The Lakers are still hoping to climb out of 13th place and reach the playoffs, but the recent roster overhaul was made with an eye on the future, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. In a conference call with media members on Saturday, general manager Rob Pelinka said the front office focused on adding shooting, floor spacing, size and wing depth.
L.A. made four deals dating back to January 23, adding Rui Hachimura, D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Mohamed Bamba and Davon Reed. All six players are 27 or younger, and they’re under some form of team control beyond this season.
The Lakers can make Hachimura a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer expected to be worth $7.7MM. Russell will be unrestricted, but he’s eligible for an extension through June 30. L.A. holds a $16.5MM team option on Beasley for next season, while Vanderbilt has a partial guarantee on his contract and Bamba and Reed have non-guaranteed deals.
“I think a deep dive into this, you can almost look at it as ‘pre-agency,’” Pelinka said. “… We very intentionally planned these moves to provide optionality in July. Some of these players have team options or team-controlled years on their contracts, which again gives us the ability to see how these last 26 regular-season games and how potential postseason games go. And then we can go into this offseason with a higher collection of data points, and sort of a real-time analysis of how the pieces fit and make decisions for the future.”
Buha has more on the Lakers:
- Pelinka admitted on the conference call that trading Russell Westbrook was probably the best move for both sides. He said the Lakers originally acquired Westbrook in hopes of returning to title contention, adding that the polarizing guard shouldn’t be blamed for the team’s disappointing performance. “I think it’s really unfair to put the last year and a half, or whatever period of time that is, on one player,” Pelinka said. “I think the whole roster has to come together and fit. And part of sports sometimes is if things aren’t working, you have to fix them.”
- Pelinka didn’t specifically address the Lakers’ rumored pursuit of Kyrie Irving, but he did indicate that the front office was aggressive with its 2027 and 2029 first-round picks in its effort to upgrade the roster. L.A. wound up parting with its 2027 first-rounder (top-four protected) in the deal that sent Westbrook to Utah.
- The Lakers still have a roster opening, but Pelinka hasn’t decided how aggressively he will pursue buyout candidates. “If we see the right opportunity to fill a need in the buyout market, we will take a look at that,” he said. “But I don’t want to definitively say that we’ll sign another player. We feel like these 14 players fill a need that (head coach Darvin Ham) was looking to fill, and he was excited about these 26 games we have to coach these 14 guys.”