Since the Los Angeles Lakers parted ways with Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak in February, the team has been able to take a more traditional route towards rebuilding. Veteran players such as Luol Deng, Timofey Mozgov, and Nick Young all saw their minutes decrease while Lou Williams was traded for a first round pick. With some positive momentum building before the NBA announces the draft lottery order, it is important for new general manager Rob Pelinka to prepare for either scenario.
While Pelinka is unable to control whether or not he can keep a top 3 pick in this year’s draft, it is imperative that he has a back up plan if the outcome of the lottery does not favor the Lakers. In the past, Kupchak overlooked young quality free agents like Isaiah Thomas and former Laker Trevor Ariza for the hope of signing superstars such as LaMarcus Aldridge and Carmelo Anthony among others. When these players signed elsewhere, the Lakers were put in a bad position and used their cap space on players they had no initial interest in when the summer started.
Cap room for this summer is not as large as it has been for Los Angeles in recent years. The deals given to Deng and Mozgov play a factor in this problem, and Pelinka should jump at any opportunity to unload their contracts on another team. It may be easier to do so in the third or fourth year of both contracts, as playoff teams may be looking for a veteran player to bring off their benches.
Ultimately, the Los Angeles Laker’s future should not be attached solely to Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz, or any other lottery pick. This team already has a young core of talented players that are years away from reaching their primes. The best chance the Lakers have at becoming relevant again lies in the long term plans of Rob Pelinka.