NBA: In rebuild mode, the Lakers' needs and desires seemingly have different directions
As of 2nd January 2018, the Los Angeles Lakers have lost 70% of their games. With their 7-game losing streak, they are last in the Western Conference. A result no fan would want to see; after all the hype and expectations from the players, selected from the draft or obtained in trade. The only direction from here is slowly crawling “up the ladder”.
One way to look at this is to assume that the players need to be traded and some radical changes need to be made. Recent indications being that the team is actively looking to trade Julius Randle and/or Jordan Clarkson, or at least reported so by the media. Further, a round of finger-pointing needs to go around – highlighting the gaps between what was expected and what has been delivered as of now.
Somehow, the solution could be to adopt a radically different perspective of the situation. We need to be cognizant of the fact that during the rebuilding process the expectations are built “on the fly” – the specialization of the players are not set. Putting in too much weight on a player to score; when their natural tendency is to assist and rebound is asking them to swim against the tide. This also sets the precedence for other players to do certain things which they are not capable of doing.
The Lakers and their players, expectedly, have arrived at a fork. They can go about and pull the trades and effect inorganic changes or they could choose a path of gradual emergence. Closing player transactions like in the past when a superstar was at disposal is not the luxury they can afford – it is still not the destination!
It will only serve better not to strive for that formula and not focus entirely on the cap space. They don’t have to aimlessly look around for inspiration. The Golden State Warriors in early 2000's were at a similar stage when they had Jason Richardson (later joined by Baron Davis) on their roster. The championship came to them eventually – the seeds, however, were slowly being planted in the mid to late-2000s (with Stephen Jackson). Philadelphia 76ers with their “Trust the Process”, however controversial, stuck to the script.
The desire is obviously to get a championship but the need right now is to formulate a story and stick with it. Willing the franchise to be the destination or just retrofitting the players where they need not be, might take the franchise back to where it was in 2005-2007. The idea being that the championship has to be a natural fit and not something that has been “bought” without spending the necessary time in purgatory.
By the way, the Lakers have done this quite a lot in the recent years. Developing young talent and trading them for players that are not necessarily of any use in the long term.
The jury on the differing timeline in adopting any of these choices is still out.