The Los Angeles Lakers stayed in the background while the NBA trade deadline went off over the final hour leading into the official cut-off. Despite having trade-bait worthy expiring players like Jordan Hill, Ed Davis or perhaps Jeremy Lin, along with the Houston Rockets' 2015 first-round pick, the Lakers course of action was to stand pat.
This keeps the Lakers on course as a bottom-five team, but was that the best move? Is it disappointing they weren't able to find any sort of asset for the future? Let's discuss the trade deadline silence, shall we?
The Lakers standing pat at the deadline was an acceptable move. From the sound of the various pre-deadline reports, the assets that the Lakers were willing to move did not hold a tremendous amount of value around the league. Jordan Hill was too expensive and too complicated to move. Carlos Boozer is untradeable by league rules. Jeremy Lin is untradeable because of his sub-par play and complicated contract.
It takes two teams to make a trade, and if the reports of the Lakers being unwilling to part with Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle (Good!) were true, then it was hard to find trade partners with needs for the Lakers "assets" that had assets of their own to put together a trade. The most important thing was not acquiring any players to jeopardize their tanking efforts. With that done, moving anyone else was just gravy.
So the Lakers wanted to avoid any shakeups to their current direction. That's sensible, considering they're on track to keep their top-five protected pick and have plenty of financial flexibility going forward. It hurts to watch some of the potential talent this summer taken off the board, but it doesn't change the big picture for Los Angeles. Get Julius Randle and Kobe Bryant back, draft a top player, and head into free agency with cap space and something resembling a team starting to take shape.
It's unfortunate they couldn't swing a deal with Jordan Hill, once again, but the pieces must not have made sense for Mitch Kupchak and the direction the team is headed. Hill's two-year contract with a team option was clearly trade bait material, but for the second deadline in a row, the Lakers will end the season with him on board.
I'm more glad they didn't commit assets and future finances to a player like Dragic than upset they did nothing. They kept their hands clean and eyes ahead instead of shuffling to shuffle. Let's see if they work out any buyouts or try to bring in any more prospects through the D-league, now.
I'm disappointed the Lakers couldn't swing a deal for some future assets, but considering the caliber of players that moved during this deadline, it's hard to see what the team could have done. There's no way a Laker veteran would've fetched any value when Reggie Jackson, Goran Dragic, Brandon Knight, and Arron Afflalo, among others, were available. It's good to see the team didn't mortgage the future for any big names that would have little impact on our presently crappy roster.
The downside of this deadline is that Dragic looks to be off the board this summer after moving to Miami. Also, now that the Sixers own the Lakers' 2015 pick, the two Philly-LA games this season promise to feature some unbearably bad basketball. After showing some friskiness before the All-Star break, both New York and Philadelphia got worse, so the race for the worst record in the league continues.
That the Lakers ultimately stood pat is disappointing but the status quo isn't altogether a bad thing. The Lakers are still on a good trajectory towards keeping their pick, which is far, far more important than any marginal assets they could have squeezed out at the deadline. In addition, they didn't trade for someone like Goran Dragic, who would have severely complicated their tanking efforts. Jeremy Lin likely had no market and Ed Davis didn't have the necessary salary heft to procure assets on his lonesome.
As for Jordan Hill, the Lakers are now in an interesting situation with him. With Dragic presumably off the table since Miami is apparently willing to offer him the full five year max, there is less of a need to preserve space for the full 30% max (unless you think the Lakers are in the conversation for Marc Gasol or DeAndre Jordan; in short: no, they won't be) so exercising Hill's option to keep him as a trade piece this summer is a conceivable notion.
We still need a moment to parse out the NBA's revamped landscape to see what will be available this summer but this shouldn't be the end of their asset acquisition endeavors.
I'm actually kind of surprised. The Lakers have historically swung for the fences in these types of situations and even structured a lot of their free agent signings this past off-season to be trade friendly. Given the precarious position of our top-5 protected lottery pick, the only real type of trade I would endorse is for future assets, not trades that make us better this year. As Blake and Ben highlighted recently, there was a very real possibility of paying for someone who would make the Lakers just good enough to lose their first-round pick in 2015.
At the end of the day, this wasn't a market that was willing to pay a lot for Jordan Hill / Jeremy Lin and I'm glad they stood pat. Teams were paying first-round picks to shed salary or acquire blue chip talent, not for solid rotation players like the Lakers could have offered. Maybe there was an opportunity to slightly upgrade somewhere, but most of the deals we saw today were in a different realm than the Lakers could play. LA didn't have the picks to offer, salary cap space to rent, or talent that would have given them a real return. Better to add another lottery pick, make some smart signings this off-season, and slowly build momentum for the future.