Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers front office have a plan in place, sure, but it does not include surrendering the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 class in exchange for an oft-injured guard who is unlikely to escape the desert any time soon.
The thought of such a maneuver, as unrealistic as it truly is, has surfaced through rumblings reported by Jordan Schultz of The Huffington Post:
Hearing that Lakers have moved to front of the Eric Bledsoe sign-and-trade line. Suns want Julius Randle + HOU first-rounder.— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) July 20, 2014
Hearing that the Lakers - not the Suns - came with this. Just remember, Julius Randle can't be traded until mid-aug since he has signed.— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) July 20, 2014
The problem is, life isn't a video game, nor is it a trip to ESPN's NBA Trade Machine.
Yes, gunning for Bledsoe with tradeable assets makes sense within the culture of the Lakers. It's how they have always operated. Major splashes are ingrained in the minds of the fanbase. Or as Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding put it after the team claimed Carlos Boozer off waivers:
Non-Lakers fans are used to seeing various clubs go through full-out youth movements or investing in strong players who could evolve into stars. That hasn't been part of the Lakers' culture, and the lack of any substantial youth movement last season only fed fans' bratty attitudes, with so many feeling no appreciation for competing for the sake of competing.
Making moves for the sake of making moves sticks franchises in purgatory. One basic, end-all, be-all question has to be answered.
Is Bledsoe really the guy fans want?
The team whiffed on Carmelo Anthony and other big names, but wouldn't it be better to hang around and grab any number of soon-to-be unrestricted free agents in the 2015 offseason such as Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo, LaMarcus Aldridge and more?
For the sake of conversation, let's look at Bledsoe's career numbers:
The Kentucky product made a name for himself in Los Angeles behind Chris Paul, and while his ceiling in terms of talent is palpable, his body simply cannot handle a true workload.
Is it worth betting a max contract, or even future first-round picks and a prospect like Randle, to find out if that trend suddenly takes a dramatic shift in the opposite direction?
Even the Lakers don't seem to have an answer.
As Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler points out, the team easily could have offered the contract earlier in the offseason but instead opted for Boozer and a Jeremy Lin trade:
.@wvan10: ---> If the Lakers wanted Bledsoe at MAX money they could have made an offer. They had the cash, there was nothing stopping them.— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) July 21, 2014
Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe confirmed that the Lakers mused the possibility but instead opted to roll with Boozer since Lin was already rostered.
As ESPN's Chris Broussard explains, the Suns want to give Bledsoe a four-year deal worth $48 million, not the cap crippling five-year offering worth $80 million he wants. It's why no teams have really pursued the matter, because the Suns want a team to offer so they can match in their price range.
Bledsoe has no leverage.
The Lakers allegedly brought this sign-and-trade proposal to the table, but there's fat chance the Suns would accept.
Los Angeles has little in the way of tradeable assets outside of 40-year-old Steve Nash, and even Jordan Hill can't be moved until December since he just re-upped with the team, per Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. (If that's all the Suns can get for Bledsoe from the Lakers, they ought to be pursuing a trade with a team that can offer much more).
Most importantly, moving Randle is downright silly.
Randle is assuredly a work in progress and will take time to develop, but he meshes with the front office's plan. His ceiling is truly impossible to discern at this juncture.
As a freshman at 18 years of age, Randle played 30.8 minutes per game and posted averages of 15.0 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 0.8 blocks per game on 50 percent shooting from the field.
Randle is a building block for the future any sane organization would covet, not dangle in fantasy trade talks. He's been coming along slowly as any rookie has, but he is quickly making believers out of most during summer-league play, such as Bleacher Report's D.J. Foster:
I'm thinking that I'm probably a little wrong on Julius Randle. Much better face-up game, handle and vision than I thought.— D.J. Foster (@fosterdj) July 17, 2014
The Lakers already lost Pau Gasol and were very fortunate to get Hill back. To surrender Randle means to be essentially naked beneath the rim once more, and Bledsoe's arrival means fewer minutes for younger wings with plenty of potential such as Lin and Jordan Clarkson.
For what it's worth, even Kobe Bryant is on board with the current plan, as captured by ESPN's Ramona Shelburne:
Kobe: "I can sit here and tell you with 100 percent honesty that I'm happy with the effort the organization put forward this summer"— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 18, 2014
Kobe "I think Mitch has responded quite efficiently (from missing on Melo/Pau) by picking up some of the pieces he has"— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 18, 2014
Guess what? The biggest piece of all in that plan is Randle:
This is a franchise that does not yet have a head coach, primarily because it wanted to build the roster first.
Should the Lakers make a push to move Randle for Bledsoe?
Jumping head first into a sign-and-trade ordeal rather than waiting around for next offseason would be a knee-jerk reaction to not contending in the short term. Not only would Randle be gone but the cash given to Bledsoe that is reserved for a Love or Aldridge would disappear, too.
The waiting game is no fun. It hurts and makes an 82-game season drag. But Los Angeles must play it for just one season before landing a top name such as Love, which will be made all the sweeter with instant-gratification urges being kept in check.
In the interim, enjoy watching Randle develop in the pros. And all of that future free cap space sure to reel in a big name next offseason.