The Lakers 19-39 entering the All-Star festivities and in need of a break. I need a break, so I know they do. The loss to the Suns was as bad a defeat as I’ve witnessed this year, not because of the final margin but because of the lack of attentiveness and care put into managing the game. They were careless with the ball offensively and as hapless defensively — especially in transition — I have seen this season. The Suns were treating fastbreaks like the All-Star game, throwing lobs and trying to dunk every time there was even a sliver of an opening.
So, this time away — at least I hope — will be useful. But beyond the chance to vacation on a beach somewhere and get away from the game for a week or so, the next time the Lakers take the floor will be after the trade deadline. Which, for this specific version of the Lakers, actually means something. This team has a load of young players and some veterans who might have some value who could be on the move. Even more than that, though, is that the team itself is actually looking to make moves.
“We are active, yes,” General Manager Mitch Kupchak said. “We’re active every year. … Quite frankly compared to the last three or four years, we have a lot of talent on this roster that I think a lot of people have interest in — varying levels of interest. I would think there’s more meaningful discussions this year than there have been the last two or three years.”
I don’t claim to speak Kupchak, but the fact that he’s even copping to having meaningful discussions at this point raises more than an eyebrow. Combine this with reports that Lou Williams is really on the trade block and we have a situation of “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” even tough, as the Times adds that Kupchak “left open the possibility that nothing happens”.
Beyond this, there was an interesting discussion about activity heading into the trade deadline this year on a recent TrueHoop Podcast. Brian Windhorst and several other ESPN’ers were talking about the Serge Ibaka trade and tangented to a discussion about all the big men who were signed to contracts tor traded this past summer and whether their current teams are actually happy with those deals. Mozgov, Noah, Ibaka, Bogut, and Ian Mahinmi played prominently in this discussion.
This then led to a conversation about the over-saturation of bigs who would be available in this trade market with Windhorst concluding, “The demand in the NBA right now is for backcourt players, for perimeter players. If you’ve got a perimeter player you could trade, I’d bet you could get a hell of a deal between now and next week.”
Windhorst didn’t name any names of guards/wings who would be on the block. But, if you’re the Lakers, with Lou Williams on a very good deal and signed through next season and Nick Young on deal with a player option next season which he is unlikely to exercise in order to become a free agent at the end of the season, my guess is not only are they active (as Mitch implies), but I would imagine a deal actually gets done for at least one of them. And my guess would be it’s Lou Williams who is sent packing.
Some might think I’m projecting my own desires here, but that’s not the case. Objectively speaking, Lou has been excellent this year. That excellence has come with caveats to it, but in raw production there’s nothing to really take away from him. He’s the team’s leading scorer and even with a usage rate over 30, he’s posting a career high in True Shooting percentage. Most guys don’t score more efficiently when their usage goes up, but this year Lou has pulled it off and he deserves massive credit for it.
That said, and as much as I think fans (and this team and analysts — even me, who has advocated it) will miss him, I do think it’s time for him to go. He is at his peak value and, when you examine the landscape which Windhorst laid out, the Lakers should be looking to make a move. There are several teams — Houston, Washington, OKC, Charlotte — who could all use a player of Lou’s type. All those teams struggle to create offense when their main offensive creators are off the floor and that skill just happens to be Lou’s specialty.
This isn’t to a say a deal will happen, but I think one should. Not because the Lakers need to unload Williams or because he hurts the team — those things are clearly not true. But because the Lakers are bad and it’s pretty clear that if Lou Williams, regardless of how well he plays, is your best player/a key focal point of your attack/your “closer”, you’re probably not a great team. His skills are better optimized on a team who benefits from them more than this version of the Lakers.