Lakers Silent At Deadline, Can They Still Contend?

In a deadline filled with whispers and rumors, the 27-25 Los Angeles Lakers opted to keep their current roster intact heading into the second half of the year. The absence of any significant moves left some fans feeling a tinge of disappointment, as they had hoped for reinforcements to bolster the team’s championship aspirations.

Speculations about potential targets have dominated the talk around the Lakers season. As soon as D’Angelo Russell inked a new deal this past summer, it seemed all but certain the Lakers were going to move some chips at the ’24 deadline. With names like Dejounte Murray and Zach LaVine swirling in the rumor mill, the Lakers ultimately refrained from pulling the trigger on any blockbuster deals.

The decision not to pursue high-profile acquisitions was multifaceted. LaVine’s decision to undergo surgery sidelined any potential trade discussions involving the explosive guard. Murray was likely seen as only a marginal upgrade when factoring in how much the Lakers would have to send to the Hawks to facilitate such a deal. The Lakers sat idly by and passed on a bevy of role players who were moved at the deadline including Buddy Hield, Royce O’Neale, Dennis Schroder and Kelly Olynyk.

LeBron James posted an hourglass emoji on social media a few days ago which sparked speculation among fans and pundits alike. Some interpreted the message as a subtle nudge to the Lakers’ front office, suggesting that time was ticking for them to make significant moves. However, the Lakers seem content with their current trajectory with eyes set on the future.

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka’s decision to retain his trade assets speaks to a long-term vision for the franchise. By preserving their draft picks and other assets, the Lakers position themselves to be active participants in a deal for a third star. By holding onto their picks, the Lakers now can trade three first-rounders in this coming offseason. Donovan Mitchell is a name that has been brought up, and the Lakers could certainly use his elite offensive abilities.

On the court, the Lakers have displayed some flashes of promise amidst a somewhat turbulent season. Currently holding the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference, they have managed to secure notable victories during their recent road trip over the Celtics and Knicks. D’Angelo Russell has been lights out as of late, and his recent play likely led to the Lakers opting to keep the 27-year-old for the remainder of the year.

However, despite these encouraging signs, the Lakers find themselves trailing behind the top contenders out West. They aren’t on the same level as the top teams in the conference — Nuggets, Thunder, Wolves, Clippers — and will likely have to play their way through the Play-In Tournament once again.

While the trade deadline may have come and gone without any seismic changes, the Lakers remain confident in their belief that they possess a team capable of making a deep postseason run. Only time will tell if their faith in the status quo will be rewarded with another year of postseason success.