Lakers must avoid specific type of player in offseason with no margin for error

The Los Angeles Lakers have their eyes on an immediate return to prominence. To get there, they must avoid a specific type of player—no matter how intriguing they are.
NBA In-Season Tournament Finals: Los Angeles Lakers vs Indiana Pacers
NBA In-Season Tournament Finals: Los Angeles Lakers vs Indiana Pacers / Anadolu/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Lakers can't make a mistake during the 2024 NBA offseason. Perfection is an impossible standard, but avoiding outright misfires will be the only way that the Lakers can turn the current core into anything resembling a contender in 2024-25.

While all eyes are understandably on the hiring of a new head coach, there should be equal attention given to player archetype that the Lakers must do everything to avoid.

Los Angeles will be active in trade negotiations this summer. The preferred path is to acquire depth rather than prioritizing star power at this stage of the planning process, but as a certain type of player becomes available in future discussions, general manager Rob Pelinka must show restraint.

The type of player, of course, is the productive scorer whose injury issues are often glossed over due to our desire as fans to see their teammates do more to help them.

It's a strangely specific archetype, but it exists in multiple corners of the NBA. Oftentimes, these players would be genuinely great additions to teams that are hoping to take the next step forward, but based on their circumstances, they're paid more than a new team can justify bringing on.

This isn't to say that they're overpaid in their current environment, but instead to acknowledge that not every trade can be made by simply evaluating what might work on the court.

Who is that player in 2024?

It's important to establish that the players who fit this description are, in fact, high-level talents. They're often All-Stars and franchise players who are simply a better fit in a situation that would surround them with a different cast—and perhaps situate them in a different role.

An example of this type of player who could become available in 2024 is Chicago Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine, who fits better on the court than he does on paper.

LaVine would likely be a Lakers trade target in the event that the organization changes its tune and attempts to acquire a star. Purely on the court, he would be an interesting fit alongside Anthony Davis and LeBron James.

LaVine is a proven scorer who has averaged upwards of 25 points per game while shooting efficiently from distance and scoring at all three levels.

True as that may be, LaVine is also a 29-year-old athletic dynamo who's coming off of a foot injury that cost him 53 games in 2023-24. It was the second time in seven years that he missed at least 50 games due to an injury, and he's only appeared in at least 65 games twice since 2015-16.

Throw in the fact that he's in the third season of a five-year, near $215.2 million contract and the Lakers simply can't afford to take this risk—even if his on-court value would elevate the roster.

The impossible task of turning down an ideal on-court fit

There are few things more frustrating when building a team than having to turn down a roster fit for non-basketball reasons. Whether that be the financial ramifications of acquiring a genuinely good player or the health concerns that inform an unavoidable risk, it's an infuriating reason to walk away from an otherwise valid addition.

The Lakers must be willing to decline that opportunity, however, as they simply can't afford to miscalculate a move with such long-term significance.

LeBron James will turn 40 in December and Anthony Davis is already fighting to put a history of injuries behind him. As such, the window for the Lakers to win is too small for the organization to fail to complemenet their championship-winning duo inadequately.

Unfortunately, an adequate fit can also be someone whose contract prevents a team that desperately needs an infusion of depth from acquiring it.

Thankfully, Pelinka is expected to place a higher priority on depth than star power this offseason. Much can change between now and the end of the 2024 NBA Finals, however, and receiving the opportunity to add an All-Star with an explosive scoring touch is tough to pass up.

If the Lakers are going to maximize the remaining championship window without potentially sacrificing the future, however, every risk must be calculated.