Even when they are not a part of the NBA playoffs, you can always expect the Los Angeles Lakers to be in headlines, one way or another.
As of late, new rumors are starting to surface in regards to the Lakers’ first-round pick this year, which is top-three protected. The team will have a 55.8 percent chance of retaining the pick, but if it falls to fourth or lower as a result of the NBA Draft Lottery on May 17, the selection will then belong to the Philadelphia 76ers.
All the recent buzz surrounding the pick has been under the assumption that Los Angeles will indeed get lucky with the ping pong balls again this year, but the chatter has not been about Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram donning a purple and gold uniform next season. Instead, the speculation has been about including the pick in a trade for an established star.
First, the name thrown out as a potential trade target was Sacramento Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins. Not long after, the next name in the rumor mill was Indiana Pacers star Paul George.
At the end of the day, those are just rumors, and nobody knows for sure what the Lakers are planning to do if they are fortunate enough to stay in the top-three … or do they?
Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders landed an exclusive interview with Lakers part-owner and vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss. In the interview, Buss talks about the state of the roster and the crucial offseason that lies ahead. Along the way, he had an interesting comment regarding the young talent on the roster already.
“Right now, I think our young guys are the perfect number and we will add solid veterans,” said Buss.
The timing of this comment is fascinating, considering all the buzz that is starting to build around the idea of the Lakers trading their potential first-round selection.
While there are many that believe you can never have enough young talent, Buss does have a point with his desire to add quality veterans to the roster. As new head coach Luke Walton previously stated, those are the players that can help your young talent develop.
This could also simply be Buss preparing himself for either scenario, one that sees the Lakers keep the pick, with the other being them losing it. After all, the odds are much lower than they were a year ago when the Lakers moved up two spots to land the No. 2 overall pick, which they used to draft D’Angelo Russell.
Next summer is also the deadline that Buss set for himself, saying that if the Lakers are unable to get to the second round of the NBA playoffs out West, he would step down from his role as vice president. Perhaps that places a sense of urgency on Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak to jumpstart the rebuild by landing a star in a trade, as opposed to simply adding to the young core.
Whether or not that is the case remains to be seen, but in years past, Kupchak has always let it be known that he believes in exploring all avenues of building a roster. Acquiring talent can be done through the NBA Draft, free agency or trades. Willingly eliminating any of those options prematurely would not be wise, and the Lakers appear to understand that.
We are now 12 days away from the NBA Draft Lottery, which will surely have the Lakers nervously watching as the draft order is revealed. If they lose the pick, it gives them a roster spot that would have to be filled in a different way, but would also allow them to spend an extra $5 million in free agency.
However, if the Lakers stay in the top-three, it provides them with flexibility in terms of their options. If that scenario unfolds, maybe Buss’ remark gave some insight to what the team’s mindset currently is on the matter. Only time will tell.
One thing is for sure: We will know a lot more in about two weeks.
For the full Jim Buss feature from Eric Pincus for Basketball Insiders, click here.