The Lakers didn’t come up with Anthony Davis at the trade deadline, but they did make a deal for a big man by acquiring Mike Muscala from their STAPLES Center co-tenant Clippers. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the deal:
Muscala had never played a game for the Clippers — he was part of the Tobias Harris trade which sent multiple players from Philly to the Clips in the deal. Muscala was in his 1st season with the 76ers after spending the first 5 years of his career with the Hawks.
The Lakers acquired Muscala for his shooting. This season he’s hitting 34.2% of his 3’s on a shade over 4 attempts a game. Last season in Atlanta he shot 37.1% on a shade over 3 attempts a game. For his career, he’s a 36.5% shooter from distance and he gives the Lakers the combination of size + stretchability as a floor spacer no other big on the roster offered save for rookie Moe Wagner.
View this deal through the same lens you view the Reggie Bullock acquisition through. The Lakers FO may have misplayed their hand in the Anthony Davis talks, but these deals also show an admission that their team building approach during the off-season of prioritizing playmakers over deep ball specialists was not the most prudent approach. Seeking out shooters now, at the trade deadline, looks to correct those missteps in July. Whether it works remains to be seen, but I appreciate the effort and see the rationale. Also, salvaging the 2nd half of the season is a necessity. This is, I believe, the best path to walk.
As for the players the Lakers gave up, the equation on both is pretty straight forward.
Zubac is a fine young center prospect and had shown in in the past month that he’s on the right development track. He’d been making an impact on both ends of the floor and flashing nice scoring ability while being a space eating (sometimes) rim protector on the other end. Trading him, viewed only through this lens, hurts and doesn’t make a huge amount of sense.
But that’s not the only lens.
Zubac is a restricted free agent this summer and while his cap hold will be low, the Lakers will ultimately clear the decks this summer in the hopes of signing a max level free agent (or using their cap space to facilitate trades). A smart NBA front office who might want Zubac (and I do believe he’ll have his suitors) would simply offer him an offer sheet to force the Lakers hand and they’d be forced to match or give him up anyway.
Some may want to argue these points, but this is the most realistic end game for him. The Lakers traded him for a better fitting piece and now go back to a more traditional C rotation with Chandler and JaVale offering interior play/ruggedness, while Muscala offers floor spacing with pick and pop ability.
As for Beasley, he’s had a difficult season off the court with the health issues of his mother which has had him away from the team for different stretches. He’d just started to find a consistent role in the lineup and he’d been doing okay with that increased role.
However, his role in the recent locker room dustup where he and JaVale reportedly barked back at Luke Walton likely did him no favors in keeping the role he was establishing but was not guaranteed to keep. There’s a saying that squeaky wheel gets the oil, but when you’re a 10th or 11th man on a roster, the squeaky wheel will often just get swapped out for a less squeaky one. I think this is what happened to Beas here.
I wish both players luck and do believe Zu has a nice future in this league. I don’t like to see either go, but understand the moves. I think in the aggregate the Lakers are a team that makes more sense today than they did a week ago — especially when it comes to their C rotation and with another shooting option on the wing.
Lastly, the Lakers opened up a roster spot with this trade and they will be active on the buyout market. It’s already being reported Carmelo Anthony will be a consideration and before anyone gets too heated, his archetype makes sense — even if he, specifically, might not be the best candidate to fill it. In trading Beasley the Lakers could use another scoring forward who can play PF in certain lineups while also spacing the floor. I’m not advocating for Melo here, but I am noting he’s the type of player the Lakers should be looking at. Just as they’d be wise to explore getting another wing who can shoot from distance and defend adequately (Wes Matthews, rumored to be on the buyout market makes a ton of sense here, too).
Again, the Lakers are recognizing they need more floor spacing. They’ve swapped out Zubac, Svi (who has a shooter’s pedigree and rep, but not the results as of yet), and Beas for Muscala and Bullock. This team will try lineups with different combinations of Muscala, Bullock, Hart, KCP, and Kuzma flanking LeBron/Ingram/Lonzo/Rondo/Lance to see if the right mix of playmaking and shooting can generate more consistent halfcourt offense. That may not sound particularly sexy, but it’s a much more straight forward plan than trotting out lineups of 4 playmakers and a traditional C and trying to score everything at the rim.
I get that fans are frustrated right now. The public defanging of the Anthony Davis pursuit has weighed everyone down. Add that to losing a promising young player in Zu and it seems like piling on. But, I’ll repeat, the Lakers have moved to try to sure up the biggest weakness on the roster at the trade deadline. I don’t fault them at all for that.