According to a report, the Los Angeles Lakers — after years of losing and 10 seasons removed from a title — are ready to pay the price to contend … now.
The Los Angeles Lakers have to like the view from their current perch much more than where the franchise has been living lately. At 33-7 and leading the Western Conference, the Lakers know they have a title window open for the first time in years and are ready to trade everyone … well, almost everyone … to make a run.
Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times reported that Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka is ready to trade anyone on the roster — outside of superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis — to plug perceived holes in the rotation.
While much of the speculation has centered around third-year forward Kyle Kuzma, who has one year and $3.56 million remaining on his rookie deal after this season, Los Angeles may have to look at moving other pieces off their present roster in order to facilitate any trades.
The Lakers committed a top-seven protected first-round pick in 2021 which becomes unprotected in 2022, along with swap rights for their 2023 pick and the New Orleans Pelicans’ option of L.A.’s first-rounder in either 2024 or 2025 as part of the package that sent Davis to the Lakers.
So outside of swap rights on their 2020 pick, Los Angeles is handcuffed in terms of first-round picks available to dangle as trade bait.
It would have to be a very good deal to move Kuzma, who may be the only young player with a lot of upside remaining on the roster after the Lakers also included Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart in the Davis trade.
But as the Toronto Raptors showed last season, sometimes you have to be prepared to go big or go home at the trade deadline when the franchise can see an open door to a title in front of it.
The Raptors gave up Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles and a future second-round pick to bring in veteran big man Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies. Gasol played a key role for Toronto in the playoffs, stretching the floor from the 5 spot, doing damage in the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop and providing rugged post defense.
John Hollinger of The Athletic (subscription required) brought up the possibility of Derrick Rose leading the second unit for the Lakers. There is a certain attractiveness to the notion of transferring the keys to the offense from one former MVP (James) to another (Rose), who would be more than a rental and at a relatively low price.
Rose is signed through next season, with his number for 2020-21 at $7.68 million. However, if Detroit is looking to take on expiring deals for cap space, Los Angeles only has four that aren’t attached to player options: DeMarcus Cousins ($3.5 million this season) and the trio of Troy Daniels, Jared Dudley and Dwight Howard (all at the veteran’s minimum of $1.62 million).
That might not be enough to move the needle. The Lakers also have four player options for next season: Davis ($28.75 million, not likely to exercise it), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($8.49 million), Avery Bradley ($5.01 million) and Rajon Rondo ($2.69 million). Quinn Cook‘s $3 million salary for 2020-21 isn’t guaranteed.
In his piece for The Athletic, Hollinger also detailed a plan to get the Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies holdout Andre Iguodala together.
Hollinger’s idea is for the Lakers to send Cousins, Cook, Daniels and the ever-popular and constantly moving cash considerations to the Charlotte Hornets for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
That would provide a so-called “stepladder” to the Lakers being able to match Iguodala’s expiring $17.19 million salary with the expiring deal of Kidd-Gilchrist ($13 million), while leaving Memphis with an expiring contract.
The Grizzlies are holding out for draft picks — first-round picks — to move Iguodala, whom they acquired last summer from the Golden State Warriors (who needed to create cap room for D’Angelo Russell‘s sign-and-trade deal).
Heavy.com’s Sean Devaney reported last week that while there is interest — a lot of interest — from contenders looking to add a bench piece who is also a former NBA Finals MVP, none of those interested teams has been interested enough to offer up a first-round pick. Devaney cited a league executive who said:
“(The Grizzlies) haven’t budged. Maybe they will as the date gets closer, but they’ve made clear they’re not interested in a buyout with Andre and they’re looking for a first-rounder.”
That is a price the Lakers are simply unable to pay, but the other rumored suitors — the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and LA Clippers — have not made such an offer. To be fair, the Clippers’ cupboard is about barren of first-round pick as well after last summer’s blockbuster to get Paul George.
Davis has been everything the Lakers had hoped for this season — at least until his bruised, ahem, backside — and James continues to roll along at an elite level, leading the NBA in assists (10.7 per game) at age 35 while still also putting up 25.5 points and 7.8 rebounds a night.
But the window for James has to be closing … or at the very least getting smaller … now that he’s logged a combined 1,475 games and 57,609 minutes (and counting) in the regular season and playoffs during his 17 NBA seasons.
So whatever Pelinka has to do to help get the Lakers a title shot, he’s going to be willing to do.