Where Do Lakers Go From Here After Being Shut Out at the Trade Deadline?
For the second straight year, the Lakers failed to make a move at the trade deadline, declining opportunities to improve the current roster and saving their 2027 first round pick to package with Russ for a third star this summer.
In a move designed to transform the failed Westbrook experiment into a home run opportunity, the Lakers are willing to write off the rest of this season to position themselves with the chips to trade for Damian Lillard this summer. Best case scenario, the Lakers could package Russ’ $47.1 million expiring contract, Nunn’s $5.0 million expiring contract, Horton-Tucker’s $10.3 million contract, and their unprotected 2027 and 2029 first round draft picks.
Leave it to the Los Angeles Lakers to try to turn a failed Westbrook experiment into a home run opportunity to trade for a legitimate third superstar who’s a more complementary fit with superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. That’s what Lakers exceptionalism is all about. Not only are there no longer any untradeable contracts but there’s also an amazing transformation that happens whenever a significant player contract becomes an expiring contract.
That’s the game the Lakers are now playing. That’s the game LeBron James and Anthony Davis both agreed to as Rob Pelinka turned down possible trade after possible trade because he would not give up their 2027 first round pick. Having the ability to include two possibly unprotected post-LeBron James’ draft picks is going to give the Lakers the capability to trade Westbrook in a package that will bring back a third superstar who really fits LeBron and AD.
How the Lakers finish the season continues to be paramount. In many ways Los Angeles is still betting the house they can make the Russ experiment work and even rehabilitate Horton-Tucker’s and Nunn’s trade value as players. Knowing LeBron and AD had to be supportive of the decision, we can expect the Lakers to come together as a team and recommit to finishing the season strong and competing for a championship. Could that possibly work?
To start with, I don’t see any scenario for the rest of the season where the Lakers start winning without Russell Westbrook and Talen Horton-Tucker playing way better and Kendrick Nunn actually getting back on the court. Without question, I don’t see that happening with Frank Vogel as head coach. Coaches often have a shelf life with players and I think Frank no longer inspires and motivates this team. With 26 games remaining, the time may have come for the Lakers to fire Frank Vogel and promote Phil Handy.
The Lakers showed last night against the Blazers that Russell Westbrook was not their only problem. It’s also clear to everybody that Frank Vogel is not going to coaching this team next season. Lame duck coach is not the answer. Lakers need to pull the plug on Frank and make Handy the Interim Coach for the rest of the season. That’s a move that would give the Lakers a chance to turn around the rest of this season so they’ll be in good stead this summer.
The Lakers cannot leave Frank Vogel in charge of the franchise’s destiny over the next 26 games. Time to change coaches and give this team it’s best chance to salvage what has become a nightmare season for the Lakers are their fans.
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The key, however, is not allowing the current season to devolve into a dysfunctional disaster that makes Malik Monk think twice about re-signing with the Lakers for less or, God forbid, starts LeBron James thinking of finishing his career somewhere else than Los Angeles.
How the team bonds and how LeBron and AD and Russ respond will determine whether this move is big success or a disastrous step towards mediocrity and hopelessness. Big game coming up Saturday for this Lakers’ roster. How Russ, THT, and Nunn play going forward will be critical. Can they help us win and raise their trade value?
A change in head coaches with Phil Handy as interim head coach could be next in line. Could be the giant exclamation point put on this season at this point. Vogel is obviously not going to make the right moves to fix the team’s offensive problems. A change to Phil Handy would seem to be a logical move to add new fire to the rest of the season.
There’s usually a shelf life for coaches in the NBA. Players finally tune them out. Change often is good because it’s different. A new chance. Firing Vogel and promoting Handy as Interim could be a catalyst of sorts to the team pulling together and still making something out of this mess of a season.