So You Think The Lakers Are Going To Make A Trade?

Kurt —  December 18, 2009

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The rumor is out there that the Lakers are going to extend Pau Gasol’s contract soon (Eric Pincus wrote this at Hoopsworld). On one hand the timing seems odd, so I’m taking this with a whole lot of salt, but eventually the Lakers will do just this in one form or another. Nobody is in favor of letting Gasol walk.

The challenge is the Lakers have a lot of pieces that they want to keep, the core of the championship team. And that means making a trade this season or a move this summer to fill in the point guard position becomes a Rubik’s cube. Zephid explains in a recent email.

If we assume we let Ammo and Farmar walk, bringing back Powell, DJ, and Fisher for the minimum, and Brown picks up his player option, we’ll have somewhere around $87 mil in payroll with a 10 man roster, not counting any draft picks whatsoever. Assuming we add 3 players for the minimum, we’ll have around $90 mil in payroll, about $1.3 mil shy of our total this year. Any quality PG we bring in will probably be in the $2-6 mil range, so that would put us somewhere between $92 mil and 96$ mil. With the luxury tax level dropping to $65 mil, which is an upper estimate (it could drop significantly lower), that would be somewhere around $30 mil in luxury tax payments, taking our total salary expenses to around $125 mil. That’s more than $10 mil more than we’re paying this year, and this is the best-case scenario.

This time of year everyone has trade ideas. Plenty of them. That includes GMs, who are calling each other a lot the last week or so (this is a busy time of years as a lot of guys become available next week). The challenges for the Lakers as I see it are multiple, however, and it will be hard to make anything really work.

Clearly, long term point guard is the primary concern. But you can’t just go get any point guard – you need someone who is willing to be offensive option number 5, can defend and hit shots from the outside. Basically, he Lakers don’t need CP3 or Ricky Rubio, they don’t want a guy who needs to have the ball in his hands. Snoopy2006 sent me an email recently saying he was struggling to find someone worth getting.

I started to look at a list of the PGs in the league. There’s so many complaints about Fisher, but what makes this difficult is that better PGs (better overall) aren’t better necessarily for the system we run. When you take that into account, there’s not a lot of good options out there (high potential guys like Beaubois and Maynor aren’t becoming available). I like George Hill a lot for our system, but if we’re being realistic, SA isn’t giving him up. Some people are high on Duhon too; I’m non-committal on him.

But outside of that, there’s no real upgrades out there (and we’re not getting a high draft pick). Fisher isn’t even in the top half of the PGs in the league, but there’s not much better out there with our current system and personnel (meaning we don’t want a high-volume shooter). So I started thinking along some different lines — are there other ways around our PG defense problem? I thought about how Ariza was perfect for guarding the speedier PGs with his length, and that led me to…. Dorrell Wright (sorry if you had a mouthful of food, try the Heimlich). I’ve watched the Heat closely for years, and I’ve seen this guy from the beginning. He’s been, by most standards, a bust. A project that never truly developed. I’ve been as down on him as any critic. But there are several things about him that intrigue me.

I’m not sure if he really is a fit, but at least Snoopy is thinking outside the box. He later makes the point that the Lakers best chance is to unearth a hidden gem for the position. The Lakers don’t need a traditional PG, guys like Harper and Paxson did well as the triangle PG even if they would have been bad fits a lot of places. For the Lakers, you can think differently about the position. Darius was thinking outside the box as well.

One other guy that I’d really want to play for us — and a guy that I think could actually play PG for us — is Anthony Morrow. Living in the Bay, I’ve gotten a close up view of this guy and he can play. He’s already one of the games best shooters, but he’s got a little bit more to his game than just that….he’s got a decent handle and is better off the dribble than you’d expect. Also, because he gets a lot of minutes at SF, he’s shown toughness on the glass and in fighting for position with guys bigger than him that has impressed me. He’s not a FA until the season after next, but if we could get our hands on him I’d be ecstatic.

Whatever happens, the Lakers are going to need to be creative. Go ahead and give us your trade ideas if you want, but remember to be creative and think realistically: The Lakers are not going to take on a big long-term salary. Bynum’s raise kicked in this year, while Kobe, Odom, Gasol and Artest are here for years. Sasha has a year left on his deal and don’t think teams are eager to have him around next year with a shooting slump and a $5 million salary. Darius adds:

The truth is that we will have a hard time making an impactful trade for a PG because (a) we need to cut payroll, (b) at least half the league won’t make a trade with us that improves us, and (c) we have no real assets to offer.