Many Los Angeles Lakers haters this offseason were asking if they were building a retirement home or a basketball team this when they traded for 32-year-old Russell Westbrook and signed a bunch of aging veterans to fill out the roster. In that trade, they also sent away younger talent like Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and they also made a questionable move by letting a younger piece like Alex Caruso leave to the Bulls in free agency.
The Lakers’ plan last offseason was to get tougher and younger, but after a disappointing result in the playoffs, general manager Rob Pelinka flipped the script this time around. Instead, he opted to go in complete win-now mode and trade for a superstar at the end of his prime in Westbrook and sign a few former Lakers and an aging star Carmelo Anthony who all are considered to be on the back nine of their careers.
What flew under the radar is how Pelinka also re-signed arguably the Lakers’ best young talent they already had, Talen Horton-Tucker, and added two sharpshooting young guns Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn. They may have lost a Pope in the backcourt, but they gained a Nunn and a Monk.
One thing having a third superstar like Westbrook will help with is load management for both LeBron and Anthony Davis, who were injured last season because they were relied on too heavily on both ends of the floor. With Westbrook’s ability to distribute and rebound, that will help both of them while they share the floor, and he will be able to lead the team while either of them takes nights off throughout the season.
The naysayers suggest the Lakers are long in the tooth, but the super team in the East, the Brooklyn Nets, also have two members of their big three that are over 30 that were injured last season as well. Kyrie Irving is also one year shy of 30, and one year older than AD, and the argument could be made that he is injured even more than Davis.
For argument’s sake, the Nets signed 32-year-old Patty Mills and that signing was applauded while hardly anyone mentioned his age. However, when the Lakers signed the likes of Dwight Howard, Anthony, Wayne Ellington, and Trevor Ariza opposing fans said they were too old to contribute to a championship roster.
When comparing the two projected starting fives of the Nets and Lakers, they average out to relatively similar ages, and the Nets are even older. The Nets five of Irving (29), Harden (31), Durant (32), Blake Griffin (32), and DeAndre Jordan (33) averages out to 31.4, and the Lakers possible five of Westbrook (32), Monk (23), LeBron (36), AD (28), and Howard (35) averages out to 30.8.
The Los Angeles Lakers are young compared to the Brooklyn Nets!
Also, James and Westbrook may be old but they also were both top 10 in the league in triple-doubles last season, and Westbrook had 22 more than the next best player. LeBron was also in the MVP conversation before he was injured late in the regular season.
The two teams that are contenders and flush with youth on their roster are the ones that also made it to the finals last season. Giannis is in the middle of his prime and Devin Booker just entered his. Yet even they got to the finals because they were led by Chris Paul who is well beyond his best years in the league, and the Bucks did not reach the finals without their star point guard Jrue Holiday is also over 30 and has been in the league since 2009.
This proves most of the best teams are lead by older veteran players, this is not the NFL where Tom Brady is the only one who can fight off father time and running backs fall off the map by the time they hit 30. In the NBA, the better teams are always filled with star veterans who have been in the big moments and have playoff experience, and the younger stars sometimes shrink in the playoffs.
A team this Los Angeles Lakers roster has been most compared to has been the 2004 team that signed two aging veterans Karl Malone and Gary Payton. But that team was far from a failure, they started the season 18 and four and ended up making it to the Finals and losing to one of the best Detroit Pistons teams of all time.
Another team they have drawn comparisons to is the 2013 team that traded for Steve Nash, who was literally on the last legs of his career and traded for Dwight Howard, who was coming out of his prime due to back surgery.
Getting close to that team’s result would be the worst-case scenario for this year’s Lakers, because they barely made the eighth seed and it was the start of the worst Lakers drought ever because they dumped all their future assets for a last run at a title with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
The best nickname for this older Lakers team has to be the purple and golden girls comparing them to the classic sitcom that featured four divorced older women living under one roof because they might start this season with the oldest team in NBA history. But the star of that show Betty White is still alive and well, just like the Lakers’ big three’s careers at this point.
Another better entertainment comparison for this basketball team located near Hollywood, is the Expendables, a movie that included a bunch of action heroes past their prime. Yet again those Expendables were triumphant in the end and that is why it might be a more apt comparison, because the Los Angeles Lakers should and probably will compete for the title this season.
Just because this team is older it does not mean they have nothing left to prove in the league. Carmelo and Brodie are still looking for their first championship and Dwight Howard recently said,
"“I think all of us, really, have been underappreciated. But I know that we appreciate each other. We all appreciate what we each bring to the table for this team.”"
So the short answer to the question is no, the Los Angeles Lakers are not too old for a championship run as currently constructed.
They are perhaps even better suited to get their second Larry O’Brien trophy in three seasons now because they have a cast of capable veterans around their stars that know their role and will not complain when they do not get their touches and will not shrink in the playoffs.