Having surpassed the midway point of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers are 25-23 and though that is out of the playoff picture, they are just two games back of the fifth-seeded Houston Rockets in the Western Conference.
With LeBron James and Rajon Rondo nearing their returns after missing 14 games so far, the Lakers have some interesting decisions to make in the short-term.
While president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka are looking to improve the roster in Year 1 with James, the projected $ 38 million in salary cap space for 2019 free agency remains the top priority.
Since there are limitations in only trading for expiring contracts, Lakers president and controlling owner Jeanie Buss explained the team’s mindset heading into the Feb. 7 trade deadline and how it relates to ending their five-year playoff drought, via “The Lowe Post“:
“I think that Magic has been patient, I think Rob Pelinka has done amazing things in terms of giving our roster flexibility and not taking a shortcut to try to just make the playoffs, only to lose in the first round. They see the picture and they’re taking those steps. You have to be patient because things can’t change overnight. Although, in two years, I find it very remarkable where we are. I think they’ve exceeded my expectations in turning the program around and they’re not going to take a shortcut to try to get a quick fix just to try to make the playoffs and shortchange any of our assets. That’s what I want to see. And I think our fanbase is smart, they love basketball, they understand today’s NBA, they see what Magic is building and they don’t want to take a short cut either.”
With a healthy James, the Lakers can compete with most teams as currently constructed. While they have been linked to players who could help them in the present, Johnson and Pelinka have preached striving for sustained success since their arrival.
Heading into the trade deadline, the only player that fits their vision is Anthony Davis. At just 25 years old, he represents the perfect balance between the present and future. As a result, Davis remains their ‘top overall target’ ahead of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Kawhi Leonard.
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