In a day which saw the Lakers elevate Magic Johnson to President of Basketball Operations while removing Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak from their respective front office positions, more change is afoot. The team has reportedly traded Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets are sending Corey Brewer and a first-round pick to the Lakers for Lou Williams, league source tells @TheVertical.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) February 22, 2017
Per David Aldridge, the pick the Lakers are receiving from the Rockets is not protected in any way, so the team will have at least one draft pick in the upcoming draft with a possibility of still retaining their own selection should it fall in the top 3. The Lakers have reportedly been insisting on getting a 1st rounder in exchange for Williams, and my guess is that the lack of protections probably swayed them towards the Rockets considering there was also interest from the Jazz and Wizards.
There’s really three parts of this trade to analyze. First, is the draft pick, which is the centerpiece of this deal from the Lakers’ perspective. Though it will likely be lower than what I would have preferred — if the current standings hold, the Rockets pick would be #27 — the tangible difference between a pick at #24 (where the Wizards are currently projected) and #27 is negligible. Fact is, the Lakers will have a chance to make a selection in a portion of the draft where they have had some success recently, a testament to their scouting and decision making on collegiate and international players.
Remember, in the past three drafts the Lakers have selected Ivica Zubac, Larry Nance Jr., and Jordan Clarkson with picks 27th or later. They have been able to grab players who look to be able to contribute from slots this late and done so in consecutive drafts. This likely contributes to their comfort in making this trade, not to mention that this draft is considered as talent rich as any in the past five to ten years.
Second, and on the other side of this, I am not too keen on Corey Brewer being part of this deal. I would have preferred the Lakers push for KJ McDaniels, a younger, more rangy athlete who still has some upside. Brewer is a fine veteran who has been on some good teams and can be another voice in the locker room. He can also contribute as a try-hard defender and an open court player who will fill the lane well. But, overall, as someone who is signed through next season at a higher cap number than Williams and someone who has suspect offensive decision making, I would have just preferred the team chase a younger player as the “throw-in” to make the deal work.
Lastly, with Williams now gone, this slots the remaining backcourt players into roles which should give them more opportunities to play — especially in 4th quarters. Clarkson will likely get more minutes as the backup “PG” and Russell should get more consistent minutes and longer stints over the course of any given game. This matters for development purposes, even though there are real questions about whether they can replicate the level of play Williams was providing.
That final point is important and deserves more air time. As much as I have advocated trading Williams, that by no means was meant to diminish how good he’s been as an offensive fulcrum for the Lakers this season. Williams’ shot making, ability to draw fouls, and fearlessness as a scorer will be missed. He single handedly brought the Lakers back in multiple games this season and his personal runs were tremendously fun to watch. Yes, there were parts of Lou’s game that I did not like (defense, lack of decisive ball movement, over penetration) but those things should be put into the context of how much he often helped the team stay in games.
In the end, though, I just feel that redistributing his usage to some of the younger players is more important for their individual growth than playing next to or behind him. I wish him well in Houston, though. He will certainly help their offense be even more devastating than it already is.