Heading into Tuesday’s games, the Lakers found themselves third in the Western Conference with 28-15 overall, behind only the Jazz (31-11) and Suns (28-13). It’s not a bad place to be more than halfway through the 2020-2021 season, is it?
Well the road could get a bit bumpy. With LeBron James (ankle) and Anthony Davis (calf) both sidelined for extended periods of time as they recover from injuries, Los Angeles could struggle in the short term and lower the West’s standings.
RUMORS OF COMMERCE: Why acquiring Lonzo Ball could be a difficult task for the Clippers
General manager and vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka will try to help the team before Thursday’s trade deadline, but the Lakers have limited assets and face significant financial constraints.
Let’s take a look at what LA could realistically do to improve the list.
What can the Lakers offer other teams on the NBA trade deadline?
Hmmm. . . not a lot.
In terms of draft assets, the Lakers hold one 2027 first-round pick and four future second-round picks. The closet is empty as they dumped almost everything to acquire Davis in 2019 (this business has been doing great.)
So what about the players? Los Angeles could make Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and / or Talen Horton-Tucker available. (It should be noted that all of these guys are Klutch Sports customers.) Horton-Tucker is the most intriguing player in this group, as he’s 20 years old and has taken on a bigger role this season.
“The piece that [the Lakers] have they may be willing to relocate is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, ” Brian Windhorst of ESPN recently said on the podcast “The Hoop Collective”. “The part the teams want is Talen Horton-Tucker, who is a restricted free agent at the end of the year. I don’t know if you cash that in at this point.”
Another thing to keep in mind before heading to the trading machine: given that the Lakers are just $ 1.5 million below the hard cap, they must take a close look at the incoming and outgoing wages in any deal.
Who could the Lakers target in a trade or in the buyout market?
André Drummond, Cavaliers
The Cavaliers were determined to get something back for Drummond, who last played in Cleveland on February 12. It will be difficult to find a viable deal, however, due to Drummond’s contract ($ 28.7 million for 2020-2021). Several reports have ranked the Lakers as the favorites to sign Drummond if the Cavs fail to finalize a trade and ultimately agree to a buyout.
Drummond is averaging 17.5 points and 13.5 rebounds per game this season, but he clearly doesn’t fit into Cleveland’s future plans. He would be a welcome addition to Los Angeles.
LaMarcus Aldridge, spurs
Aldridge is another great man who has fallen out of the rotation and is looking for a new home. Seven-time All-Star is another possible candidate for Lakers buyout, but there is a “growing belief” that the Heat are the leaders to land Aldridge by Windhorst.
Of course, the priorities of each team could change in the coming days depending on other movements. It will be worth monitoring Aldridge’s situation.
George Hill, the thunder
The Lakers, Clippers and 76ers have all expressed interest in Hill, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. A Western Conference official told Fischer that the Thunder are ready to “take back and trade their wages for interim pay.”
It would be a surprise to see Oklahoma City strike a buyout deal with Hill given general manager Sam Presti’s love for draft picks. Maybe Los Angeles would be willing to drop a second-round player so they can bring in one of James’ former teammates.
Hassan Whiteside, kings
A Drummond backup plan? Whiteside could be just that for the Lakers.
While the veterans center isn’t exactly an exciting name, it would at least offer some frontcourt depth for a team that seems quite small at the moment.
What to expect from the Lakers at the trade deadline
It’s important to keep in mind that the Lakers aren’t desperate. Even as they slide up the standings, the Lakers know it will be tough to knock them out in the playoffs with their team at full strength.
Will Los Angeles go all-in with its assets and send an NBA Twitter frenzy on deadline day? Hey, probably not.
Could the Lakers work on the sidelines and find a useful player as they pursue back-to-back championships? Certainly.