Archives For Trades

For the second time in 6 days, Jose Calderon has been traded. After being part of the deal which sent Derrick Rose from the Bulls to the Knicks, Calderon was again dealt, this time to the Lakers, in a deal which helps the Bulls clear cap space to sign Dwyane Wade (coincidentally, another Chicago legend) in free agency.

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The Lakers, as I thought they would, stood pat at the trade deadline. Trading their veterans for any sort of viable return was going to be difficult, trading their young players was going to be a nonstarter, and by wanting to maintain cap space for next season there simply was not going to be a deal to make.

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Let’s Talk Trade Deadline

Darius Soriano —  February 16, 2016

One of the benefits of playing 55 games before the All-Star game is the Lakers getting an extended break by not having to play a game again until Friday. All of that extra rest has its pluses and minuses, but I’ll happily trade a bit of rust and the potential for a small dip in conditioning for all the guys getting some needed time off to refresh their bodies and minds as they head into the closing push.

Not playing until Friday also means another thing: the Lakers’ front office heads into Thursday’s trade deadline with nothing on their plate but managing the phones and trying to figure out if (and, if so, how) any deals would be available to them. There are no games to navigate, no “holding a player out” as a signal that he may be on the block. No, the players will return to practice (today, I am guessing), and the FO will be working the phones.

We all know what the Lakers would like to do heading into Thursday. They have a slew of veteran players, of varying ability, who they would like to trade. The rumors have been out there for weeks — that the team would like to find Roy Hibbert a playoff team to play for while also making Lou Williams, Brandon Bass, and Nick Young available. However, just because the Lakers would like to make deals doesn’t mean they will.

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Coming into this season, his 3rd with the Lakers, Nick Young was put on notice. He ended his second season with the team firmly in Byron Scott’s doghouse and the only way out of it was to no longer play like Nick Young. Scott said he wanted Young to play better defense, to exercise more discretion offensively, and to be a more serious player. If he did these things, he might see more playing time. If he didn’t, well, the wood has a way of speaking to a player, as this coach is fond of saying.

So, what did young do? He tried to improve in the areas the coach asked him to. At the start of the year was often seen trying on defense and taking less crazy shots in isolation. While he wasn’t a playmaker, he was more willing to move the ball and resembled more of the player he was under Mike D’Antoni; more of the player who the Lakers thought they were keeping on when he resigned after his first with team.

It turns out, though, that really didn’t last. Since the first 10-15 games of the season, Young’s shooting has fallen off, his effort on defense has been spotty, and he has fallen into the trap of looking for his own shot — especially when working in isolation. A tiger doesn’t change its stripes, after all.

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After missing out on every free agent they targeted this summer, the Lakers are looking to add talent a different way. In sore need of a big man to man the pivot, Marc Stein is reporting the Lakers are in talks with the Pacers:

This was a topic we discussed yesterday, so I won’t rehash a lot of that now.

For more background on Hibbert’s availability, though, he had a player option on his contract that he exercised shortly after draft night. That option will pay him a shade over $15 million this season, the final of his contract. Hibbert is available mostly because the Pacers drafted his successor (Myles Turner) with their lottery pick and would like to play faster than they have with Hibbert manning the middle.

For the Lakers, the fit would likely be a mixed bag. They too would like to play faster with their young athletes, and Hibbert doesn’t really fit that mold. However, Hibbert fills a major positional need, is a fine compliment to Randle defensively, and could even serve as a bit of a defensive mentor for Robert Upshaw should he end up sticking with the team beyond summer league.

For all these reasons, I’d support the Lakers making this type of move. Especially if they could nab another asset from the Pacers in the process of absorbing such a large contract and allowing the Pacers to dump a lot of money with, essentially, nothing likely going back in return. For a team like Indy who does not want to pay the tax and would like a manageable payroll, that is a not a minor point.

We’ll see if it is enough to get a deal done, however.

Just as we figured, the LeBron James decision has started a flurry of moves around the league as teams now move on to their own plans. That includes the Lakers who have helped facilitate the Rockets’ pursuit of Chris Bosh by taking Jeremy Lin off their hands. From ESPN:

The Houston Rockets have traded guard Jeremy Lin and a future first-round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers, a league source told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The Lakers were amenable to this deal, according to sources, because Lin is only under contract for one more season, thus preserving their cap space next summer. They also covet draft picks, after trading away their first-round picks in 2015 and 2017 to Phoenix and Orlando as part of the Steve Nash and Dwight Howard trades, respectively.

If the Lakers are going to miss out on the big name free agents this summer — and with each passing minute that seems increasingly likely — they needed to move on to their Plan B and start to fill out their roster. Acquiring Lin helps in that.

Lin is the exact type of asset the Lakers have said to be pursuing this summer. He’s a good player (we will get into this later with a full analysis) and he is only signed for one more season. This allows the Lakers to preserve their cap space and financial flexibility for next summer when they can again pursue the top free agents on the market.

