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.
With that here is how I view the market for each player:
- Hibbert: I don’t see a strong market for Roy developing. While a good locker room guy and still a plus rim protector, the Lakers have seen first hand what the Pacers did last year: the more fast paced, pick and roll oriented game does not fit Roy’s style of play. This has made him a drag on offense and without the wing defenders to protect him against full speed drives into his chest, his defense has not be as impactful either. He is an expiring contract and if the Lakers are willing to take on a longer deal in a swap, they may find a taker. But the Lakers want a clean cap next year and taking back any long term money likely is a nonstarter. In an ideal world the Lakers swap Roy for a large expiring contract and/or a young player or pick in the upcoming draft. I doubt that materializes.
- Williams: Lou has proven he can be a viable contributor for a winning team. He did it in Toronto last season and with the Hawks before that. His contract is reasonable for the next two seasons and a slew of mid-tier teams who need wing scoring would do well to have him on their roster. Would another team bite? My guess is no and that is based on what I believe the Lakers want in return — either a 1st round pick or a young player on a reasonable contract who can be a part of the team’s core moving forward. For all the ways that Lou helps a team, I simply doubt a team is willing to give up that type of asset for him.
- Bass: Of all the Lakers’ vets, Bass is the one who I think is most likely to be moved. The team has several bigs who could use playing time, Bass is cheap enough where the Lakers would not be making any sort of financial commitment by bringing on a like-salaried player, and Bass is still a very good rotation player who does a lot of things which help win games. However, Bass’ player option clouds this issue. Trading for him now means acquiring a potential rental which hurts the return the Lakers might be able to expect if his contract for next season was guaranteed or, better, was a team option. A team might, after swallowing hard, trade a late first round pick (maybe with protections attached) for Bass if he were locked up for next season. As a rental, maybe they think twice and hold off. I’d imagine Bass’ status will be a question all the way up until the trade deadline.
- Young: I do not expect Young to be moved. It’s not that the money owed to him is so outlandish it is that the money plus the player option on the end of his deal makes him overpaid and in the driver’s seat for the last year of his deal. Also, Young hasn’t played well since Mike D’Antoni skipped town. You can blame whoever you want for that, but when opposing GM’s look at his production, they’re going to want an asset with Young to take on his deal, not wanting to offer anything of value back in an exchange.
Sorry to be your Lakers’ trade deadline wet blanket, but I just don’t see a lot happening with any of their veteran players. Now, if the team were willing to package one or more of their “core” youngsters to help facilitate a deal, I would imagine the likelihood of a deal happening goes up. But the Lakers have not indicated — even quietly — that they are really doing anything but taking other team’s temperatures in order to gauge value. This doesn’t rule out a deal, but it makes it unlikely.
In saying all that, I hope the Lakers remain active in trying to reshape their roster by Thursday. Williams and Bass are movable pieces if the Lakers are willing to take back less than their ideal package. Hibbert and Young are less movable, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible, just not likely.
Still, the team would do well to try and grease the skids to get some of their younger players more minutes over the last 25+ games and the best way to do that is to move some of the veterans standing in their way. If that gets them an asset or two in the process, all the better.