Despite the Lakers’ lack of options and tradable assets, if the organization digs deep into its pockets and dreams big, they may find better trade options than if they look for a small, short-term fix.
For once with these Los Angeles Lakers, it’s management pushing for a move, while players and the coach are trying to assure everyone the team is fine as is. Focusing on their mantra of "patience," Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson seem quietly satisfied and unconcerned with comparing this team’s regular season against teams like the San Antonio Spurs.
"I’m still prepared in any series to take this team against anybody," Jackson proclaimed ("Options are limited when talking trades").
His confidence, Jackson says, is based on this team making three consecutive finals appearances in recent years, not based on the Lakers’ record against the best teams in the league.
|Lost to Heat
|Lost to Celtics
|Lost to Spurs
|Lost to Mavericks
|Lost to Spurs
Losses this season to Boston, San Antonio and the Miami Heat have worried both critics and Lakers’ management. First it was former Lakers’ GM and Laker legend Jerry West calling the Lakers "long in the tooth." Then, Lakers’ Owner Jerry Buss and now Lakers’ GM Mitch Kupchak bringing up the possibility of shaking things up. Magic Johnson has also weighed in saying a trade may bring ‘new life’ to the squad.
"I may have to look into a trade, but I’m not saying we have" ("Kupchak says trade is an option" LA Times).
That is cryptic-GM talk for ‘we want to make something happen without seeming so desperate that other teams will have the upper hand in a trade negotiation.’
In their quest to revamp their squad, the Lakers have one minor asset, the $5.48 million trade exception from the Sasha Vujacic deal.
So what are the best available options for the Lakers?
The free agent class is weak and dwindling. After the Miami Heat signed Erick Dampier, the only slightly interesting pickups would be guys like: Mikki Moore, Rafer Alston, Juan Dixon, and Flip Murray (who is 31). Jerry Stackhouse is another player who has been trying to make his way back onto an NBA roster. But, there is always former Lakers’ guard and gambling enthusiast Javaris Crittenton.
Considering underachieving teams who may be more willing to deal and players who may want to be moved, we come up with this list of moveable pieces in the NBA: Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, and Amir Johnson (Toronto Raptors); Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace (Charlotte Bobcats); JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche (Washington Wizards).
We’ve purposely excluded players like Rashard Lewis or Michael Redd, who come with a large contract, because the Lakers are already over the salary cap.
While I like to dream big, I think the Lakers have less of a chance of trading for New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul than they do of trading Ron Artest to get Trevor Ariza back.
I’ve heard Rip Hamilton’s name discussed. He might fit the system, but he also has a costly contract.
Without breaking the bank, I’ve come up with several viable trade options for the Lakers (using ESPN’s trade machine):
Somewhat Realistic Trades
|Lakers get||Stephen Jackson||Bobcats get||Ron Artest and Devin Ebanks|
|Lakers get||Gerald Wallace||Bobcats get||Ron Artest and Luke Walton|
There are too many problems with this option, though. First, Wallace and Jackson are aging defenders. Second, they are costly.
|Lakers get||Corey Brewer and Luke Ridnour||Timberwolves get||Ron Artest|
Brewer is one of the best defenders in the NBA this season. On the plus side, ESPN trade machine gives the Lakers 6 more wins after this trade. The downside is that Minnesota, as bad as they are, would almost certainly reject this deal.
|Lakers get||Tony Allen and O.J. Mayo||Grizzlies get||Ron Artest|
O.J. Mayo has not been satisfied this season, and his role has been somewhat reduced—as he now comes off the bench. Mayo might welcome this trade, but the common problem in Lakers’ land right now is that there are not enough shots to go around. So, L.A. might not be the best place for another scorer. Although the two teams may be willing to make these moves, I do not see the personnel fitting.
|Lakers get||Spencer Hawes and Jrue Holiday||76ers get||Steve Blake|
Although the trade works in terms of salary and it might improve the Lakers by +6 wins according to the trade machine, the 76ers would never go for this. They would be giving up 2 of their starters for 1 bench player. And, even though Blake makes more per year, Holiday may already be a better player. The Lakers want the speed of a player like point guard Holiday, but what can they offer a team to pry away that type of asset? I don’t think Blake would be enough even if they tried to trade him straight up for Holiday.
