First, a confession: I am an NBA Trade Machine addict. I fiddle around on ESPN’s tool more than I should, always trying to find a way to make the Lakers’ roster better without giving up players I like. Considering my fondness for roster construction and the concept of team building, maybe this isn’t a big surprise. Or, maybe because we still outlaw outright trade speculation in the comments of this site, it is.
Anyways, as someone who likes thinking up trades and someone who is invested in the Lakers’ success has often meant whatever ideas I have wither on the vine. I mean, the Lakers rarely make deals in general and, less frequent, make them in-season. There was that flurry of action on 2012 that saw the team trade Derek Fisher and Luke Walton in separate deals which brought back Ramon Sessions and Jordan Hill, but after that I have trouble remembering a deal the team made before the February deadline.
I say all of this as a reminder that it’s pretty unlikely the Lakers make a trade before the February 23rd deadline. History tells us they won’t for whatever reason. Maybe they value their young players too highly. Maybe the offers teams will make for their expendable veterans either don’t include enough value or are hampered with too much excess the team doesn’t want to take one. Or maybe nothing materializes with enough time left to actually work out the details. As I said on the most recent Laker Film Room podcast, it takes two teams to make a trade and that often complicates things.
Now that I’ve listed all those caveats, I think the Lakers need to make a deal (or more) in the next couple of weeks. Or, maybe better said, I’d like them to.
To get more specific, I’d say that I’m not especially interested in dealing any of the team’s young players. If the right deal came along, I’d consider it but I wouldn’t be actively shopping any of them just for the sake of it. I think, long term, there are ones I’d consider dealing in the right scenario (again, listen the pod — it’s near the end), but those are far fetched, involve a lot of moving parts, and, if we’re being honest, would likely be trumped by offers a team like the Celtics (or even the Nuggets) could offer.
Which brings us to the veterans. If I was ranking which ones I would be actively looking to trade, it would look something like this:
1. Lou Williams. Pete jokes with me on the podcast that trading Lou is one of my favorite pastimes and maybe he’s right. Lou is a very useful player who, if the Lakers were further along in their development towards being competitive, would have more value. And, to be fair, I think in a (somewhat) reduced role, he still has value to this specific Lakers’ roster. But, let’s be real here: he currently lead the team in usage rate and, even though he is capable of getting a handful of assists on any given night, isn’t a “ball mover” in the traditional sense. When he has it going his game can be fun to watch. I enjoy it too! But his flaws (defense, ball domination) are real and this version of the Lakers only exacerbates them. I’d be open to move him for a player still on his rookie contract, preferably one who can either capably run an offense or defend at a plus level (even if that is just projecting forward). It doesn’t matter what position he plays if he can do either of those things.
2. Timofey Mozgov. This is mostly about the combination of his contract and because there are players behind him in the rotation who I think are better fits for this roster. I like Timo, too. He plays hard, is of good character, and by all accounts is good in the locker room and with the young guys. But Zubac needs more minutes. And Black should be playing C, not moonlighting at PF. Now, I don’t think the Lakers could actually trade Mozzie without attaching an asset to grease the tracks. Which, you know, is bad considering he essentially became their top target in free agency. So, the odds he’s dealt are remarkably thin. But this isn’t an exercise on how likely a trade is, but ranking of who I would deal. So he’s #2. Sorry Timo.
3. Jose Calderon. I like the idea of what Calderon provides on the court better than he actually provides it. His shooting has value, but because the Lakers don’t create a lot of spot up options in the half court, that skill mostly goes unused. His ball protection is nice, but when he’s not turning the ball over it’s mostly because he plays such a risk averse game that it’s nearly impossible to cough the ball up. When he does try to do more, he can get turnover prone. On top of that, he’s basically an emergency option at PG and only plays if Russell is hurt and even then it’s not a guarantee. If the Lakers could find a taker for his expiring deal and only got back a late 2nd round pick, I’d call that a major win (especially since he already brought in two future 2nd rounders when the team acquired him from the Bulls).
That’s it. That’s the list.
I’m guessing some thought Deng would be here, but he’s not. I like Deng more than most. If I was making this list a year from now when Ingram is more developed, Deng probably makes the cut. But for now, I see him having utility as a small-ball PF and a real veteran presence in the locker room. Those things mean something to me, both in terms of lineup flexibility and in helping the growth of the young players in ways which (hopefully) will show in coming seasons.
I also almost included Tarik Black here and maybe he should be #4. Black’s deal next year is non-guaranteed and if the Lakers want to create max cap space, Black is likely gone. But I feel…yucky, for lack of a better word, about advocating trading Black when I think he’s a better fit (and, I guess, player) than Mozgov is. Black’s deal is also a bit tricky to trade in a 1-for-1 deal since he makes more than MLE guys and players on rookie deals, but less than guys who are better than him who could help the team. So, he’d be more of a guy you include in larger deals which would likely include a young guy. Maybe none of that should matter when crafting a list of guys to trade, but it’s my list so I make the rules. If you want to trade him, make your own list at your own site.
As for Young, Huertas, Metta, and Robinson, it’s pretty simple for all 4 guys. The latter three would be better buy-out/cut candidates than trades. They all make either the minimum or slightly above it which means they have zero trade value. Young, meanwhile, is a low usage, high volume 3-point shooter/maker. He can get a little too shot happy, but he tries on defense (even if he’s not always successful) and his role as a “finisher” is, to me at least, quite different than Lou’s as “initiator/creator/finisher”.
So, if you’re scoring at home, I just found a long winded way to say the Lakers should be actively looking to trade Lou Williams. I think there’d be a market for him and, if the team is serious about it, they could make a deal. Again, I think they should (even though they probably won’t).