The Los Angeles Lakers find themselves at 36-9 heading into Saturday’s big matchup against the Sixers in Philadelphia.
After starting the season with a 24-3 mark, LeBron James and Co. have fallen back to earth a bit recently. The squad is just 12-6 in its past 18 outings.
Having seen both James and Anthony Davis deal with injuries this season, there’s a sense that the Lakers are a tad vulnerable. What does this mean, exactly? Los Angeles must go out there and make a bold deal ahead of next month’s NBA trade deadline.
The need: Point guard has become a major issue for the Lakers. Both depth and real impact has to be questioned here.
- Reports have surfaced that Los Angeles is not happy with the production it has gotten from veteran point guard Rajon Rondo. In fact, general manager Rob Pelinka and Co. have kicked the tires on recently unretired free agent Darren Collison.
- Rondo is averaging just 5.4 assists per game, which would represent his lowest output since his rookie season back in 2006-07.
- Neither Quinn Cook nor Alex Caruso has proven capable of taking over the starting job from Rondo.
On a prayer and a wing: There’s a reason Los Angeles chased after Kawhi Leonard in free agency. The team needs a real three-and-d wing to team up with LeBron and AD.
- Danny Green is perfectly fine for the role he’s provided in Los Angeles. The NBA champion is a solid defender who is knocking down the three at a 39% clip this season.
- With that said, the Lakers could potentially be in a position to add a more complete player to the mix at small forward. The ability to move Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s contract adds another layer to this.
- At this point, Los Angeles would be better off with Green playing the role of super sub. It’s something the Lakers envisioned Andre Iguodala bringing to the table before it became clear that the Memphis Grizzlies were not buying him out.
The assets: Surprisingly, Los Angeles has pieces to move that could help facilitate a noteworthy trade ahead of the deadline.
- Most figured the Lakers were out of options in terms of adding to their frontloaded core group. That’s no longer the case.
- Now that Kyle Kuzma is on the trade block, the entire dynamic changes here. Remember, Los Angeles pushed back against moving him in the Anthony Davis trade with New Orleans this past summer.
- Kuzma is a budding star. Add in Caldwell-Pope’s expiring contract and a couple fillers, and the Lakers could get something done.
- Acquire Derrick Rose and Markieff Morris from the Pistons for Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
This trade makes sense in that it would give Los Angeles a top-end point guard to run its offense while adding a proven forward in Morris on the cheap. In return, the Pistons get a potential core piece in Kuzma to start anew with a rebuild.
- Acquire Elfrid Payton and Dennis Smith Jr. from the Knicks for Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Talen Horton-Tucker.
A move of this ilk wouldn’t be a game changer. It would also enable the Lakers to hang on to Kuzma. Averaging 8.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists this season, Payton would be an upgrade over Rondo. Smith Jr. would be nothing more than a wild card. In term of the Knicks, they get a couple youngsters in that of Caruso and Horton-Tucker while creating cap flexibility for the summer. That’s been the goal of the organization.
- Acquire Davis Bertans and Isaiah Thomas from the Wizards for Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Washington might not want to risk losing Bertans as a free agent this summer. It’s why the stretch four has been placed on the trade block ahead of February’s deadline. In acquiring Kuzma for him, Washington gets a future core piece. The Lakers add a big capable of knocking down the three and someone in Thomas who could be a wild card that might make it work after struggling with LeBron in Cleveland years back.
- Acquire Bogdan Bogdanovic from the Kings for Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
This is a possibility that has been bandied about at times over the past couple weeks. Sacramento is going to potentially want to get something for Bogdanovic before he hits restricted free agency. Adding Kuzma to the mix makes sense in that he excelled under Luke Walton with the Lakers last season. In turn, Los Angeles gets a veteran that’s averaging 14.5 points on 38% shooting from distance this season.
These are just a few examples of realistic trades the Lakers could potentially pull off ahead of the Feb. 6 deadline.
General manager Rob Pelinka must be active on all of these fronts. The window is now for this Los Angeles squad to come out of the Western Conference.
If the team were to sit on its hands over the next couple weeks, it would be a dramatic failure. It would also enable the likes of the Clippers, Nuggets, Jazz and Mavericks to narrow the gap between themselves and the Lakers.