Lakers: Why Standing Pat Isn’t the Worst Thing For LA


Speculation about what moves the Lakers should make is rampant but sometimes standing pat makes the most sense

Now that Russell Westbrook has extended his contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder, fans and media can stop speculating whether or not the Lakers should break up their young core and trade for him.

Of course, Los Angeles is a star-driven community and the Lakers have always been a franchise that featured big-name stars, so conjecture about which star the team should try to acquire will merely shift to someone else, most likely all-star DeMarcus ‘Boogie’ Cousins, who recently tweeted that while growing up, the Lakers were his favorite team.

There’s no question that Cousins is immensely talented. But is it truly in the Lakers best interests to trade for him now? Let’s think about what’s the best path for the team to take on the road back to respectability.

The number one reality is that the Lakers just suffered through the worst two back-to-back seasons in franchise history. Now that the Kobe Bryant era is officially over, the team is beginning a complete, total rebuild, essentially starting from scratch.

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The good news is that the team’s gross incompetence on the court enabled the much-maligned front office to assemble an enviable collection of young talent at every position.

To begin, each of their top draft picks of the last three years, Brandon Ingram, D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, all have the potential to be an all-star. Each plays a different position and together, sometime down the line, they might constitute an exciting new “Big Three.”

Of course, it’s far too soon to know just how good any of these young men will become. Capacity is one thing, and their talent has been recognized by coaches and opponents alike, but for now they are merely works in progress. One good sign is that each of member of the young core has apparently worked extremely hard this summer to prepare for the upcoming season.

In addition, the Big Three is surrounded by five other young players with two years or less of NBA experience. Each one of them has good upside and should provide, at the very least, a decent supporting cast.

Specifically, Russell is joined in the backcourt by Jordan Clarkson, probably the most consistent Lakers player in 2015-16. Larry Nance Jr and Anthony Brown have intriguing skill-sets at the forward positions and both returnee Tarik Black and rookie, Ivica Zubac should contribute at center.

While it is unlikely that all eight of the Lakers’ young hopefuls will have solid NBA careers, it’s a distinct possibility that at least three, and maybe as many as six of them are destined to become above-average players. Further, there’s a pretty good chance that one, two or perhaps even three, could become stars.

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The Lakers roster also includes experienced veterans like Luol Deng, Timofey Mozgov, Lou Williams and Jose Calderon, all of whom should provide leadership both on and off the court.

Now let’s say, in a magical, fairy tale world, that the Lakers could trade Nick Young, Marcelo Huertas & a couple of draft picks for Cousins (yes, this is major fantasy!) but even adding Boogie without giving up much in return would still not make the team a championship contender.

A quick-fix approach seldom works in the NBA. Remember that 20 years ago, the Lakers signed both Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal and it still took them three years before they won a title.

Of course in the reality of today’s NBA, rather than in a fantasy world, the Lakers would likely have to trade at least one of the Big Three plus one or more of the other five to acquire Cousins. That’s the type of trade a team on the verge of a championship might consider but for a team that’s just starting to rebuild, breaking up a promising cost-controlled roster at this early stage is simply not the right move.

Instead, it makes best sense to give all the youngsters playing time to let them develop their games and to see just what kind of chemistry they grow together. For a team with this collection of young talent, patience is the key.

Naturally the front office will attempt to add players down the road who can help the team win but it is possible the Lakers already have multiple future stars in place, awaiting game experience to fine-tune their skills.

Next: Lakers Officially Re-Sign Marcelo Huertas

Keeping this group together, at least for the time being and perhaps even longer, seems to be the most logical and wisest course of action. Like so much else in life, only time will tell.