Take a deep breath... wait for it... ahhhh... the smell of fresh trades in the air. With the December 15th restrictions being lifted on newly signed free agents from this past off-season, SB Nation NBA decided it would be the perfect time to roll out another one of our theme days. This time? Breaking down the position our franchises are in the trade market. Be sure to check out the other teams around the league to see if anyone has a certain 7 foot tall Spaniard who recently returned to action on their wish list. You never know. In the meantime, here's a thorough breakdown from two of our own, The Great Mambino and Actuarially Sound. Enjoy!
Is your team a buyer, seller or both?
The Great Mambino
Not to be "that contrarian blogger", but for the time being, the Lakers aren't any of those. With three head coaches in a stretch of just over 25 games, L.A. has gone through enough change where it's simply a necessity to see how a fully functional team will react. Steve Nash has long been called the key to a surprisingly stagnant Lakers offense, and with his return just a week away it's difficult to call the team a buyer or a seller. It could be that Nash settles down the team's parts, makes everyone better, and serves as the sweet Mighty Putty that puts everything together. Or maybe he is the final piece that transforms the Lakers into a true run-and-gun machine, leaving guys like Pau Gasol as antiquated parts to a system that no longer fits his skill set. Right now, it's just incredibly hard to say if the Lakers are buyers or sellers.
With the return of Steve Nash apparently on the horizon, the Lakers aren’t in a position where they need to address a weak spot in the rotation. They arguably go two deep at every position with a respectable role player. The only reason for the Lakers to pursue any sort of trade is if the current pieces don’t fit, and if that is the case then I would look for the Lakers to move the one player that would be both the cause of the problems and capable of bringing back talent in deal: Pau Gasol.
If the Lakers are indeed buyers the need would be based on injury concerns. Steve Blake has been out for nearly a month with a torn abdominal muscle and could be months away from returning. Key big man back-up Jordan Hill has been struggling with a herniated disc in his back all season, but is day-to-day.
Again, depending on how Steve Nash changes everyone's role on the team, perhaps Chris Duhon or second-year man Darius Morris would look much better as a 10 to 15 minute reserve point guard rather than a 30+ minute a night starter. Also, how will Duhon and Morris respond to playing with better talent, as a returning Gasol bumps the other players down the depth chart and the starters play more minutes with the back-ups? Even still, another ball-handling guard has to be one of the most glaring holes on the Lakers' roster.
If the need to move the big Spaniard were to come to fruition, the Lakers would be both buyers and sellers in a trade. Los Angeles would basically be looking for a more athletic and mobile power forward that would best fit the Mike D’Antoni offense. Any trade the Lakers do make will need to follow one additional rule; it can’t compromise the cap space the Lakers plan to use in 2014.
Jose Calderon comes to mind first as a rumored Lakers trade target for years (not only for his skill, but his friendship with countryman Pau Gasol). However, his $10 million dollar salary cap number and his candidate for a late-season buy-out make trading for him an unnecessarily risky proposition. Other than that, isn't this also a question of who the Lakers are willing to give up? The team has very few assets aside from Gasol, so the NBA'er in play would have to be someone that could be had for a second round draft pick, $3 million, and a young player like Devin Ebanks or even Darius Morris. Assuming that the Lakers aren't offering up Gasol (which is apparently the case for now, or at least until he plays with Steve Nash), their trade partner would have to have a player that doesn't figure into future plans and/or would like some salary cap relief and most likely is out of playoff contention.
Minnesota's Luke Ridnour ($4 million), Houston's Toney Douglas ($2 million) and Detroit's Will Bynum ($3.5 million) are some choices that would resemble upgrades for LA. Overall, there's just not a lot out there for the Lakers. However, if Gasol is in play, then this question completely changes.
I've detailed the players in the trade scenarios below, but for the sake of putting them in a list, the players I've chosen as potential trade buys, by team, are as follows:
The Great Mambino
If the Lakers are sellers at all, it'll be Pau Gasol. I heavily detailed several two team trade scenarios earlier this year, and most of those suggestions still stand.
