Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said he'd remain open to making… (Richard Hartog / Los Angeles…)
The Lakers need to add youth. They need more athleticism. They need more solid role players. They need more talent. Oh, and the Lakers somehow have to do this without significantly adding to their heavy payroll.
But as the Lakers enter Thursday's NBA Draft, they're not in any position to really address those issues. They have the last pick (60th overall) and may have to simply select the best available player in an otherwise deep class.
Yup, this could be a frustrating off-season after the team's early exit from the Western Conference semifinals against Oklahoma City. The Lakers remain a playoff-contending team, but they lack a championship-caliber roster. An aging core only further cements the problem as time passes. And the harsher luxury taxes effective after next season from the new labor deal has made the Lakers reconsider their lavish spending habits.
Because of those severe limitations, it'll be interesting to see how the Lakers approach Thursday's draft. Below are a few possibilities.
The Lakers should trade for a higher draft pick. General Manager Mitch Kupchak acknowledged after last month's exit interview that he's willing to trade a player to secure a higher draft pick. As he always shows regarding front-office decisions, Kupchak remained coy on what that strategy would entail. That's understandable. But it's something the Lakers should seriously pursue.
The Lakers may have tradeable assets in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, but those probably wouldn't land any of the league's big-name players. Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams suggested earlier this month to The Times that he wouldn't want to play for the Lakers. Numerous reports have indicated that Dwight Howard doesn't want to play for the Lakers because he doesn't want to be Kobe Bryant's sidekick and he doesn't want to follow Shaquille O'Neal's career path.
That's why it's imperative the Lakers trade up in the draft. Young rookies may not have the same impact as experienced superstars, but having them beats L.A.'s current alternative. For the Lakers' sake, fans better hope it's true that the team is trying to trade Gasol to the Washington Wizards for their third overall pick, as reported by Fox Sports Sam Amico. Better yet, it'd be a good idea for the Lakers to explore trade talks with Houston for Kyle Lowry, Luis Scola and one of the team's draft picks. The move would both upgrade the team's talent and save money. Don't worry if this would hurt the Lakers in free agency.
The Lakers should make a trade not involving draft picks. Even if this year's draft class is considered deep, trading for picks runs the risk of then missing out on a player already selected. There's also the uncertainty on how any rookie, no matter how talented, would transfer his talents on a veteran-laden team. Making a trade for a more established star remains the safer route to take. The proposal reported by The Times Mike Bresnahan that involves the Lakers trading Gasol to Atlanta for Josh Smith would make the Lakers more athletic and it would trim payroll.
The Lakers should just do nothing and settle on whatever they can for the 60th pick. There's always the risk of making a move just because of external pressure. The Lakers' track record shows they rarely follow that temptation, and it's critical they don't fall into it now. Negotiating early also runs the risk of the Lakers giving up too much instead of waiting patiently for the right deal.
Verdict: The Lakers need to trade up higher in the draft. Outside of a deal with Houston for Lowry, it's unrealistic that they could make any major deals involving good players. It's very possible the Lakers may have to settle with their current roster, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But as the team has shown in the past two seasons, it's no longer good enough to win a championship. With the Lakers becoming a year older and foes such as Oklahoma City and the Miami Heat, the Purple & Gold can't assume its current team will suddenly have better chemistry.
You've read my take. Now what's yours? Vote in the poll below and explain your thought process in the comments section.
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