Almost 20 years ago, former Lakers GM Jerry West had his eyes set on the next Lakers dynasty. The first step was clearing a massive amount of cap room, including the salaries of several veteran players, including established guys like George Lynch, Anthony Peeler and double-double threat Vlade Divac. The Serbian center had been a decent player for the Lakers through some of the leanest years in franchise history, enduring several losing seasons after the retirements of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and James Worthy. Divac’s time with the Lakers was bookended by a similar beginning and ending. When he was dealt in the summer of 1996, Vlade wasn’t just a salary dump casualty: he was one of the few instances of the Los Angeles Lakers transacting a veteran player with a lottery pick. Divac was gone, sent away to the Charlotte Hornets. The 13th overall pick, Kobe Bryant, came in. Shortly thereafter, Shaquille O’Neal became a free agent addition. The Hornets never became title contenders. The Lakers, suffice to say, did.
Ten years later, the Lakers were on the other side of the 8-ball. This time, the Lakers and new GM Mitch Kupchak were the ones holding the promising youngster, a big man named Andrew Bynum. The target? New Jersey’s Jason Kidd. LA was in year three of rebuilding, with a prime Kobe Bryant becoming more and more frustrated with the team’s continuing mediocrity. To hasten his pursuit of his first post-Shaquille championship, the Impatient Mamba demanded that the Lakers “ship [Bynum’s] ass out” for a declining, yet still effective and established All-Star like Jason Kidd. But unlike 10 years earlier, the Lakers never consummated a deal. Bynum, a former 10th overall pick, stayed, helping lead the Lakers to two more titles. I’d argue, as would many others, that the Lakers wouldn’t have had the inside toughness and D to beat the Boston Celtics nor the Orlando Magic without even a hobbled Andrew Bynum.
Over the past two decades, we’ve seen two examples of how teams can solidify their future with shrewd trades based around lottery picks. We’ve also seen how not making those deals and keeping those young players can pave the road towards another dynasty.
Which side are the Lakers on this offseason, as it pertains to Kevin Love? Ready to sell their future for the promise of an established All-Star? Or sticking with a long-term rebuilding plan? Or option C: pursuing one of those two avenues and striking out like it’s Mark Reynolds on any given day of the week (20% of the people reading this thought that was MAD funny).
(Finish this bad boy up over at Silver Screen & Roll)