The Lakers are going to be aggressive this off-season. Jim Buss, the guy with the final say on basketball operations, gave himself a deadline to get the Lakers “back into contention” (which is vaguely defined, but we can say at least the second round of the playoffs) and things need to happen sooner rather than later.
Would he be so aggressive as to trade a top 3 pick? That’s the rumor.
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak did a media tour Friday and said on the Thompson and Trudell show on ESPN710 in Los Angeles not to bet on that. Via Serena Winters of Lakersnation.com.
The Lakers had the second-worst record in the NBA and with that have a 56 percent chance of having one of the top picks three picks in the draft after the NBA Draft Lottery May 17. If they fall to four or farther, the pick goes to the Sixers as the last remnants of the Steve Nash trade.
Would the Lakers move that pick? Depends on what the offer they get back is.
Would they love to trade that pick and someone like Julius Randle to land Paul George? Well, I would like to drive my Maserati over to pick up Scarlett Johansson for our night out. About the same odds of happening.
But the Lakers should explore the trade market. That’s just smart business. What they can’t do is get so wrapped up in the idea of getting good fast that they make bad decisions that haunt them down the line. Don’t overspend on players not ready to step up in their role, don’t trade assets for B-list guys that are a step sidewise but older and more expensive. Don’t sacrifice the foundation for a few short term wins. That said, the Lakers’ MO has never been the slow, patient build.
Kupchak also spoke about the need for an experienced assistant next to new coach Luke Walton (one with a defensive pedigree) and the Lakers’ plans to do better in free agency this time around. Via Bill Oram of the Orange County Register.
Of all the silly things Scott said – and continues to say – labeling Russell immature turned out somewhat valid.
But in taking a victory lap on that assessment, the former Lakers coach exposed a huge problem with his player-development and communication skills.
Scott, via The Dan Patrick Show:
Some of these guys, when they come into the league, they think they’re entitled. And I thought that’s how he felt when he first got with us. He almost tried to act like he was a veteran, and I tried to make sure that he knew that he wasn’t a veteran. You have to earn your stripes. So, yeah, there were times where I was a little tough on him just to bring him back down to earth, to let him know that this is not an easy task when you’re in the NBA. That’s the easy part is getting there. The hardest part is staying there, getting better and better and better. So, yeah, I had some tough love for the young man. But just like I told him, “When I stop talking to you, that’s going to be a problem.”
Like the time Scott didn’t talk to Russell about losing his starting job? Or the time Scott didn’t talk to Russell about putting him back into the starting lineup? Or the time Scott didn’t talk to Russell about the Young video?
The Lakers just don’t want to trade the No. 1 pick if they get it.
They reportedly have a specific target in mind: Paul George.
Bill Simmons of The Ringer:
First, the Lakers would have to get a top-three pick. They keep their first-rounder only if it lands in the top three, and there’s just a 56% chance of that. It’d also help to get the No. 1 pick, where the Pacers could choose between Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram. There’s a big drop to the prospects available at No. 3, so which pick the Lakers get matters a great deal.
And then they’d have to convince Indiana to accept the deal.
While announcing Frank Vogel’s ouster, Pacers president Larry Bird said:
Somebody asked me the question, ‘Do you expect to be in the playoffs?’ And I thought he was kidding. I expect to be in the playoffs and make it through a few rounds and then see how good our players really are. Because the first round is always nice, but you don’t start really getting into the playoffs and know what the playoffs are about until you get to the Eastern Conference finals and the Finals. That’s when the basketball really starts.
Does that sound like someone who’d trade his star veteran for a rookie?
With a top-two pick, the Lakers might have assets commensurate with George’s value, but they’re all assets that will bloom a few years from now. If the Pacers aren’t interested in that timeline, none of this matters.
The Lakers’ plan makes sense – even beyond Jim Buss needing a quick turnaround to keep his job. The Lakers cap space would become much more valuable with a veteran star like George, who’d sway free agents. A patient rebuild makes less sense in Los Angeles than other places.
Getting a star is hard, but the Lakers should try. Succeeding could quickly lead to a second and maybe even third star joining.
They just have to be careful not to dump a valuable draft pick for someone with star status but not star production. George is a true star, but if they can’t get him, who’s Plan B and C and…? At a certain point, it makes sense just to draft someone and build slowly around a young core.
There’s plenty at stake in this Spurs-Thunder series already.
The winner advances to the Western Conference finals – an accomplishment in itself – likely to face the Warriors, who still haven’t gotten Stephen Curry back.
But this second round matchup could also prove instrumental in whether Durant stays in Oklahoma City or bolts – maybe to San Antonio.
As well as Durant and his close-knit tandem of representatives, Rich Kleiman and Charlie Bell, have done in terms of keeping their intentions mysterious, there is a working assumption among KD’s would-be suitors that a second-round Thunder exit essentially cinches the notion that he’ll indeed walk away and look for the best external situation that positions him to win that elusive first championship.
The theory (stress: theory) also holds that OKC success in this round against the 67-win Spurs would be enough, no matter what happens in a presumed Western Conference finals showdown with the Warriors, to convince Durant, at the very least, to sign a new two-year deal with Oklahoma City that contains a player option for Year 2.
Durant has already denied a report he’ll leave the Thunder if they don’t reach the NBA Finals. It’s never that cut and dry for a free agent.
But the Thunder’s success is works in their favor, and seeing that come undone right in front of his eyes could push Durant out of Oklahoma City. Likewise, seeing the Thunder win could convince Durant of his current team’s potential.
I don’t know whether Durant will re-sign if the Thunder advance and leave if they don’t. But if I’m Oklahoma City or San Antonio, I’d sure want to win to tip the odds toward my favor.