Before the 2018–19 season, the Los Angeles Lakers acquired LeBron James. That year, the Lakers went 37-45 before adding a few more pieces to the puzzle. The Lakers won the NBA championship in a COVID-shortened season the following year after Anthony Davis arrived on the scene.
The Lakers have been a huge letdown ever since. The Lakers have an 89-100 record as of December 29 since winning the NBA title. The Lakers are currently in 13th place in the Western Conference standings after a 2-10 start to the season.
Even worse, Davis won’t be back in the starting lineup until sometime in January. That is merely the tip of the iceberg. It’s time for the Lakers to start over with a new roster if they want to get back to winning NBA titles. It won’t be easy.
The Lakers missed the playoffs last year and are probably going to miss it again this year. They are among the NBA’s worst defensive squads this season. The team’s defensive rating ranks 24th in the NBA and the Lakers rank No. 27 in terms of points allowed per game (117.6) this season. Without Davis in the starting lineup, Los Angeles’ defensive rating is 10 points worse and they allow 123.6 points per game.
The Lakers play at the NBA’s fourth-fastest pace. When you consider that James just turned 38, how much longer can this continue? Davis turns 30 in March and Russell Westbrook is 34. The Lakers need to act quickly because their roster is getting older.
The Lakers don’t control their first-round pick this year. New Orleans has control over the selection as a result of the trade that sent Davis to Los Angeles. To get at least one first-round draft pick, the Lakers will have to make some trades. They would then have the chance to trade for an elite player or get more draft picks.
Additionally, the Lakers need to likely negotiate a deal with a team that will likely enter the draft lottery. Since those teams typically want to keep their golden ticket, that won’t be easy either.
Westbrook Must Leave
Prior to this season, the Lakers’ biggest error was not trading Russell Westbrook. LA now has a sixth man worth $47 million who averages 15 points per game. As mentioned, Westbrook is 34 years old, and the Lakers weren’t really able to use James and Davis to their full potential with his style of play.
The issue with trading Westbrook is that there are many better options available; no one really wants an expensive, old point guard.
The James Issue
James extended his contract by two years, keeping him in Los Angeles through the 2024–25 season. The Lakers can’t trade him yet, and he can’t opt out of his deal until before the 24–25 season. James cannot be traded during this current campaign, giving the Lakers only one practical choice. Davis has to be used as trade bait for the Lakers to start the rebuild.
If anything, the Lakers won’t likely receive much in exchange for Westbrook, but Davis might be able to get a player like… Kevin Durant, for instance. There have been rumors of a Davis-to-Phoenix trade that would send two first-round picks, Jae Crowder, and Deandre Ayton to Los Angeles. The Lakers should think about making the change soon because they will not have many more opportunities. LA is on pace to go 34-48 this season. That most likely will not result in a playoff spot.