Lakers opinion: Rob Pelinka needs to save his job this offseason
Rob Pelinka is currently fixing the mistakes for which he is at least partially responsible, sparking the Lakers’ worst season in franchise history. So far, the GM’s latest trades seem to prove he’s learning from the mistakes of the last offseason. He’s signed young, athletic free agents and promising rookies, while building a roster that lives up to new head coach Darvin Ham’s defense-first philosophy and the 4-out 1-in system.
But while Pelinka may have started to move in the right direction this offseason, he still has some way to go to correct every mistake he has made. In fact, he has yet to make his most important decisions of this offseason. while Russell Westbrook’s status on the Lakers and LeBron James’ contract extension remain uncertain.
Ironically, Pelinka must now succeed at the very task at which he has underperformed for the past two offseasons – asset management.
Looking back, there’s probably a universe where the Lakers could have avoided getting into the mess they’re in right now. if only Pelinka didn’t trade his draft picks like he was handing out flyers around the mall.
Because think about it: What if Pelinka only traded one or even two first-round picks instead of three to the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis? Los Angeles certainly had the influence at that time. What about when Pelinka and company decided to let Dennis Schroder (who they traded the 28th overall pick in the 2020 draft for) just walk away for nothing in the 2021 offseason? Or when the Lakers thought Alex Caruso (who started in the deciding 2020 NBA Finals contest) and Marc Gasol (who they traded a second-round pick for) weren’t big enough to invest in long-term? And finally, how about when the Lakers decided to trade their 2021 first-round pick in addition to three top rotation players for a depreciating offseason final Westbrook?
Had he avoided one of those many negative asset swaps, Pelinka could easily be in the driver’s seat of trade talks with Sean Marks of the Nets or Sean Buchanan of the Pacers. Going further, the Lakers’ present and future wouldn’t be in jeopardy if they knew how to properly value their own assets. Now they are stuck in the middle of trade talks while reluctant to abandon what remains of their capital project as James looms in the background, pressuring the Lakers to regain his trust.
And with seemingly two potential trade packages to work with – in exchange for a few first-round players and the right to pay the final season of the league’s worst contract – the team has no choice but to bite the bullet and to make an agreement. So the question for Pelinka is, how does he solve a problem without create another?
That’s why it’s now or never for Pelinka to save his job by reopening the Lakers title window that he played a huge role in shutting down in the first place. To do that, he must solve the worst Lakers trade deal in franchise history and secure James’s commitment while he’s at it. The next few weeks will determine if the GM has learned a thing or two from his past, or if he’s ready to repeat the same mistakes he’s made before, dooming the Lakers and his future with them.
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