That’s right! The Lakers finally have a first-round draft pick they can actually keep!
It’s their first such pick in five years, since the hiccup that was Mo Wagner.
It’s their highest pick in six years, since the scream that was Lonzo Ball.
It’s the pick for the future, the pick for the rebuild, the pick that Lakers fans have been anticipating forever, a pick that would be the centerpiece of the Lakers offseason except for one little thing.
They should trade it.
Don’t brag about it, don’t flex with it, don’t try to build around it.
Just trade it.
If there’s an All-Star available, they should sign D’Angelo Russell and trade it with him.
There are several ways this could go, but the mandate is still the same.
Trade the pick, because this is a Lakers team built to win now.
Trade the pick, because this season could be their last chance at a championship for several years.
Trade the pick, because there’s little chance somebody like Jett Howard or Dereck Lively II or Nick Smith Jr. will contribute to that title run.
It has been written several times in this space over the last couple of years that the LeBron James-Anthony Davis Lakers need to be broken up.
Check that. Opinion changed. James is still aging and Davis is still maddening but the Lakers finished the season on the kind of roll that makes one believe, with their spring roster playing together for a full season, they could seriously challenge the defending champion Denver Nuggets.
Let’s be honest, the Lakers were the second-best team in the NBA last season. Even though they were swept by the Nuggets, they had a chance to win each game late, they were never blown out like Miami in the NBA Finals, and they showed a consistent fight that will carry over into next October.
They should, in fact, return next season as the second favorite in the West, what with Memphis’ implosion and Golden State’s apparent dissolution and the Clippers frailty, and don’t even talk about loaded Phoenix because the Suns don’t have veteran role players and don’t play defense.
The Lakers have James and Davis playing their final season before both can opt out and go elsewhere, so there will be added motivation there.
The Lakers are expected to re-sign Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura, postseason heroes who help create the team’s work ethic and depth.
The Lakers could also bring back Russell if they overlook his late playoff struggles, and Dennis Schroder because he filled his supporting role so eagerly.
It’s all there for them to blossom for eight months under newly empowered coach, Darvin Ham. They’re missing just one piece.
Hint: They can acquire that piece Thursday in New York, and he should not be some 19-year-old kid.
“We were on the doorstep of potentially the NBA Finals, and in the NBA Finals, anything could happen,” said general manager Rob Pelinka to reporters recently during his season-exit interview. “So I think there’s proof in concept that this was a really good team. But again, we’re not going to rest on our laurels. If there’s opportunities to get even better —whether it’s through the draft, whether it’s through trades, or free agency — we’re always looking to improve. But we have a core that is highly successful. And that’s a good starting point.”
Pelinka gets it. He made some excellent moves in reshaping this team at the All-Star break, and he doesn’t want those efforts to go to waste.
That would be Chris Paul.
Wouldn’t that be sweet? The point guard who was once denied entry to Lakerland by late Commissioner David Stern finally busting down the gates in the final moments of his career?
Paul was traded by the Suns to the Wizards, where he’ll surely never play a minute. The first option would seem to be for the Wizards to trade him to the Clippers, where he would be a good fit in his old stomping grounds with a coach like Tyronn Lue, who knows how to handle him. The Lakers would not be in that trade market because they just don’t have the pieces or the salary-cap space.
But if Wizards and Clippers can’t pull off that deal? If Paul gets waived and can go somewhere to play for a veteran’s minimum of around $2 million?
He would definitely come to the Lakers, where his buddy James runs the show and where he would have his best chance at finally winning a championship.
Yes, Paul is 38 and always gets injured during the playoffs. But on a deep Lakers roster, he could be load-managed and enter the postseason fresh. Once there, he is still a powerful midrange threat who averaged 14 points and nine assists last season.
He’s annoying, but not Russell Westbrook -annoying. He’s a politician, but here’s guessing once here he would only worry about winning.
No matter what the Lakers do in this most important offseason since the acquisition of James, it all starts Thursday when Lakers fans should long to hear those luscious words.
The Lakers have traded the 17th pick in the 2023 NBA draft to …
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
Source: Yahoo Sports