Rob Pelinka Willing To Trade First-Round Draft Picks If It Elevates Lakers To Championship ‘Front-Runners’
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers made one of the first moves of the NBA trade season, dealing Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks to the Washington Wizards for Rui Hachimura. The 24-year-old forward was introduced on Tuesday and plans to be available against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.

Prior to the Hachimura deal, Rob Pelinka had shown an unwillingness to deal draft picks in order to improve the Lakers, with the idea that going into the offseason with more available draft picks and cap flexibility would be an easier path to improvement.

But the value of the Hachimura deal was something Pelinka couldn’t pass up. So when asked about the same philosophy for the team’s 2027 and 2029 first-round picks, Pelinka reverted back to the hesitancy to deal draft selections so easily.

“I think the calculus for the Lakers is to win a championship or not. There’s no in-between or incremental growth. So as we analyze opportunities, we have to do it through that lens,” Pelinka said. “And I said this at the beginning of the season, if there’s an opportunity to get all the way to the end and win a championship, there’s no resource we’ll hold on to if we feel like that’s there.

“But at the same time, the completely unwise thing to do would be to shoot a bullet early and then not have it later when you have a better championship move you could make. So that’s a really delicate calculus. And it’s something that the entire front office, we evaluate with all the moves. And if we see a move that puts us as the front-runner to get another championship, the 18th one here, we’ll make it, and if that move doesn’t present itself, we’ll be smart and make it at a later time.”

There has been plenty of debate as to whether or not the trade options that have been available to the Lakers make them championship contenders. Clearly, L.A. has made the determination that adding players like Buddy Hield, Myles Turner, Josh Richardson, Doug McDermott or Gordon Hayward would not move the needle.

Pelinka also believes that the team figures to have much more cap flexibility in the future than they do right now. “Yeah, I think if you look at our cap, one of the things that we have is we have tremendous flexibility to pivot multiple different ways. I think teams get in trouble if you get super bogged down for three or four years and you can’t make moves.

“If you really study our cap, I think we have a very flexible cap. And at the same time, we really are excited with some of the young guys that we’ve added like Austin Reaves and Thomas Bryant and Lonnie Walker had a great start to the season. Now bringing in another young player in Rui [Hachimura], being able to retain young players and grow them and develop them and continue to be competitive now, I think is a big advantage.

“It’s easy to get a veteran at the end of their career with a pick,” Pelinka said. “But when you can get a player that hopefully has a 10-plus year runway of great basketball in front of them, like Rui does, that’s a really unique opportunity at the trade deadline to get, and we wouldn’t trade for a young player without doing a deep dive and study and having plans to hopefully keep them here for the long term.”

Landing Hachimura was undoubtedly a sensible move for the Lakers. It’s a move that improves them today, nets them a potential building block moving forward, and didn’t cut into any of their major future assets.

But with the trade deadline rapidly nearing, the Lakers have some more vital decisions to make. Perhaps a move becomes available that L.A. deems worthy of using two first-round picks. But if not, perhaps some more marginal moves will be enough to make the Lakers competitive.

Hachimura excited for opportunity with L.A.

The former lottery pick was nothing short of ecstatic when discussing the move to L.A. and joining the Lakers.

“I’m excited. I’m so excited for this opportunity,” Hachimura said. “You know, of course, the Lakers is one of the greatest organizations. I’m so happy to be part of this family.

“And I’m so happy to be back in LA. It’s so funny that when I was in college, I came here for college games and stuff. And then I was joking around about how this is my this gonna be my home. And it’s really happening right now. So yeah, I’m so happy. Yeah, I’m so excited for it.”

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