The Lakers are trying rediscover a sense of normalcy following an emotionally draining week. That shift back to basketball doesn’t just apply to coaches and players — the front office has calls to make ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline.
Los Angeles finds itself atop the Western Conference standings, but there is always room to improve with multiple contenders behind them, including the rival Clippers. Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka knows a fringe move for a role player could ultimately be the difference in a key playoff game. You can bet he is searching for a piece that would fit well next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
TRADE DEADLINE: The latest rumors and what to know for 2020
Unfortunately for the Lakers, they cannot simply add another superstar as though this season is a Hollywood script free from salary cap implications.
However, a few realistic targets could be obtainable in the right trade.
What can the Lakers offer other teams at the NBA trade deadline?
This is going to be the hard part for Pelinka. He doesn’t possess much in the way of assets.
After last summer’s blockbuster for Davis, the Lakers are unable to trade a first-round pick, and the earliest second-rounder they could include in a deal would be for the 2023 NBA Draft. Los Angeles isn’t complaining because, hey, it’s Anthony freaking Davis, but the treasure chest is bare.
Further complicating matters is the fact that Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can veto any trade because of the structures of their contracts. It’s difficult to envision a scenario in which one of those players would be willing to sign off on a deal to leave Los Angeles for a worse situation.
That leaves Kyle Kuzma as the Lakers’ primary trade chip. The problem? He is only earning $2 million this season, forcing LA to attach more contracts to Kuzma in any trade worth discussing. The Lakers may put Avery Bradley ($4.7 million), DeMarcus Cousins ($3.5 million) and Quinn Cook ($3 million) on the trade block with Kuzma for that reason.
Finding a workable trade isn’t impossible, but there will be challenges in any negotiations.
Lakers trade rumors: Who could LA target at the deadline?
Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kings ($8.5 million)
Sacramento offered Nemanja Bjelica and a draft pick to Los Angeles in exchange for Kuzma, according to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, and the Lakers responded by asking for Bogdanovic. Obviously the Kings didn’t bite, and that might be where these talks end.
The 27-year-old guard is capable of operating as a primary ball handler or spot-up shooter (37.8 percent on 6.9 3-point attempts per game). He isn’t a great defender, but his size (6-6, 220 pounds) and effort prevent him from being a huge negative on that end. He would slide in nicely with multiple lineups.
Derrick Rose, Pistons ($7.3 million)
Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes reported last month that the Lakers are among multiple contenders interested in acquiring the Pistons guard. Rose has been solid off the bench for Detroit, scoring 18.5 points per game on 49.8 percent shooting. He is one of the top drivers in the NBA, and that kind of shot creation would be extremely helpful for LA’s bench units.
Robert Covington, Timberwolves ($11.3 million)
The trade chatter around Covington being some kind of game changer is a little overblown. He isn’t prime Scottie Pippen.
With that said, he is still a good 3-and-D option at the forward spot. His 3-point shooting is slightly down this season (34.6 percent on 6.5 attempts per game), but his numbers would probably see a jump by catching pinpoint passes from LeBron.
One big issue: If the Wolves are seeking multiple first-round picks for Covington, as Marc Stein of the New York Times reported, that automatically eliminates any real hopes for the Lakers.
UPDATE: Covington was sent to the Rockets as part of a four-team trade late Tuesday night.
Marcus Morris, Knicks ($15 million)
A 43.9 percent 3-point shooter at the power forward spot? Yeah, that sounds terrific, but Morris’ salary and a potential bidding war may cross him off the list.
Sources: Knicks have remained enthusiastic about idea of signing Marcus Morris to a new deal this summer, but as trade offers become richer in assets this week, they’ll stay open to idea of moving him. Many contenders have interest in him.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 3, 2020
Does a buyout candidate make sense for the Lakers?
Andre Iguodala, Grizzlies
The former NBA Finals MVP is making $17.1 million to not play for Memphis — which has clearly annoyed some of the younger Grizzlies players — so a trade would require some major financial gymnastics. The Lakers are hoping the deadline will pass without an Iguodala deal, giving them a chance at signing the 36-year-old for a playoff run. It seems more likely Memphis tries to flip Iggy for some sort of asset.
UPDATE: The Grizzlies finally found a trade partner. They will be sending Iguodala to the Heat, according to multiple reports.
Darren Collison, Retired
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported last month that Collison is interested in returning to the NBA with the Lakers or Clippers following a shocking retirement before the 2019 free agency period. Given the backcourt situations, Collison would likely fill a more prominent role with the Lakers. He could also land a larger payday because the Lakers can offer a $1.75 million disabled player exception (granted to the team after Cousins’ injury) as opposed to a minimum salary.
What should we expect from the Lakers at the trade deadline?
Not a ton of action.
Sure, Pelinka will do his job and scour the market for an ideal trade, but some conversations will end quickly once another suitor throws down a better package. A Collison or Rose type would provide a boost, and even those guys might be longshots.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the Lakers aren’t desperate. The team as currently constructed could win a championship, and the players appear to be developing a genuine chemistry with each other.
It feels a bit abnormal for the Lakers to be this quiet after the past few years. That doesn’t mean it’s the wrong strategy.