Among the many traditions the Lakers franchise has, one of the biggest, both literally and metaphorically, is their history of dominant big men. Really, any list of greatest big men past or present have Lakers littered all over them. George Mikan (5 titles) started the trend, Wilt Chamberlain (1 title) briefly carried the load, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (5 titles) etched his name as one of the greatest Lakers big men, Shaq (3 titles) was the largest man and personality in Laker lore, and most recently Pau Gasol (2 titles) has added his names to the rank. And even if we want to forget it, arguably the best center in the game right now, Dwight Howard, has a legacy as a Laker.
Oddly enough, of those six listed, one of them was homegrown (Mikan), one of them was a free agent signing (Shaq), and the other four come in blockbuster deals. Each trade (sans Dwight) led directly to title runs and each big man played an integral role in the title teams.
All this is necessary to know when considering the idea of trading for Kevin Love, a sentiment that is growing bigger and bigger the closer we get to the summer. Despite Love’s insistence that he doesn’t want to leave Minnesota and that Los Angeles isn’t his dream destination, Lakers fans see him as the key to their next title.
It’s a simply formula. Struggle a couple seasons, trade for a big man, win titles, rinse, repeat.
This time, that formula does not work. It’s not clear cut and dry. Trading for a big man does not instant equal a title. This time around, too much is at stake. The asking price is too high given the assets – or lack thereof – the Lakers have. This time, the circumstances aren’t so cut and dry. This time, the Lakers need to wait and let the player come to them.
When the Lakers brought in Gasol, they had a young team, an established coach, and seemed to be one piece short of being title contenders. When Howard joined the squad two summers ago, on paper, the Lakers had all the pieces to win a title, and if not for a slew of injuries, things would have been different. This summer, we have a back-up center, a point guard who can’t play two straight games, and a superstar guard who will have played 6 games in 18 months by next fall.
Bringing Love in isn’t the answer. Instead of spending what’s left of the cap room wisely on multiple players, building a deep team and using our draft pick to bring in the possible heir to the throne, we should commit $48 million to three players? And also forgo the chance to draft the next superstar?
Tell me if you’ve heard this scenario before. The Lakers have long targeted a big man, whose interest in them has waned. By most accounts, he’s considered the best at his position. Rumors float around that he wants to join the Lakers, but he’s never explicitly said it. Still, his team is struggling and he’s growing increasingly frustrated. With only one year remaining on his deal, many assume the Lakers to be his destination once his contract expires and his franchise has given no hints of wanting to deal him.
What player am I talking about? Love? Wrong. Dwight Howard. Seriously, it’s the exact same situation all over again. Did we learn nothing the first time we messed this up? We mortgaged our future (albeit selling Bynum at the perfect time) for a one-year rental that blew up in our face and left the franchise reeling. Are we prepared to do the same thing again?
Does Love even make the team a title contender? If we do pull a trade for him, bring back Gasol, and hope for the best with Nash while retaining the leftovers from last year’s squad, you’ll have a rotation resembling Nash-Bryant-Wes-Pau-Love with Marshall, Bazemore, and Sacre off the bench. That’s a .500 team. That’s a team as devoid of defense as this year’s squad. That’s not a team you assemble with championship on the mind.
You know what COULD be a title winning team? Drafting a player like Aaron Gordon this year, signing a player like Kyle Lowry or a Gordon Hayward or even a Lance Stephenson, then signing Kevin Love in 2014-15. Walking out a lineup of Lowry – Bryant – Hayward – Gordon – Love is MUCH more likely to compete for a title than the other lineup mentioned.
Love is a fantastic player. But why give up assets for something that could come to you for free? I’m cautiously optimistic that Kupchak and company learned their lesson with Dwight. If Love wants to be a Laker, we can sign him next year. It may not be what Kobe wants with his win-now attitude, but this franchise has to survive post-Bryant, and trading away our biggest asset in almost a decade for a player who may walk away at year’s end won’t further the franchise.
Rebuilding a team doesn’t happen overnight. Patience is the key. Let’s not rush into Love.