It's no secret that the Los Angeles Lakers are in a race to the bottom this year. Lakers fans far and wide are merely watching the games to make sure their favorite team secures that top-5 pick, though the smarter ones are simply looking at the box score the next morning. God bless you beautiful masochists--it's what keeps Silver Screen & Roll going in these dark times.
However, looking at the team through a long-view lens, LA has to be planning for the future in other ways besides this summer's draft and free agency period. The Lakers hold so few building blocks for the future in their current state, with Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and a precious few others even potentially being on the next purple and gold playoff team. With the season very long lost, the front office should be doing everything in its power to accrue future assets, whether it be in the form of young players, draft picks or trade exceptions.
That being said, who on the 2014-2015 Los Angeles Lakers is there to trade? And what type of trade value does he have?
Echoing Bill Simmons' annual NBA Trade Value column, I've consulted several of the other fine, fine writers here at Silver Screen & Roll and put together the 2014-2015 Los Angeles Lakers Trade Deadline Value Rankings (trademark pending). A few notes:
Contract value and length matter. While Kobe Bryant may have more value with one arm than a fully appendaged Ronnie Price, Bean's $25M contract for this year and prorated $23M deal this season seriously hurt his chances of being traded.
Age matters. Sure, Jeremy Lin is a far superior point guard to Jordan Clarkson at the current moment, but Clarkson's value lies in the future. Who does that make a more valuable asset?
Value is then determined by how many teams would be willing to trade for a player and then how much they'd give up to acquire him.
Value is to be gauged for a player right now. Not for this off-season, but rather in deference to the upcoming trade deadline in a week.
Sadly, as an Amnesty Waiver pick-up, Carlos Boozer is prohibited from being traded this season. The Lakers can only release him if they wanted him off the roster, which of course, precludes him from being a part of a trade value column. However, had he been eligible for a mid-season deal, I would have ranked him in between Jordan Clarkson and Steve Nash. Boozer is having a superficially solid season, averaging a tidy 12.7 ppg and 7 rpg mostly coming off the bench. Despite his poor shooting from the free throw line and laughably terrible defense, I'm fairly confident quite a few teams would be vying for his services as an offensive big man off the bench. Instead, he will remain offensive in almost every way to Lakers fans across the globe.
So let's get this going, starting from 14 and going all the way to number 1:
#14 - Ronnie Price
Ronnie is a really nice guy, a scrappy veteran and a hard nosed defensive player. But he's also a training camp invitee and a 31-year-old journeyman point guard who can't shoot. No one is trading for this guy. At all.
#13 - Wesley Johnson
I don't want to ride on the strangely hip Wes Johnson hate train....oh wait, I've been piloting this overpoweringly disappointing rig for two years now.
I'd like to think that Wes is an option for wing depth on a playoff team, but if this season and last have shown us anything, he's merely a replacement level guy who wouldn't sniff any postseason minutes. The shine has completely worn off and there's no team that's going to take him thinking he's a player who's going to grow into the potential his draft position suggested. Johnson, like Price, is allegedly a really nice guy and a solid teammate, but that's not going to help him climb these rankings.
(Photo credit USA TODAY Sports)
#12 - Kobe Bryant
Undoubtedly the toughest player to gauge value. On one hand, Kobe showed that if healthy (and perhaps if he played for a coach that could properly appreciate how minutes affect a 36-year-old's body) the Black Mamba could still be a potent offensive force for any team. Just imagine Bean playing 25 to 30 minutes for a team like Memphis or in either Bradley Beal or Paul Pierce's spot in Washington? Deadly. The value on the court is definitely still there, and that is before we even mention all the money a team stands to make through merchandising and TV appearances next season.
That all being said...
A $23M contract isn't easy to trade, especially for a guy who isn't going to play a minute the rest of the season. More to the point, a $25M price tag on a 37-year-old who hasn't played most of the previous two years? Not a tantalizing prospect. There are simply too many hoops for a team to go through--from ownership to management to personnel--to consider a trade for Kobe Bryant at this trade deadline. Mix this in with a no-trade clause and KB24 has virtually no trade value at this point in time.
