It’s no secret the Lakers have been active in the trade market this season. They were apparently interested in DeMarcus Cousins before he was dealt to the Pelicans and have also been mentioned as a team who is willing to trade off one or more of their veteran players for an asset which has more long term appeal.
The player whose name is most often mentioned as “on the block” is Lou Williams, a key performer for the Lakers all year who is under contract through next season at a very reasonable price tag. Williams is having his best season as a pro and the Lakers are seemingly ready to cash in on that value when it’s at its peak. As Pete and I discussed on the most recent Laker Film Room Podcast, one team which has been linked to Williams is the Washington Wizards.
Rather than take it from me and Pete, though, here’s Zach Lowe on Washington’s interest and whether Lou would actually be a good fit in the nation’s capital:
Several reports have linked the Wiz to Lou Williams, and Washington has indeed explored trading a protected first-round pick for the king of the 2-for-1. That makes me a little queasy, despite Williams’ monster season and an affordable $7 million contract that runs through 2017-18 — big for a capped-out team with limited means to boost the roster in free agency.
Williams’ game doesn’t hold up as well in the playoffs, when referees don’t buy his flailing and opponents pick at his defense over and over. He doesn’t move the needle enough toward Cleveland territory to justify sending out a precious chance at nabbing a cheap young player. Washington could also use the midlevel exception — a real tool again! — to land a decent backup this summer, though that might rocket them into the luxury tax once they re-sign Porter.
Wait out the Lakers, and Washington might be able to get Williams for a couple of second-rounders.
There’s two key parts to Lowe’s reporting here: First is that the Wiz apparently have had discussions about trading a 1st round pick for Williams (or a player of his ilk) and, second Lowe seems to think the market for Williams may just be shallow enough that if the Wizards wait out the Lakers in negotiations, two 2nd rounders may be enough to get a deal done.
That second point is one that might make fans a bit queazy. Considering the Lakers are not guaranteed of keeping their own pick this summer, snagging a 1st rounder from another team in a trade should be one of key goals this trade season. Sure, if the Lakers could get a young player on a rookie deal or a better fitting veteran who would be more than a rental that too would be a reasonable trade-off for Lou. But, I’d imagine, the Lakers’ success at drafting quality players in the late 1st/early 2nd rounds over the last three seasons only bolsters their confidence that even without their own pick they could draft a quality player should they have any pick at all.
Which brings us back to the issue at hand. If Washington plays hard ball, will the Lakers be out of luck? Maybe not. In the same Lowe column, Zach mentions a couple of other teams who could be buyers at the deadline and, like the Wizards, they may be willing to trade a 1st rounder:
Our Chris Haynes reported the Pacers have floated their first-round pick in search of a veteran, which fits the general notion that a 29-28 mediocrity needs more to sway George. The roster is overloaded with bricky dribblers and plodding bigs; the Pacers need someone who can shoot, and play either on the wing or at power forward. They probably won’t find a great fit.
And then there’s this:
Houston is chasing a win-now move, sources say, and may send out K.J. McDaniels as the sweetener. McDaniels doesn’t play, mostly because of a busted jumper. Some team should take a shot on him at the right price.
Now, neither Indy nor the Rockets were explicitly linked to the Lakers in any way. However, their needs align (at least somewhat) with what the Lakers have to offer.
Indy may already have Monta Ellis, Jeff Teague, and Rodney Stuckey as smallish guards who like to have the ball in their hands. But none offer the outside shooting or scoring efficiency Lou does. If Bird is willing to surrender a 1st round pick, even if lottery protected, a swap of Stuckey and Lou works financially as both players make the same money and are signed through the same season.
As for the Rockets, nowhere is it mentioned they’d be willing to give up a pick and Morey is a guy who typically loves to extract value with by making his own draft picks. That said, they currently have the league’s 4th best record and might be willing to surrender a 1st rounder considering they have two 2nd round picks (Blazers and Nuggets) in this upcoming draft. Also, McDaniels is an interesting talent who fits a certain profile I think the Lakers should at least be kicking the tires on.
None of this is to say a deal is in the works with any of the above teams. But, I bring them up to note that there are other potential partners out there and I’d imagine the front office is doing their due diligence with them and others (like Charlotte and OKC) to try to find a partner who can offer what they want. As the old saying goes, it only takes one team to say yes to your demands and suddenly you have a deal. We’ll see if that happens before this Thursday’s deadline.
UPDATE: Add the Jazz to the list of teams who might be interested in Williams. From Ian Begley of ESPN:
Some members of the Utah Jazz front office have expressed interest recently in Lakers guard Lou Williams, ESPN sources say. Many around the league believe Williams is likely to be dealt before Thursday’s trade deadline. Some teams who have talked to the Lakers about Williams believe Los Angeles is seeking a first-round pick in any Williams swap.
Again, this isn’t to say a deal with the Jazz is likely. But I do think this just reconfirms there is some interest around the league and the Lakers would be wise to try and leverage that.