The sweetner here, however, is the 1st round pick the Lakers will also receive. While the Rockets are likely to be one of the top 5-10 teams next season and deliver a pick in the mid-20’s next June, that pick is much better than the one the Lakers would be slated to have should they finish outside the top 5 selections — which would be no pick at all. Now the Lakers will be armed with a pick that can be used in another trade or used to select another young player who can potentially be part of the team.

Viewing the deal through this dual prism, I am quite happy with what the Lakers have accomplished. When the Lakers talk about “financial flexibility”, this is one of the ways in which they use the term. Having money under the cap isn’t just about signing FA’s, it is about leveraging that space to absorb players and getting additional assets for their trouble. The fact that Lin can actually play, fills a position of need, and has other marketing qualities that will help the Lakers is icing on the cake.

It is about time the Lakers got creative and started to use all the assets at their disposal to improve the team in the short and the long term. Drafting Julius Randle was step one in this process. It remains to be seen what becomes of Lin as a player next year or what the pick they will receive from the Rockets produces, but the hope is that they too become pieces that improve the short and long term trajectory of the team.

The news hit right before game time — Steve Blake was actually in his warm-ups and was ready to play against the Rockets — but in an instant the third longest tenured Laker (behind Kobe and Pau) was a Laker no more. Blake was shipped off to the Warriors in a 2-for-1 trade that netted the team young swingmen MarShon Brooks and Kent Bazemore.

The mechanics of the deal aren’t as straight forward as you’d think, but Amin Elhassan of ESPN summed up the deal as three separate trades:

  1. Steve Blake traded to the Warriors into a Traded Player Exception (TPE)
  2. MarShon Brooks traded to the Lakers into a TPE
  3. Kent Bazemore traded to the Lakers into a minimum salary exception

Those are the mechanics, the business side of this. Of course, that’s not the only part of a deal like this.

I, for one, will miss Steve Blake a great deal. Others may not feel this way and it is somewhat understandable when you consider the full picture of his time as a Laker. Blake was brought in as a $4 million/year point guard who was supposed to fit into the template as an ideal Triangle point guard. He had a reputation as a shooter, but not necessarily a playmaker and was supposed to thrive as an off-ball worker in Phil Jackson’s scheme. It didn’t play out that way, however. Blake had his moments under Phil, but never really flashed the consistency or high level three point shooting the team was hoping to get. That, combined with his salary, had fans turning on him early in his tenure and never really coming around on him as a player with value.

Which is a shame. Because while Blake’s salary should be a factor in how he’s viewed as a performer, what I saw when he played was someone who always gave his all while on the floor, always talked about the success of the team as his number one priority, and always carried a chip on his shoulder with an extra level of competitiveness that isn’t always seen in players — even at this level. He never wilted from a big moment, never blamed a teammate when something went wrong, and never did anything less than he could to try and help the team win. If that meant playing out of position at shooting guard, he’d do it. If it meant coming off the bench or having his minutes cut, he’d accept that too. Blake is the type of teammate everyone respects and the type of player who coaches love to have on their side.

The hardest part about trading Blake now is that he had finally come into his own as a contributor in a scheme that seemed to suit his skills best. Unlike the off-ball work he was asked to do under Phil Jackson and Mike Brown, Blake had the ball in his hands under Mike D’Antoni and was showing what he could do with the added responsibility. He proved he could make plays for his teammates in both the half court and when running the fast break. He also showed that he really could shoot well enough to be a long range threat. Blake had his best games under this head coach. Now he will try to do the same for Mark Jackson out in Oakland.

I wish him nothing but the best moving forward.

And speaking of moving forward, the players the Lakers got in this deal fit the profile of players they’ve been chasing for the past year. Brooks isn’t a former lottery pick, but he’s a former first round pick who has flashed an ability to score the ball well. His rookie season saw him score over 12 points a game while playing about 29 minutes per night. Since that point, however, he’s seen his minutes and production dip. In his 2nd season with the Nets he only played 12.5 minutes per night and in stints with the Celtics and Warriors this year he’s only appeared in 17 total games. Brooks’ issues seem to lie most with his shot selection and his ability to play NBA level defense. The latter is an issue most young players have, but that doesn’t alleviate the concern. The former is an issue that can also be aided with coaching, but that doesn’t mean it actually will be. Some players are what they are and never really grow out of the habits that they’ve had most of their basketball playing lives.

Whether Brooks is one of those players or not remains to be seen. But know that the Lakers acquired him to get a long look at whether he is redeemable as a player and whether the promise he showed as a rookie can be harnessed again. Brooks, after all, is only 25 and is only in his 3rd year. He is entering his prime and whatever skill he has is about to be combined with what should be his peak physical years. The Lakers, like they did with Xavier Henry and Wes Johnson and Kendall Marshall, are hoping he can show why he was a first round pick in the first place and do it under their watch.

