When the Los Angeles Lakers decided to trade most of their young core and future draft assets for Anthony Davis, it triggered a dramatic shift in organisational vision and expectations.
No more would the organisation and fan-base measure success by the incremental realisation of potential by young players. The time for winning was moved to the present. But while the Lakers’ window for success has become now, if things continue at their present course, the window will not be open very long.
The Lakers’ trade for Davis did most of the work in changing the organisational window for success to the present. However, the Lakers were forced to double down on this philosophy upon entering the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes and losing out to their L.A. counterparts.
Securing Leonard would’ve allowed for a bridge between the current roster and rosters to come after LeBron James’ Laker career was over, as the Lakers would have secured Leonard and Davis, both superstars in their 20’s. Due to Leonard’s decision to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Lakers outlook for future success will become fuzzy much quicker than any fan will want to admit.
Certainly the Lakers have assembled a formidable roster this off-season, despite having to go into Plan B mode after Leonard’s free agency decision. In fact, while fans may quibble about one signing or another, most would agree that the Lakers’ Plan B this off-season has been a success. Especially with still another open roster spot to be filled depending upon the potential buyout market to come.
So far, additions such as DeMarcus Cousins, Danny Green and a bevy of shooters to go with James and Davis, will certainly have the Lakers back in a familiar position – relevancy in the race for an NBA title – but for how long?
As it currently stands, the Lakers have a grand total of zero players guaranteed to be on the roster past the 2021 season. LeBron James, if he exercises his 2022 player option, and, believe it or not, Luol Deng (due to his contract having been stretched in the summer of 2018) represent the only two Lakers currently on the books past 2021.
Assuming James picks up his fourth year option and Davis re-signs in Los Angeles next summer – and the purple and gold have banked their entire future on it – the 2022 Lakers will essentially be starting over from scratch with Davis and a 36 going on 37-year-old James as their sole foundation. While there are worse foundations to build upon and James has proven to be near ageless, even he will certainly realise diminishment in his game by this time.
This means that as early as 2022, the Lakers could be back in the year-to-year star-search hunt to rebuild themselves into a viable contender once again. Therefore, while the Lakers promise to be good right now, the emphasis is most definitely on “now”. With nothing assured as early as two years time with the current roster, the Lakers could find themselves starting from scratch with very few draft assets to cushion their fall.
As a result, fans must hope the Lakers can fulfill their NBA championship aspirations in the short term. After-all, the window for success may not be open for any longer than that.
By Frank Gaulden (@FrankGaulden)