More Far-Fetched Trades
|Lakers get||Tyreke Evans||Kings get||Derek Fisher and Shannon Brown|
Okay, even the thought of Fisher in a Kings’ uniform makes me laugh (and cringe). And, obviously the Kings would laugh in the Lakers’ collective face if they offered up this deal. Like the Holiday deal, the numbers work because there are many good, young point guards still playing out their rookie contracts. But, again the deal fails because the Maloof Brothers are not stupid—quite the opposite. They’re not giving up their franchise player for a 36 year old guard and a backup. As if those were not enough reasons, this would be a trade between division "rivals," typically avoided in most sports. If you were the Lakers, though, wouldn’t you try almost anything to get Evans, who is also one of the best defenders at the guard position?
|Lakers get||Stephon Curry (GS), JaVale McGee, and Kirk Hinrich (WASH)||Warriors get||Andrew Bynum||Wizards get||Dan Gadzuric and Brandon Wright|
Maybe a modification on this deal would work. I could see the Lakers and Warriors swapping these players, as the Warriors have already admitted that they do find having Monta Ellis and Stephon Curry a bit redundant. Trade machine gives this a chance to increase the Lakers’ wins by 9. The problem is that the Wizards would be getting the short end of the stick, and they’re not giving up their best defender (McGee) for "peanuts."
|Lakers get||Kyle Lowry, Jordan Hill (HOU), Chris Anderson and J.R. Smith (DEN)||Rockets get||Derek Fisher||Nuggets get||Lamar Odom and Luke Walton|
This deal is probably skewed too much in the Lakers’ favor, admittedly. Hill is in this just to make the money work, but he’s a decent, young player. But, if you were the Lakers, this would give you a lot of pieces—faster point guard, strong defense in the paint, and a great streak shooter. Neither Houston, nor Denver makes this deal though.
|Lakers get||Roy Hibbert (IND), John Wall (WAS), Andre Blatche (WAS), and Brandon Rush (IND)||Pacers get||Derek Fisher||Wizards get||Andrew Bynum|
Clearly, this is a stretch as the Wizards will not give up their #1 pick and franchise point guard John Wall up for anything. Likewise, even with Indiana’s uncertainty, there is little uncertainty that they will try to keep Hibbert. Also, Indiana would not give up Hibbert for Fisher for reasons previously mentioned. The Lakers could unhinge Blatche and Rush fairly easily, but would they really want just those pieces? Doubtful.
Okay, here’s the kicker:
|Lakers get||Chris Anderson and Carmelo Anthony||Nuggets get||Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest|
I would love to see the Lakers pull off this deal. And, in the context of Anthony’s trade negotiations, the Nuggets could do much worse than to make this deal.
But, with all factors considered, the Lakers are in almost no position to make a move.
You almost have to throw out un-signed rookies and D-league players right from the beginning because of Phil Jackson. Yes, they may have the speed the Lakers need, but Jackson’s distrust of rookies is well documented. Frankly, most of us are still impressed that Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks are still on the Lakers’ roster, because even though they are skilled, they are skilled rookies.
Then, you factor in that the Lakers have the highest salary in the NBA. The field of free agents is very thin right now. The Lakers have virtually no tradable assets. And, no other team in the league really wants to ‘assist’ the back-to-back champions, who finally look vulnerable.
That leaves the Lakers with no options. Or does it? Here’s an option no one has mentioned:
Sounds crazy, but what about Allen Iverson? If there really are no other trade options, the Lakers could always do something crazy like add a former MVP with no ring. He’s recovering from a right calf injury; no surgery was required, but he’s still out for another 6-8 weeks. I’m not suggesting that Iverson is the best answer to what plagues the Lakers—maybe just the best available option.
With time running out to make a deal, we’ll soon see whether the Lakers are willing to pursue something mid-season, or whether they will wait until the off-season.
R.S. De France is a College and University instructor of English Composition living in Los Angeles. He has a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing. De France has played, coached, and officiated competitive high school basketball in California for many years. Recently, De France, his wife, and another colleague started an internationally read magazine at Shwibly.com.