Lakers delicately balancing priorities with potential JJ Redick hire

The Los Angeles Lakers have an impossible task ahead of them. By potentially hiring JJ Redick, the delicate balance of priorities would be in a new coach's hands.
New York Knicks v Philadelphia 76ers
New York Knicks v Philadelphia 76ers / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Lakers are approaching their eighth coaching search in 13 years with a clear intention to stop going for the safe pick. The option still exists to do so until an announcement is officially made, and it may yet be the better option.

As Los Angeles stares down 13 years with seven coaches of varying experience levels, it seems a last-ditch effort is being made to finally find a Phil Jackson replacement.

As the NBA enters a new era of financial restrictions designed to dissuade the existence of superteams, Los Angeles is in a fascinating position. The organization has been a star haven over its decades of success, with the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Shaquille O'Neal highlighting the players who have joined the Lakers despite not being drafted by them.

Under salary cap rules that will challenge teams to be constant in their growth and evolution, the Lakers have two superstars who have defied the charters of Father Time and injury-prone labels making maximum salaries.

Simultaneous to that challenge is the stunning extension of All-NBA level careers around the NBA—and the era that could put an end to their contending. While five of the most decorated players of the previous generation earned All-NBA this season—Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron James—the Conference Semifinals and beyond have reflected a shift that kicked the doors open for the modern era.

With two players who are still of an All-NBA caliber, however, the Lakers are in a position that still suggests they could contend in 2024-25. Every move must pay off this summer, but just one year removed from a Western Conference Finals appearance, it would be unforgivable to not try to compete at least once more.

With the window closing faster than ever, the organization must navigate this unpredictable terrain without torpedoing the future in favor of a high-risk investment in the immediate vision.

The expected hiring of JJ Redick is the first clue to how the Lakers plan to navigate that impossible journey.

Why exactly are the Lakers interested in JJ Redick?

Conflicting reports have cast doubt over how close in the process the Lakers are to hiring Redick, but the heavy favorite remains in his position atop the scrutinized coaching search in the eyes of the Los Angeles masses.

Redick is on the cusp of a monumental rise in prominence, an arguable reflection of the later years of his playing career. The former archvillain of college basketball didn't average more than 10.0 points per game until the fifth year of his NBA tenure.

Yet, in Year 13, Redick set a career-high in scoring at 18.1 points per game on a 51-win Philadelphia 76ers team that went seven games with the eventual NBA champion Toronto Raptors—who beat them on one of the most miraculous series-winning jump shots in postseason history.

Redick seemed to improve every season once the Curry revolution began to take hold in what is now simply known as the modern NBA, showing an ability to take change in stride that is certain to have intrigued the Lakers' front office.

Playing winning basketball in evolving roles across his 15 professional seasons, he made the playoffs in 13 consecutive tries before finally missing the mark at just shy of 36 years of age. Even still, he helped the New Orleans Pelicans increase their year-over-year winning percentage.

Perhaps that means nothing when the coaching world comes calling, but it's easy to see why an organization would be eager to find out—especially as it embarks on a challenging journey to replenish its roster with immediate value while finding players who can keep it competitive beyond an urgently closing window.

Lakers must acknowledge the risks of this massive investment

LeBron James has defied our expectations at every turn. At 39 years of age, he earned All-NBA Third Team honors after leading a 47-win Lakers team in points, assists, and steals per game, and averaging more than 35 minutes per contest.

It was one of the greatest feats of longevity the NBA has seen, but because these are the Lakers, and because the goal is to win a championship in every single season, there may not be the immediate clarity needed to see past the tense existence of the Association's marquee franchise.

For as great as James is, with a player option that's likely to be declined and a new contract that could cost Los Angeles the maximum salary, there is a gamble being made on investing multiple seasons at that price in a player who will turn 40 years of age during the first few months of the 2024-25 season.

James has been superhuman throughout his NBA career. If anyone is capable of playing at a superstar level at 40, it's him. Los Angeles is effectively committing, however, to the belief that re-signing James as he rewrites the rules on how long a player can sustain an elite level of play for gives it the best chance to secure another championship in the window of a phenomenal, but 31-year-old and injury-plagued Davis performing at a superstar level.

All of this must be acknowledged before the Lakers can even begin to consider hiring a head coach, no matter how much of a proven commodity they may or may not be.

Perhaps those factors being weighed is exactly why Redick, one of the few who truly understands the type of scrutiny that a Lakers head coach is destined to encounter, is the leading candidate.

How can JJ Redick balance the present and the future?

Davis and James won a championship together within the past five seasons. No matter what other conversation is held about the current consistency of the Lakers' roster, that statement must be remembered in every discussion about the best path forward.

Considering Tim Duncan led the San Antonio Spurs to championships seven years apart in 2007 and 2014 respectively, and James is one of the few players in history whose name carries Duncan-level weight, it's understandable for any team with a top-10 all-time player as its leader to wonder if its window ever really closes.

As the Spurs have shown in the post-Duncan era, however, miscalculations can cost even the strongest organizations their stability.

When it comes to potentially hiring Redick, general manager Rob Pelinka is approaching the most important decision of his tenure. It's a captivating story to watch unfold, as Pelinka must hire a coach who's able to connect with the superstar veterans while developing a younger generation of players to reach the minimum level of being able to extend Davis and James' respective and collective primes.

In Redick, the Lakers would be hiring a coach who's recently removed from an era they thrived in as an NBA player after arguably helping to influence its innovation at the collegiate level just one season before the arrival of Stephen Curry at Davidson.

A time in which there was no bigger villain in college sports than Redick—a 21-year-old superstar who endured an unfathomable level of traveling hate, thrived amidst the chaos and won the National Player of the Year award

Perhaps he can now share what he's learned from his unique experiences with superstars in the spotlight who are looking to endure criticism and thrive beyond the age they're expected to. Perhaps his experience as an educator disguised as a television, YouTube, and podcast analyst truly is an asset as he looks to connect with and lead a new era of athletes.

In an NBA that witnessed the possible next Lakers head coach shine as an example of the late bloomers who began to realize their potential in the generation after their own, perhaps Redick was just drafted a few years too soon.

Perhaps he's right on time as a head coach.