The NBA Trade Deadline is Thursday and the Lakers have holes on their roster. Normally, then, you’d expect them to be active in trying to fill in the gaps on a team that is near the top of the league in terms of record, but on that has also had some high profile losses vs. teams that have pinpointed weaknesses that can be exposed.
Of course we know this is not a normal trade deadline. Kobe Bryant’s sudden and tragic passing has this team grieving. They’re also a team that’s clearly working its way closer together in an attempt to heal, making their year-long emphasis on chemistry and how important it is to their success that much more meaningful.
With divergent paths ahead of them, then, they must make determinations on how to proceed and what value they place on any given variable along those differing paths. Rather than go too far down that road now, though, I’ll instead look at what’s plain as day to any fan whose watched the Lakers play this season. They could use some upgrades. Where they could stand to upgrade most, though, might lead to some differing opinions.
Luckily, you’re here to read mine. So, let’s get to it…
1. Backup Point Guard. The Lakers need someone better than Rajon Rondo. They need a more capable scorer. They need a better defensive player. They can sacrifice some passing, particularly if that scoring punch comes from pick and roll play where the reads become clearer as teams try to take away said scoring.
I’m not going to lie. The market for backup point guard is not robust. There’s Derrick Rose and then there’s….I don’t know who else. I’m going to make this clear up front. I don’t know if I want Rose on this team. Do I think he would help? Yes. I also read reports that he’s very happy in Detroit and not interested in being traded. I also remember that the Rose/LeBron pairing wasn’t such a natural fit when they were teammates in Cleveland. I also know that Rose shoots in the low 30’s from behind the arc.
I like Rose fine enough as a player. I just don’t know if the fit is as good as is being implied based on Rose’s ability to create his own shot. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a better option than Rondo. I just don’t know if I’d be willing to make a trade for Rose when I consider all the variables at play.
Regardless, the Lakers need to figure something out at point guard. The non-LeBron minutes have been bleeding points and against good teams, in the playoffs, those flaws will only be exacerbated. This really could spell doom in a playoff series. That’s not hyperbole.
2. Another wing who can shoot is vital for this team. I know Danny Green is playoff proven. I also know that KCP has had a wonderful year. I think both will be good players for the Lakers these playoffs. I also know both are up and down to the point that having another viable option in the mix is super important.
Every team would like more shooting, so any filling of this role won’t be cheap or easy. That said, when the playoffs come around and you need to space the floor for LeBron/AD, depending on Avery Bradley or Alex Caruso (as much as both help your defense) will be fraught with nervous moments. Could both come up big? Sure! I actually believe both are strong mentally and will not be afraid of the moment. That said, defenses are going to force them to hit shots. If they go in, the Lakers will look brilliant. If they don’t, it could spell a loss in a game. And, thus, a loss in a series.
If I were looking at names here, Bogdan Bogdanovic would be at the top of my list. He’ll be costly. Other, more attainable, names to consider are Wayne Ellington, Reggie Bullock, and Langston Galloway. None of these names are sexy. I get that. None of them might even carve out a real rotation spot, considering the Lakers current guard depth. But shooting depth is an issue and the Lakers would be wise to find something.
3. Size/Athleticism on the wing. I’m not going to lie, I could easily slide this up to number 2 and not blink an eye. Name a non-LeBron wing on the Lakers who is a really good athlete. KCP is a fine athlete, but not a good one. Kuzma? No. Danny Green? No. On down the list you can go and you just won’t find one. The same is true for a wing with good size. The Lakers just don’t have another guy.
This puts the onus on LeBron to not only be the team’s best playmaker, but a key defender as well. Sure, Anthony Davis could be put onto some of these guys and do well. We’ve seen him guard Giannis and Kawhi and hold his own. But, the more you put Davis on the wing, the less advantage you have in protecting the rim. And if you do that in lineups where AD is playing center, you’ve purposefully removed your only big defender away from the basket to fill a hole on the perimeter. I’m not an NBA coach, but that feels like a bad idea in a playoff series.
There are targets around the league who feel gettable. Robert Covington. Marcus Morris. Markief Morris. Marvin Williams. There’s more, too, I’m sure. All of those guys listed are combo forwards and all of them have some holes in their games. Some of them also cost a fair amount of money which means building a viable trade becomes complicated since the Lakers lack salary ballast to make deals for players who make $12 million or more a bit complicated.
Still, though, the Lakers are in a spot where they’ll need size on the wing to beat the best teams in the league. They can win without it, sure. But they’ll improve their chances a fair amount if they get another guy — even if they keep Kuzma.
Again, making a trade isn’t so easy if you’re the Lakers. Their best trade asset is Kyle Kuzma, who makes around $2 million a year. Trading him means aggregating salary with additional players just to make the salaries match. Further, there are the chemistry questions that must be considered in any deal, but particularly for a Lakers team that is as close-knit as this one is.
Add in that it really does take two teams to make a trade. Finding a viable partner is half the battle and it remains to be seen if the Lakers can do that before Thursday. That said, the holes on this roster are real. Shoring them up would be nice. What would even be nicer is if one player could fill multiple roles. For example, Marcus Morris is a big wing who could defend and knock down shots. Covington fits that bill too. Bogdanovic isn’t a point guard, but he could take on a lot of ball handling responsibilities and provide the additional shooting this team lacks.
Now, am I optimistic a trade happens? No, I’m not. I think the variables this team is dealing with and the hurdles to make a deal are too plentiful. But, that doesn’t make these issues go away.