As for Bazemore, he’s had a winding road to the NBA, going undrafted and then having spent time in the D-league trying to round his game into form. He’s probably best known for his legendary sideline celebrations, but he’s also been a summer league demon and flashed an ability to use his athleticism and physical gifts to look like a capable a pro. The issue is, however, that he hasn’t shown the skill level to match his physical tools and that has left him out of the Warriors’ rotation the past two seasons. This past summer they experimented with him as a point guard and tried to rework his jumper to get him to be a compliment to Steph Curry, allowing Steph to play off the ball more offensively and guard the lesser of the two guards defensively. That, though, never materialized and now the Warriors have turned to Steve Blake to do that job (after also failing with Toney Douglass and, to a lesser extent, Jordan Crawford).

If Bazemore is really going to stick in this league it will have to be as a “three and D” perimeter player in the half court and a guy who is opportunistic and a strong finisher in the open court. His defensive potential is enormous as he has great length and enough foot speed to guard three positions. That, like Brooks’ offensive talent, must be harnessed, though, if he is to become a rotation player in this league. Just as his offense will need to be at least replacement level. It’s one thing to have a somewhat broken jumper if you play Tony Allen level defense — but even that is getting harder to do as spacing has become so crucial in the league — but Bazemore is nowhere near that level now. So he must refine his offensive game so he can be a somewhat capable half court player. Because if he doesn’t, he’ll find himself sitting on the bench a lot in Los Angeles, just as he did in Oakland.

The Lakers will give him his shot, though. And he has some potential to make a wise man out of a gambler.

All in all, then, what these trades do is signal the continued transition of this team, in this season. Trading Blake means salary savings and a peek at two young players who have some promise. It maintains financial flexibility moving forward and, at least in the short term, actually adds healthy players to the rotation for coaches to evaluate. I can’t say from a management perspective I am mad at this approach. It is hard to see a player you like leave, however. And with the trade deadline nearly here, I don’t think it will be the last time I say that today.

Pau Gasol will not be going to the Cavs via trade. Per Brian Windhost of ESPN:

The first round pick from the Kings that the Cavs are sending to Chicago is more than mildly protected, needing to be outside the top 12 in the upcoming draft and outside the top 10 in any of the drafts from 2015 through 2017 (which, at this point, may not occur based off their franchise trajectory as of now). The right to swap 1st round picks this year is also protected and can only occur should the Cavs make the playoffs (they are currently on the outside looking in, sitting in the 12th spot).

The Lakers, then, hold onto Pau. Which, isn’t necessarily a bad thing right now.

As an aside, there is a common misconception about what a Pau Gasol trade would have meant for the Lakers, at least in relation to the deal that was supposedly on the table with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

While more recent reports had the Lakers continuing to stand their ground in seeking at least one other asset (a draft pick, a young player, or an established player who could be a part of next year’s team or traded again for more assets), the key benefit  of the deal from their perspective was a financial one.

The injury-ravaged Lakers have been considering whether to execute a Gasol-for-Bynum trade because it would get them out of the luxury tax for the first time in seven years. More important than the $20 million in instant savings would be easing the pressure of going into the repeater tax in either 2015 or ’16, sources said. If a team is in the luxury tax in four out of any five years, it triggers the repeater tax.

This, of course, is very true. The Lakers stood to save a bunch of money this season AND dip below the luxury tax line. However, what’s not spelled out in that excerpt — in fact, it wasn’t really spelled out in many places — is that the Lakers will be below the luxury tax line next season simply by letting Pau Gasol’s contract expire and then renouncing his rights in free agency (which is almost a given).

What’s also not spelled out is that the Lakers, should the sentence I just typed hold true, will also find themselves below the tax line the following season simply due to CBA mechanics that make it extremely difficult to get above the luxury tax line without committing big money to your own free agents via their Bird Rights. As it stands today, the only Lakers who will be coming off the books in the summer of 2015 are Robert Sacre and Steve Nash (and potentially Nick Young and Kendall Marshall should stay with the team beyond this season). Simple math, even when accounting for free agent signings this summer and whatever draft pick is added, make it extremely difficult to get above the tax line when you consider who the Lakers would need to commit big money to.

Said another way, the Lakers are very unlikely to be a tax paying team in either of the next two seasons and, thus, are very unlikely to pay the repeater tax. If they simply let free agency play out in a normal way, they’ll avoid those heavy tax payments that were the supposed impetus to trading Gasol to the Cavs and will maintain the benefit of the flexibility that trade would have offered them anyway.

Even in saying all that, let’s not act as though the Lakers’ only chance to trade Gasol evaporated with the Cavs pulling the trigger on a deal for Deng. Gasol has played well of late — in his last 10 games he’s averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds on 51% shooting — and if his production stays relatively stable until the trade deadline the potential for trade partners to materialize could increase. We’re looking at another month or so of time before that date comes.

Whether the Lakers find a deal they like enough to follow through with a trade is another story, but it’s not impossible to imagine them finally finding some sort of package that fits into their short and long term goals for building a team. In other words, Pau may still be a Laker today but there’s still plenty of time on the calendar for that to change.

And, so, more things change, the more they stay the same. Over the next month or so, I think we’ll find this to be especially true when it comes to Pau Gasol being in the middle of trade rumors.