Let's face facts kids: this season is going nowhere. The Lakers are ten games out of playoff contention with their best player Kobe Bryant weeks--not days--away from rejoining the team. Nothing I'm writing is a surprise, of course, but it's a strange, stark reality to grab a hold of the fact that the Los Angeles Lakers are sellers at the deadline rather than buyers.
Whether or not you believe the Lakers should actively "tank" the season, there's no doubt that GM Mitch Kupchak and VP of Player Personnel Jim Buss will see their phones ringing off the hook. The Lakers have just three players under contract for next season, making any other talented man with an expiring contract on the roster a very palatable potential acquisition.
Just like in a winning season or even a mediocre one, there are reasons for the Lakers to keep some of their players, as well as reasons why other teams wouldn't want them. It's easy to yell out "Fire sale Mitch, fire sale!", but a much more difficult action to execute. Even if you believe the Lakers should clear house to make way for future assets--whether they be young players or draft selections--there are so many inherent difficulties to doing so.
Thus, let's take a look at just what type of market value each current Los Angeles Laker has, and what type of return, if any, that player could potentially fetch:
Much respect to Harris, who is doing a great job as a D-League call-up on a second 10-day contract, but there's a reason why he was playing for the D-Fenders up until January. There is no team that would give up anything of value for him.
Trade value: Zero
Steve Nash, Kendall Marshall, Wesley Johnson and Xavier Henry
In Nash's case, he may be the only player on this entire roster that actually has negative trade value. His age, injury history and almost $20MM left on his deal makes him nigh impossible to deal without giving up assets to the receiving organization.
For Marshall, Johnson and Henry, any team could have signed them for the minimum at some point over the last six months. The Lakers took fliers on all three, with the rewarding values ranging all over the board. Marshall has played the best, but still has the stink of two teams giving up on him early in his career. The same goes for Henry (currently injured) and Johnson, who are not only free agents after this year, but very flawed players who might not thrive given lesser roles than the Lakers have them in. Regardless, it feels like the Lakers might be interested in giving them a chance on next year's roster and certainly wouldn't send them away for the relative pittance they'd fetch on the trade market.
Trade value: Zero for Marshall, Johnson, and Henry, negative value for Nash
Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly
Both players are late second-round picks and quite frankly, not much more skilled than several players you could find in the D-League. They both have deals for next season and upside--moreso in Kelly's case--but with entirely replaceable skill sets. I couldn't imagine most teams giving up even a protected second-rounder for either player. Besides, the Lakers are looking to keep both guys next season to see how they develop on such cheap contracts.
Trade value: Perhaps a very protected second-round pick, but close to zero.
Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake
The shame of both Farmar and Blake was that they were playing extremely well this year and could be very useful rotation players for a playoff team. However, the problem here seems to be timing: they both were just cleared for basketball activities in practice and could be back as soon as next week. That would leave them just a handful of games to showcase their skills which is, in my opinion, too little time to re-establish value.
In Farmar's case, the nature of his hamstring injury and the fact that there were two of them would leave any GM skittish in acquiring him. Hammy tears often do not heal all the way and could hamper a player throughout a season. Blake too would have to return from his elbow injury no worse for wear in order to establish trade value, playing at the same high level of basketball before the tear.
Trade value: A second round pick, if that.
Hill has cooled down considerably from his November stretch in which he averaged 10 points and 9 rebounds and looked like he presented the Lakers with a real conundrum next summer contract-wise. He has thrown down a still very respectable 6 points and 6 rebounds a night this month in just 17 minutes per game, showing his trademark energy and defense on every possession.
However, on a playoff team he's likely the second big man off the bench. Hill has shown that he's a solid one-on-one defender, as well as a decent pick and roll defender but not much of a shot blocker or paint protector. His rebounding rates are still off the charts, but other than that he's at best a merely solid offensive option. He's young and on an expiring $3.5MM deal, so I suspect some team would pick him up to fortify their bench rotation going into the spring.
Trade value: A second round pick
The Kaveman won't give you a ton of interior defense or shot blocking. He won't give you a lot of toughness, athleticism and certainly doesn't have value as a long-term piece.