On the selling side, in addition to offering the best player in the league when it comes to playing both frontline positions, the Lakers do have a few other assets that could draw some interest. Jodie Meeks looks like a solid shooting guard capable of shooting the three at 40%. His favorable contract, $1.5M both this season and next with the latter being a team option, could be desired by a team looking to maintain cap space and flexibility. Chris Duhon has stepped up recently and there could be a few teams interested in a back-up point guard shooting over 40% from deep. His contract is only a partially guaranteed next year for $1.5M so he too could provide a team with flexibility.
Three Trades by Actuarially Sound
Lakers trade Pau Gasol and Jodie Meeks to Orlando for Hedo Turkoglu and J.J. Redick
Reddick is on an expiring deal and the Magic are actively entertaining offers for the sharp shooting guard. Turkoglu is a player Orlando would like to move if they can find a taker. With this deal Orlando gets back a solid replacement for Reddick in Meeks, and parlays Turkoglu into Gasol. While Gasol most likely wouldn’t be part of their long term rebuilding plans, he would certainly fetch a better haul than Turkoglu in a subsequent deal.
The Lakers would be taking a downgrade in pure talent but would be hoping the better fit would make up for it. Reddick is a better player than Meeks as he both are sharp shooters but Reddick has shown competency putting the ball on the floor and creating opportunities for others that Meeks hasn’t. Turkoglu would be an interesting fit for the Lakers as he has played with Howard before and would fill the Boris Diaw type of role for the Lakers. He plays well as a ball handler in the pick and roll and can stretch the floor at the power forward spot better than any other Laker.
Lakers trade Pau Gasol and Antawn Jamison to Minnesota for Andre Kirilenko, Derrick Williams, Chase Budinger, and a Draft Pick
Minnesota has expressed a desire to pair Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio with Pau Gasol. This deal does just that for the Timberwolves. The Timberwolves also have looked to move Derrick Williams who has three years left on his deal. This deal addresses both of the Timberwolves desires.
The Lakers would address the lack of athleticism at the forward positions with this deal. Kirilenko is an athletic and long combo forward who likes to run and is a very capable passer and defender. Williams could be a very good player simply in need of a change of scenery. Budinger is a good athletic wing that can score off screens or cutting to the basket. His contract worth less than $1M makes him a good value role player. The Lakers could ask for a draft pick from Minnesota to help bolster the team for the future. If the Lakers want to run under D’Antoni, this group of forwards could certainly do that.
(My preferred trade)
Utah is the key to the deal. They have a future front court of Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. With Millsap and Jefferson both on expiring deals, the Jazz are looking to move one or both of them to bolster their back-court. In this deal the Jazz move both but get back Gasol who is capable of playing both front line positions which gives the Jazz a very solid three man rotation. Gasol’s deal expires right as Kanter’s extension will kick in so the timing works for the Jazz (Favors extension would be the following season). The Jazz get Ramon Sessions to pair with Mo Williams in the backcourt. It just so happens that Williams is also on an expiring, so it gives them a point guard to continue with in Sessions.
The Bobcats are team that is building for the future. They have an abundance of talent in the back-court but no scoring presence inside. In this deal they acquire one of the best low post scorers in the league in Jefferson. His expiring deal also gives Charlotte some flexibility if they prefer the cap space this summer over Jefferson. They move Gordon, who is owed $13.2M next season for a much more salary cap friendly Jodie Meeks. Given the rebuilding effort, it is hard to see Gordon being part of a long term plan for Charlotte given he is about to be on the wrong side of 30 years old.
This deal brings back the best power forward of the three trades in Paul Millsap. Millsap is a hard nose defender with a good spot-up game. Historically he hasn’t been a three point shooter but this season he has shown improved range. Ben Gordon provides the Lakers with a capable scoring punch off the bench that is capable of creating his own shot. Gordon’s contract, while large, fits into the 2014 timeline perfectly. Having Jamison and Gordon both coming off the bench should pose a pretty strong scoring punch for what has been an anemic bench historically.
So, what are your thoughts? Which of these trades would you push the button on if you were Mitch Kupchak? Would you stand pat? Let us discuss the glory that is trading. Fire up the ESPN Trade Machine and see what you can come up here!