The Los Angeles Lakers are busy preparing for the NBA Draft, which will provide them with the opportunity to land another young prospect or two that can be part of their effort to rebuild. However, with the franchise missing out on the playoffs for four straight seasons, the temptation will also be high to part with some of their young assets in a trade to acquire players who can help them win now.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton recently appeared on “The Full 48” Podcast with Howard Beck and Jordan Brenner and cautioned against such a move. Walton reasoned that even adding a superstar player to Los Angeles may not be enough to handle the Golden State Warriors:
Obviously, there are players in this league that if you can get, it’s really tough to say no to because the superstars in this league are good enough to make you a contender or not. It’s the difference between having a very good team with lots of role players or having a team that can actually, legitimately win an NBA championship. My only caution would be let’s not give up too much of our young core for one superstar because, like we just talked about before, let’s not forget that those Golden State Warriors are just a little bit north of us and it’s going to take a lot more than one superstar to dethrone them from the West. There’s that fine line in trying to get there quicker rather than developing our own guys. I think Rob and Magic are very aware of that.
Based on how the Warriors have cruised through the NBA Playoffs, Walton’s way of thinking appears to be sound. Trading young players with bright futures like Brandon Ingram, D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, or the second overall pick in the draft for a win-now player in their late-20’s or early-30’s makes little sense, as that player would be on the decline at around the same time the Warriors’ seemingly unstoppable quartet of Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant would be.
Mortgaging the future can be a risky proposition to begin with, which is something the Lakers know far too well after they traded away multiple first round picks plus Andrew Bynum in exchange for Steve Nash and Dwight Howard only for things to fall apart. That team, however, at least had a legitimate chance at reaching contender status, but with the Warriors dominating the league the path to the top has become that much more difficult.
One has to wonder how many teams agree with Walton’s sentiments, and what that might do to the NBA’s trade market. If the current super teams are unbeatable, could more teams ease off the gas pedal and build for the future? This will be one of many plot lines to keep an eye on this summer.