#11- Robert Sacre
We're in year three of the Robert Sacre Era and I'm not sure that he's gotten demonstrably better from the first moment we saw him with that curly head of hair to the big, bald bum we see now. He's merely a guy to take up space, which at this spot in the trade value for one of the worst teams in the league keeps him from being last.
Tarik Black poster time
Tarik Black may have limited trade value but the Lakers got tremendous value on another big man prospect who's shown some good things on both sides of the floor. This has quietly been one of the best things the Lakers have done, even if the frontcourt rotation is overcrowded. Two thumbs up, Jim and Mitch. Extra shout to Stan Van Gundy, and to Kevin Love for standing on for that one.- Drew
#10- Tarik Black
This is less an indictment on Black's skills than his pedigree. The market for a waived, undrafted big man isn't exactly robust. Tarik has shown some skill and toughness in a very small 14 game sample size, but it's telling that as the Rockets were in the drawn out process of signing Josh Smith, they couldn't find any takers for the former Jayhawk. Again, I think Black has plenty of potential as a bench big, but in his current role and lack of experience, I don't see him being very valuable via trade, even while being paid the minimum.
#9- Ryan Kelly
I've written gobs of praise supporting Ryan Kelly. Some would say too much. But our spindly Dukie hasn't impressed much this year, despite being played out of position by Coach Scott. Still, he's a stretch power forward with some ball handling skills and is signed for just $1.6M this year and $1.7M next season. He's completely worth a flyer for a team looking to build with him and maybe could even contribute with a coach that could properly utilize him. I doubt that many potential trade partners would want to bank on him merely being misused than being simply not ready for regular NBA duty right now, a notion that clearly affects his market. Going forward, I have no doubt that it could increase, but for now, I'm not sure that his value is very high.
#8: Jeremy Lin
As a starter, the steward of Linsanity is just, well, poopy.
As a back-up point guard? Not so bad. He's a league average shooter but has become an increasingly unreliable and uncreative ballhandler. Still, he draws fouls and isn't horrible defensively, all of which are the hallmarks of a good back-up guard.
That being said, Lin's contract is an impediment for several reasons. Though his contract is expiring, his cap hit is around $8M this year and the structure of his deal is complicated. Due to the "poison pill" nature of his pact, Lin is actually due $15M this year, which prorated to around 30 remaining games of the season is just about $5.5M.
How many teams have the salaries to match with Lin's deal and are willing to pay that much money for the remainder of the season? How many teams are willing to deal with his inconsistencies in the most important run of the season?
Jeremy Lin has some skills, there's no doubt about that. But he hasn't marketed himself well with such up-and-down play this season, especially on a Lakers team that badly needs him to be a better playmaker for himself and others. His contract is the real impediment towards increasing his value.
I could definitely see a team dealing for him for a pick, but it'd have to be a perfect fit in a confluence of a perfect storm.
#7 - Nick Young
Swaggy P is an offense unto himself, a beloved teammate and a great media interview with an infectious personality. He's also shooting less than 40% for the year and is owed virtually $16M on three more years after this season. It'd take a desperate team to take on that type of money, especially with Young playing so poorly as of late, but there are no shortage of playoff contenders that are hurting for an offensive spark plug off of the bench.
Nick's deal definitely inhibits his trade value, but so does Jeremy Lin. In my mind, they're nearly interchangeable at this spot in the rankings.
#6 - Wayne Ellington
Don't get me wrong--Wayne Ellington's game electrifies me as much as his vibrant personality does. Ellington isn't a great defender, nor does he have much upside as a a six-year journeyman guard. However, he's shooting 38% from the three-point line on a relatively quick trigger and plays his ass off on every possession.
But most importantly? He's being paid just over $1M this season. Combine that with a willing and functional shooting stroke from long? Wayne just made himself a little value on the trade market. I can't see a team paying anything more than a protected second rounder for him, but it could happen.
