The Los Angeles Lakers are really struggling this season and while many fingers are being pointed in many different directions, the one common denominator should be the decisions that the front office made in the offseason.
Rob Pelinka and his staff decided to trade for Russell Westbrook despite there being various reasons not to. Not only did the team lose most of its depth in the trade, not only did the team take on a massive salary that restricted them financially and it did all of that for someone who everyone who knows basketball knew wouldn’t fit well with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Davis struggling, the depth being exposed, defensive issues… they all stem from the Westbrook trade. I almost feel bad for Westbrook at this point. It is not even his fault but he has become the fall guy for being the guy the team traded for in a bad move.
It was a bad move for Rob Pelinka, who even I was lauding this past offseason as a great basketball GM. However, this season has made me realize something.
Los Angeles Lakers GM Rob Pelinka might not be good at his job, just lucky.
Whoa, whoa whoa, but the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA Championship with Pelinka? Yes, that is true, but should we really be giving credit to Pelinka for that championship team? Before diving into where he has been lucky, let’s look at his recent track record.
Last offseason included the Westbrook trade and all of the ensuing moves. The ensuing moves were not even bad in a vacuum, but considering the team had no depth because of the Westbrook trade, it all stacked up.
Not a great offseason for Pelinka, especially considering he also let Alex Caruso walk. Granted, that was a money thing that was probably coming from ownership because of the tax implications that would have followed a Caruso deal. Still not a good mark on Pelinka’s resume.
Let’s look at the offseason prior. The Los Angeles Lakers made four big additions that were meant to make the team that much better after winning the NBA Championship. The Lakers flipped Danny Green and a draft pick for Dennis Schroder, signed Montrezl Harrell, signed Marc Gasol (letting Dwight Howard walk in the process) and signed Wesley Matthews.
How did that pan out? Schroder played horribly and the Lakers avoided a complete disaster by Schroder turning down a four-year, $84 million extension. All he got in free agency was $5.9 million on a one-year deal.
Montrezl Harrell didn’t play great, was not in the playoff rotation and was traded and is now playing the best basketball of his career. Nice. Marc Gasol was horrible, got traded after one season for essentially nothing and has retired from the NBA. Finally, Wesley Matthews played poorly and was brought back to the Bucks as a depth signing with all the covid issues.
The adjustments the team made at the deadline last season were not great, either. The team did not trade for anyone and the big buyout signing was Andre Drummond, which was a disaster.
Not great, eh? Green has continued to play well for Philly, making it worse. To be fair, if Anthony Davis and LeBron James don’t get hurt then they probably go deeper in the playoffs, but Pelinka definitely did not make the team much better. He didn’t have to. The Lakers could have easily run it back and wouldn’t have had to scramble so much this previous offseason.
Speaking of Anthony Davis and LeBron James, let’s be honest, that is where Pelinka is the luckiest. The Los Angeles Lakers landed Anthony Davis because he decided he wanted to play with LeBron, signed with Klutch Sports and basically engineered it to happen. All Pelinka had to do was offer a package of future picks and young assets that were accumulated mostly before he was hired.
LeBron also seemingly came to the Lakers because he wanted to be in Los Angeles. Dwyane Wade even said prior to LeBron signing that LeBron’s decision was likely going to be a lifestyle decision. It did not take long for him to make ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ after moving to LA. Plus, even if LeBron’s mind was made up, it seemed like that was more Magic Johnson’s doing than Rob Pelinka’s.
Speaking of Magic, let’s not forget when he suddenly resigned at the end of the 2018-19 season, detailing that Pelinka stabbed him in the back and wanted his job. Hmm. Doesn’t sound like great workplace culture there.
Quite frankly, since Magic left, Pelinka has not really made any great or savvy moves. If LeBron and Anthony Davis didn’t choose to play together on the Lakers then he might not even be the GM anymore.