The Los Angeles Lakers proved they could match it with the best on Saturday night, ultimately falling to the Boston Celtics in a drama-filled overtime game at TD Garden. LeBron James and company can rightfully feel aggrieved after an egregious non-call as Jayson Tatum clearly made contact on the four-time MVP’s drive in the final seconds.
Despite the final result and the circumstances in which it happened, the Lakers should feel good about their performance against the league-leading Celtics. Although they remain 13th in the Western Conference, Darvin Ham’s men aren’t far away from being a genuine playoff threat.
An ageless LeBron James and the underwhelming state of the Western Conference should force the Los Angeles Lakers’ hand on trading their first-round picks.
Much has been made of the Lakers’ 2027 and 2029 first-round picks and whether or not general manager Rob Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss will be willing to relinquish them for a win-now move. After all, James will be in his mid-forties by that point, and you’d expect Anthony Davis’ fragility to only be worse by his mid-thirties.
You could look at the Lakers’ place in the standings and wonder, What’s the point? Los Angeles is just three games back of the five-seed, though, and just five games back of the three-seed. This is not a conference blessed with dominant teams, but rather one full of parity and thrilling uncertainty.
With a fully healthy James and Anthony Davis (which is an uncertainty in itself), would the Lakers actually feel overmatched against any western rival? It sounds strange for a 13th-place team, but Los Angeles’ biggest threat is themselves, not opposing teams.
The Lakers have already made a move by acquiring Rui Hachimura from the Washington Wizards for Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks. That’s a start, but it shouldn’t be their lone deal before the February 9 trade deadline.
Of course, a deal and player/s have to become available that’s worthy of using those picks, yet they shouldn’t be held in sacrosanct like it currently appears. You can make the argument, given the greatness of James and Davis, that the Lakers are only a solid piece or two away from genuine championship contention.
It’s undoubtedly a risk, everyone understands that. But while James continues to defy father time, you owe it to him and yourself as a franchise to take advantage of the opening that the Western Conference is presenting.