The NBA is an ever-changing business and while teams look to contend for an NBA Championship during the season they also have to have an eye toward the future, both short-term and long-term. Rob Pelinka had this future in focus this season when he made sweeping changes at the NBA trade deadline.
Los Angeles didn’t just get rid of Russell Westbrook for a fantastic price, the team brought in more talent that was younger as well. This talent can mostly be brought back next season if that was the Lakers’ intention, giving them a core that can actually have more than one season playing together. If they don’t win the title this year, they have the foundation to succeed next year.
However, there was a viable concern that the team could pivot if it fell short this offseason and pursue someone like Kyrie Irving. This would be a disastrous situation, as it would have taken a D’Angelo Russell sign-and-trade and would have hard-capped the Lakers at the luxury tax.
It could have been a way for ownership to disguise the fact that they didn’t want to go into the luxury tax and would have resulted in all of the depth being sucked out of the roster. It would have been Westbrook 2.0, but with Irving.
Thankfully, even though the team (and LeBron James) showed interest in Irving at the deadline, there does not seem to be a desire to do this over the offseason according to The Athletic’s Jovan Buha.
"“From what I’ve been told, they’re not going to be pursuing Kyrie Irving this offseason… To my knowledge and to what I’ve been told, the Kyrie ship, I think, has sailed. You never want to say never. That could easily change, but as of right now, their plan is to run this (team) back.”"
NBA Rumors: Lakers have no interest in Kyrie Irving this summer.
This should be exciting for Lakers fans. While some fans may want to see the team pursue another big name, we have already learned that is not the recipe for success. It didn’t work with Westbrook and it won’t work with Irving.
Instead, the best course of action is to run it back with this core and give it an entire season to play together. There have been some really exciting signs and as the 2020 title-winning team showed, LeBron and Anthony Davis don’t need a third “star” to win a championship.
They just need a cohesive core around them that makes sense and actually has the chance to play together for more than one season. With 1-2 tweaks in the offseason, this is a core that can legitimately contend for the title next season (as long as it stays healthy).
That gives the Lakers more flexibility past the 2023-24 season as well. If LeBron leaves to go play with Bronny James and Anthony Davis is on his way out the Lakers can pivot, sell off the value assets they have and restart a new area in LA.
With Irving, the Lakers would simply be saddled to his max contract for the next four years, restricting the team’s ability to do much of anything while he presumably regresses in his 30s.