Lakers Blowup Young Core at Trade Deadline
Laker fans reflecting on the 2018 trade deadline do so with trepidation and deserved skepticism. On first blush, it appears the Cleveland Cavaliers fleeced the Lakers. In exchange for two young, athletic, hungry, über talented, hardworking players, the Lakers received an ancient “stretch four” who can’t play on the box (Channing Frye), and a selfish, five foot seven, injury-prone, mediocre, locker room cancer (Isaiah Thomas). Johnson and Pelinka will have to answer for this experiment when it fails.
The Lakers were in possession of the youngest roster with the highest quality raw talent from top to bottom. Any other NBA franchise with this volume of talented young players would salivate at the potential to build a dynasty. Imagine a core of Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson (traded), Kyle Kuzma, Larry Nance Jr. (traded), and Lonzo Ball, all playing together for another two or three seasons. There is no substitute for speed and athleticism. Front office executives didn’t recognize the value of development.
If the Lakers established stability in the front office and coaching staff, that would represent a genuine effort to get better and win and continue winning well into the future. But, giving away Clarkson and Nance for two useless players in return was clearly motivated by the offseason LeBron sweepstakes. Entering the LeBron sweepstakes is not a sufficient justification for this dramatic weakening of the roster. If the Lakers are serious about signing big name free agents, they must focus on the professionalism of their presentations to would-be free agents (remember three years ago when LeMarcus Aldridge left his Lakers visit disappointed and underwhelmed).
As it relates to LeBron James and the Lakers – it’s impractical to assume LeBron would ever ‘take his talents to Long Beach.’ Why would LeBron want to exist in the shadow of Kobe Bryant? No matter how successful LeBron is in Staples Center, Angelinos will never regard LeBron as one of their own. He’ll be a hired gun, period. Intuitively LeBron must understand that he will never fill the Kobe Bryant void for millennials who cheer for the purple and gold. Chasing the LeBron fantasy cost the Lakers more than they realize.