#5 - Steve Nash
Nash has been so dynamic in his age 40 season, it was almost IMPOSSIBLE to keep him out of the top spot. Though the Lakers are struggling, the two-time MVP is still making his bones with unbelievable dishes and his dead eye shot from long. What an end to a great career.
Wait? What happened? Seriously? Was that in the news?
Our long lost former foe is simply up this high in value as an expiring $10M contract, the bulk of which will be paid by insurance. With an expiring deal of this size, a team could easily deal for Nash in exchange for a less savory, longer term deal to the Lakers, with some assets most in tow. I'm not sure if LA will deal him before the deadline, but he's certainly a name to watch in the next week or so.
#4 - Jordan Clarkson
Let's not get it twisted here - Jordan Clarkson is a rookie and plays like it. He doesn't always make the greatest decisions with the ball, is sometimes quite reckless on the move and it seems like "5 for 14" should be his new nickname. But he's also a rookie point guard who is as extremely raw as he is quick and athletic. He's got a lot of promise going forward, enough where a rebuilding team would pay up for his services going forward. I highly doubt the Lakers would trade him, but he's certainly not untouchable.
#3 - Jordan Hill
Hill is having a career year, establishing highs with 12.3 ppg, 8 rpg and a block per game to boot. His offensive rebounding has become well renowned through the league, as the former Wildcat can be a game-changing big man on the glass. Hill has also developed a nice little mid-range shot, one in which he's recently added a little lift so that we can accurately call it a jumper. In short, he's a nice little player, capable of taking minutes on any playoff team's bench.
Jordan is currently shelved with a hip strain that may keep him out until the trade deadline, a development that's no doubt hurt his value slightly. However, he's on what is essentially an expiring $9M deal (with a $9M team option for next year, if so they should choose to punch it), making him a very tasty piece on the trade market. The Lakers have to be looking to deal Hill over anyone else, though a $9M cap hit make him slightly more difficult to deal than say, our #2 guy.
#2 - Ed Davis
For the purposes of this column, I like to think of Davis as a Jordan Hill-lite. He doesn't score quite as efficiently, nor is his offensive rebounding rate off the charts and he doesn't have quite the same touch from mid-range. But...his contract is but a pittance in comparison. In many ways, you're getting what you pay for.
However, in others, it's so much more. Davis is playing this season for less than a million, giving the team far more production than he's being paid for. He's a genuine third or fourth big man on a playoff contender who can block shots, play defense and finish plays on the run. He's got a ton of value on the trade market because he can be acquired without expanding payroll and of course, the production he's capable of.
At this point, it looks like the Lakers are more apt to extend him rather than deal him, but aside from our top guy in these rankings, there's no one more valuable on the trade market right now.
(Photo credit USA TODAY Sports)
#1 - Julius Randle
Is this a cop-out? Maybe. But that doesn't make it any less true.
Even while still recovering from a broken leg, there's no Laker more valuable than Randle (that fact, more than anything else, may be the saddest truth of this entire wretched season). The first round pick is still a teenage blue chipper whose injury hasn't taken the shine off of what could still be a fantastically bright future.
The Lakers aren't dealing him except for another high lottery pick or in a package for a superstar, both of which are testament to how tremendously high his value still is.
These rankings are merely valid for the next week leading up to the trade deadline. With just 29 games to go, players' value are gauged by a team's need and cap figures, both of which serve as difficult hurdles to overcome within such a short time window. For the players still under contract for next season and beyond, trade values will certainly change and these rankings will be jumbled once again. However, for the time being, it looks like Wayne Ellington, Steve Nash, Jordan Hill or Ed Davis are the most liable to depart the team's company soon, with Jeremy Lin and Nick Young as slightly longer shots.
The Lakers badly need to deal for assets in the next week. With the franchise as far away from playoff contention as they've ever been in their history, it's never been more incumbent on the LA front office to make a few trades in February.
Who will go? Who will stay? Who do you think has the most value? Let the discussion begin.