With Dec. 15 approaching -- the first day most players who signed new contracts over the summer can be traded -- the possibility of moving some of the Los Angeles Lakers' role players for future assets inches closer to reality. As Los Angeles heads toward another lost season, the team will certainly explore the idea of shipping off some excess parts they've accumulated with an eye on the future.
Free agent signings Lou Williams and Brandon Bass haven't made the proper impact on the second unit and don't fit into the Lakers rotation cleanly. Nick Young has failed to match his 2013 campaign after landing a contract extension, has been taking DNP-CD's, and appears to be in Byron Scott's dog house.
Nothing indicates the Lakers will be be trading any of their young assets, but these three certainly could be on the block very soon and can bring some value back to help Los Angeles speed up its rebuild. Or, in the case of Young, clear additional cap space through the 2017-2018 season.
Williams is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, and after struggling early in the season, has bounced back a bit. His efficiency has always been a problem when he's not drawing fouls, but Williams is especially struggling from the floor this year, shooting 37 percent from the field. The guard is also struggling from behind the arc, hitting only 30 percent of his three-point attempts. As the primary ball-handler on the second unit, Williams hasn't been able to spread the ball while scoring at a clip the Lakers want. Williams is on a relatively cheap contract as the salary cap shoots up, costing the Lakers $7 million per year, . A contending team that struggles to score on the second unit, such as Memphis or Atlanta, could be a good fit for Williams.
The Hawks have a logjam in the frontcourt and could part with one of their backup bigs to bring Williams back. The Grizzlies struggle to put the ball in the hoop and may be willing to send a an asset to the Lakers and a role player just to make the salaries match. Either way, the Lakers would avoid rotation issues in the backcourt and get something in return for a player who doesn't fit the team's long-term plans. Rookie D'Angelo Russell may finally see more minutes in the fourth quarter with Williams gone, and his development is the most important thing for LA this season. Trading Williams would certainly impact the Lakers offensively, but it might be necessary given his lack of fit in the rotation and Byron Scott mishandling his skill set.
Young is in a similar situation as Williams. After averaging 17.9 points per game off the bench in 2013, the mercurial small forward has seen his numbers decline across the board. His multi-year contract was a head scratcher at the time considering the Lakers were trying to avoid tying up their future flexibility, but it is a cheap deal at $5 million per year. Young is still shooting the three well this year at 39.8 percent and could certainly boost a second unit on a contending team. Like Williams, Young has efficiency problems and his attitude toward team basketball is definitely a question mark. Young isn't a great defender and is a huge negative on nights when his effort wanes while his shot is off the mark.
The Lakers were reportedly looking for a trade partner to take Young off their hands during the offseason but came up empty.
A team like the Miami Heat that shoots 31 percent from three and is making a run at Cleveland in the East could use Young off the bench. The Heat don't have future picks to deal because of the Dragic trade, but they could probably spare a young role player or a second-round draft pick. Other possible destinations that seem to make sense include Memphis and the Clippers. The Grizzlies would be interested in Young for the same reasons as listed above for Williams. The Clippers cannot rely solely on Jamal Crawford for bench scoring anymore. Both Western Conference contenders have protected picks at their disposal, which are something the Lakers badly need. Of the players on the current Lakers roster, Young may bring the most value back.
Bass is an interesting case. His contract is such a bargain at $3 million that it almost makes more sense to keep him and hope he bounces back next year. However, Bass doesn't fit in the Lakers' rotation because he isn't quick enough to move with today's power forwards and isn't big enough to stack up against true bigs, yet somehow has spent nearly all of his time as the Lakers' backup center behind Roy Hibbert. His midrange shot has disappeared and he isn't much of a passer at his position. While his contract doesn't justify a trade, his lack of fit does. Bass is still grabbing 4.4 rebounds in 16.4 minutes of action.
A contending team like Washington that struggles to rebound on the second unit might be a good destination for Bass. His contract doesn't interfere with Washington's designs on luring Kevin Durant. Milwaukee is another team that struggles to rebound, which is surprising because each of their starters is at least 6'3. The Bucks have plenty of salary cap space to take on Bass.
If the Lakers are looking to truly rebuild the entire roster, then there could be several major moves at the deadline. Los Angeles hasn't show any signs of move its prized trio of Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and D'Angelo Russell, but everyone else could take a stroll around the trade block. Williams, Young and Bass are obvious candidates here because they do not fit in the current Lakers rotation and/or are not part of the team's long-term plans. The Lakers don't control their own first-round draft picks until 2018 and need to find other ways to overhaul the team. Trading one or more of Williams, Young and Bass will re-stock the relatively bare cupboard and give the Lakers front office more flexibility and tools to bring the Lakers back to contention.