner and Hield, they will still have assets to add another key piece, like point guard Pat Beverley. Should the Lakers trade for Kyrie Irving, who earns $37 million, the Lakers would not have trade capital to be able to make a second trade for Beverley. And they would start a young center whose never started for a full season.

The Lakers need depth and their goal should be to trade Russ and THT for at least four legitimate rotation players including at least two high impact defenders like Turner and Beverley to give Ham the defenders he needs.

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LakerTom

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.