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Lakers' Rob Pelinka on NBA Trade Deadline: All Resources on Table to Improve Team

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 25, 2023

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 21: Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka looks on before the game against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on December 21, 2022 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka is clearly hearing LeBron James' calls for additional help.

That said, he appears willing to take a more patient approach for the Lakers ahead of the Feb. 9 trade deadline if the right deal does not present itself.

Pelinka told reporters Tuesday:

"The calculus for the Lakers is to win a championship or not. There's no in-between or incremental growth. As we analyze opportunities, we have to do it through that lens. If there's an opportunity to get all the way at the end and win a championship, there's no resource we'll hold onto if we feel like that's there. But at the same time, the completely unwise thing to do would be to shoot a bullet early and not have it later when you have a better championship move to make."

The Lakers essentially have three tradable assets: their 2027 first-round pick, their 2029 first-round pick and Russell Westbrook's $47.1 million expiring contract.

If Pelinka wants to compete for a championship while James is still under contract, there is no logic in waiting. Westbrook deserves credit for embracing his sixth-man role, but on most nights he's a net-neutral or net-negative player.

He's no longer a star, and he's a terrible basketball fit with James and Anthony Davis. No matter what moves the Lakers make on the margins, they're not a championship contender with James, Davis and Westbrook sharing the floor.

Westbrook's contract comes off the books this summer, but the Lakers will not suddenly have $47.1 million available to spend in the free-agent market.

They could theoretically have around $35 million in space, but that would involve rescinding their rights to every player who is not under contract. It's illogical. Patrick Beverley, Austin Reaves, Lonnie Walker IV, Thomas Bryant and the recently acquired Rui Hachimura are all quality role players who should be brought back at the right price. Re-signing them alone will eat up most of the Lakers' potential cap space.

The time to move is now, when they have Westbrook's $47.1 million hold they could use to fit two quality players who work with James and Davis. The oft-rumored Indiana Pacers deal of Myles Turner and Buddy Hield for Westbrook and two first-round picks should have been completed months ago.

Instead, Turner and Hield are helping prop up a Pacers team that has a better record than the Lakers.

James has been increasingly vocal about his frustrations with the roster composition. He just scored 46 points in an 18-point loss Tuesday night and afterward spoke about how thin the margin for error is for these Lakers.

It's time to get him more help.