The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly holding steadfast in their desire to include just one first-round pick in a potential blockbuster trade with the Brooklyn Nets featuring Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving.
Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reported Tuesday it'll likely take at least two first-rounders—one to Brooklyn and another to a third team willing to take on the final season of Westbrook's five-year, $206.8 million contract—in order for Irving to land in L.A.
The Lakers find themselves in a complex situation that may not have a perfect solution.
They are just two years removed from winning an NBA title and the core tandem of LeBron James and Anthony Davis remains in place. That suggests the front office should be making win-now moves while the championship window is open.
Yet, James can become a free agent after the 2022-23 campaign and Davis has just two guaranteed seasons left on his contract.
If the Lakers don't make major strides back toward the league's elite next season, there's a real chance they could be staring down the start of a rebuild next summer.
In turn, trading more future draft picks could come back to haunt the front office. The New Orleans Pelicans have to option to swap first-rounders with the Lakers in 2023 and the Pelicans will also get their choice of L.A.'s 2024 or 2025 first-round selection, per Real GM.
Los Angeles would obviously receive some draft capital if Davis and James (sign-and-trade) are dealt next offseason, but every departing first-rounder before that possible tear down will slow down the rebuilding process in the future.
Given the demands surrounding a potential Westbrook-for-Irving deal, one key question is whether the Lakers believe there's any chance Russ can bounce back this season.
The 2016-17 NBA MVP endured a forgettable first season in L.A. amid an ever-changing role while James and Davis were sidelined by injuries. It's possible better team-wide health combined with a coaching change to Darvin Ham could spark a turnaround.
Ham expressed his excitement to work with Westbrook during the Lakers' NBA Summer League game on Sunday night:
If L.A.'s new coach can turn the nine-time All-Star into a more efficient contributor—it starts with taking fewer three-point shots as a career 30.5 percent shooter from beyond the arc—there's a chance the team could return to prominence without a blockbuster deal.
That's a long shot, however, which is why the Lakers find themselves in such a complicated spot as they try to rebound from a massively disappointing playoff-less season.