When the Los Angeles Lakers started the season 2-10, there were plenty of people calling for Rob Pelinka to be fired. This was not an unwarranted proclamation; it had seemed like he had squandered two seasons with Anthony Davis and LeBron James playing at a championship level by surrounding them with subpar talent.
Basically, after the Lakers won their championship in the bubble in 2020, Pelinka had run that ship into the bottom of the ocean where James and Davis had just rescued them from. He had turned a promising collection of young players into an old group that could hardly compete in a rapidly changing NBA landscape.
The legend Kobe Bryant’s old agent is only allowed so much leeway in Lakers fans’ brains. They started to lose faith in him faster than the Lakers were falling in the standings.
It is still hard to fathom what propelled AD and LeBron to ask for the Russell Westbrook trade, but Rob did not have to succumb to the pressure of trading for a third star. There’s no way another well-run franchise makes a move just because their two stars say so.
Fast forward to today and Rob Pelinka has transformed his reputation with Lakers fans.
With a few swift trades at the trade deadline, Pelinka somehow pulled a rabbit out of the hat and turned the useless crowded backcourt of Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, Patrick Beverley into a promising group of younger players hungry to play defense and compete.
Not only did they add more defensive edge, but they also added the jump shooting they have desperately needed for the better part of the past decade. Malik Beasley, Jared Vanderbilt, and D’Angelo Russell have allowed the Lakers to play with the spacing on offense that hasn’t been seen since that last championship run.
Their team chemistry has also been notably different since the trade deadline as well. This group seems like they like to play with and fight for each other which is always a recipe for success.
Defensively, they have been the best team in the league since the trade deadline, posting a 107.6 defensive rating since that time. Their record of 8-3 since then has been equally as impressive, especially considering they have been missing LeBron for a good portion of those games.
However, the big question is, can the Lakers make it into the playoffs if James misses the rest of the regular season? After watching the past couple of games, the answer to that question looks like yes is a good bet.
As the standings currently sit, the Lakers are the ninth seed and are only 1.5 games behind the defending champion Golden State Warriors for the sixth seed. That sixth spot is ultimately the Lakers’ goal because they would not need to play their way into the playoffs and could get a young Kings or Grizzlies team in the first round.
It looks like the consensus is that the Lakers’ season is no longer a wash, and they are contenders once again. If one man should get some respect on his name it’s Rob Pelinka, and it is the front office for lucking their way into giving him an extension before the season.