The Los Angeles Lakers are off to a 7-11 start and on the outside of the Western Conference playoff and play-in picture in the early going, but all hope reportedly is not lost within the locker room.
According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin, "there is belief shared by leaders in the Lakers' locker room, sources said, that the team is only a couple of players away from turning this group into a legitimate contender."
That such a report comes before the Lakers play the Indiana Pacers is notable.
McMenamin noted a potential trade that would have sent Myles Turner and Buddy Hield to the Purple and Gold in exchange for Russell Westbrook and draft assets "fell apart when the Lakers backed away" and did not want to give up their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks.
Yet even Turner seemed to advocate for such a move when he told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, "If I'm the Lakers, I take a very hard look at this with the position that you're in. I know what I can provide for a team—my leadership, my shot-blocking, my three-point ability and just my ability to make plays out there on the floor."
It's a tricky line to walk for the Lakers.
On the one hand, Hield and Turner would provide both depth and some much-needed outside shooting for a team that is 28th in the league at 31.9 percent from deep. The team is also in a win-now window considering LeBron James turns 38 years old in December and has a player option on his contract for the 2024-25 campaign.
On the other hand, the front office may decide going all-in on this team isn't worth mortgaging the future with those draft picks.
If the Lakers aren't good enough to make a deep playoff run even with Hield and Turner—or perhaps some other players in a different trade—then such a move would prove detrimental to rebuilding the next contender after the James era comes to a close.
Westbrook has also been a positive for this season's team as a spark to lead the second unit off the bench, so the argument could be made that trading him away could hurt on the court even if it would allow the Lakers to move on from his contract.
That is plenty for the front office to juggle, but it seems like some within the locker room still believe a championship push is within their grasp.