He is however an expiring $3 million dollar contract and a very good offensive center who can play back to the basket, as well as face up from 15 feet. He's a flawed player, for sure, but as he's shown in his sporadic playing time, can still produce given little to no notice. Kaman is a pro with a set of skills and personality that are easy to integrate into any rotation and locker room. I truly didn't expect to be championing for the Kaveman to play more minutes this year or to be praising his professionalism so much, but he's definitely a very solid trade chip for a Lakers team that he's not even registering minutes for.
Trade value: A second round pick
Nick Young and Jodie Meeks
More than any one player, Swaggy P probably has the greatest trade value of any player on the roster. There is no doubt that he's having a career year filling in for a plethora of missing guards on the Lakers, all while doing what he does the very best: score. It seems that Young's one very, very good skill is getting his own shot with next to no warning--a part of the game that several teams could be looking for in a reserve. We've seen it before with his short tenure on the Clippers, after all. If Young is given the responsibility of being a team's go-to "heat check guy" off the bench, he can single-handedly win playoff games.
The inherent difficulty in trading Swaggy is his expiring contract, which includes a player option for next season that he's likely to opt out of. However, if a team is looking for a cheap player whose skills will be easy to assimilate into a rotation, Young may be one of the best chips on the market. The fact that he now at least attempts on defense only fortifies this case.
Likewise, Meeks has proved this season to be very capable of being a guard off a playoff team's bench. He's not the same type of potent scorer that Young is, but he's a great long range shooter that now can drive and finish at the rack.
Trade value: Depending on the need, for Young a very protected first round pick (top-20 protected, dissolving to a second rounder in several seasons) or a second round pick. For Meeks, a second round pick.
This is such a tricky question that quite frankly, I don't have the bandwidth to answer in a such a short space. I couldn't say that Kobe's value is shot, even with so much money left on his deal and with currently him on the shelf. However, I couldn't say that any team would like to acquire him, despite the fact that people would still pay to see even a half-hearted version of the Black Mamba.
I find it hard to believe that IF the Lakers wanted to trade Kobe today--which they don't, and probably couldn't because of his no-trade clause--I would be surprised if they couldn't find a taker. Still, gauging his trade value is damn near impossible.
Trade value: First round pick(s) and/or young players. But then again, this is about as likely as LeBron James joining the Lakers in six month's time.
I've written about Gasol's trade value several times before, but to summarize: his age, defensive deficiencies and large contract make Pau a very difficult player to acquire in a two-team transaction. It would take a very special circumstance, like a huge non-guaranteed deal, to make any sort of deal even possible.
Gasol has certainly helped his value in recent weeks, averaging 20 points on .507% shooting, 12 rebounds, 4 assists and almost 2 blocks in 14 January games. If there was a team out there with another solid rim protector and a great perimeter defense, I could see them trading for Pau's excellent offensive capabilities.
Again, take a look at some of my previous posts for just how difficult it should be to deal Pau, but there is no doubt in my mind that he's still one of the league's best scoring big men. He has plenty of trade value left, kids. All it would take now is finding the right team...which won't be easy at all.
Trade value: Protected first round pick(s) and/or second round pick(s) and/or a young prospect. Most likely a combination of a second rounder and one of the other two.
As my colleague Ben Rosales has pointed out to me, the issue isn't so much what each player's trade value is independently. With guys like Kaman, Meeks and Young, any organization could essentially import an all-new set of reserves in one fell swoop. The Lakers you see right now aren't a very good team--but if they were all playing back-up roles behind stars, I bet you'd be very pleased with the results. The return for giving any other team that type of boost could be much more substantial in the way of unprotected picks or a legitimate blue chip prospect.
I'm not sure how interested the Lakers are in trading guys like Young and Meeks, but if the aborted Gasol-for-Bynum deal showed us anything, the team isn't going to let go of players just for salary relief. The team is still looking hard at the players on hand to see if they can contribute next season, and that more than anything may impact whether not they are dealt.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino