The Los Angeles Lakers have been caught in a rebuild for a few years, now. Their slow approach in returning to playoff status was part of the reasoning behind a change in the front office, leading to Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka replacing Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak as the President of Basketball Operations and general manager, respectively.
The structural change led many to believe that the Lakers would look for a short term fix. However, everything that Johnson and Pelinka (and even team owner Jeanie Buss) have said and done has indicated that they are still favoring a more patient approach.
Luke Walton wouldn’t have it any other way. In an interview with Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck, Walton spoke about the team’s current core and the need to keep it intact rather than giving up too much for a superstar:
“For me and my coaching staff down here, our mindset is to train and act and develop these young players as if these are the only players we’re going to have […] for right now, the most important thing is developing a foundation, developing that culture for these young players to grow to their highest potential.
With the trade things, obviously, there’s 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. They’re constantly looking at the best way to get us to be a true contender, not just on paper.”
The Lakers have been linked to Paul George in particular as the Indiana Pacers star is reportedly “hell-bent” on joining his hometown team. But he will be a free agent next summer and holding out on trading for him seems like the smarter move for the Lakers.
In the ideal case, the Lakers are able to hold on to their young core, develop them one more year, and then add a superstar who can potentially push them into the playoffs. That’s a more sustainable path for growth and it gives the Lakers the opportunity to continue improving until they are legitimate contenders.
Walton understands that and he’s making sure the front office knows it, even if they have already reportedly made their decision on waiting for 2018.