In the midst of a franchise-worst season last year, the Los Angeles Lakers had assets to deal. Jeremy Lin, Wayne Ellington, Jordan Hill and Ed Davis were all decent pieces, as well as Steve Nash's $10 million dollar expiring contract. However, the trade deadline came and went, and one of the NBA's very worst squads unbelievably made zero moves. The rebuilding, it seemed, wouldn't be bolstered that year.
This year, moreso than in years past, the Lakers seem ready to deal. With young prospects like D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Anthony Brown, the team looks ready to trade their set of able-bodied veterans, such as Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams, Brandon Bass and on occasion, Nick Young. However, they're also set to send away their youngsters if a pact for a superstar were to come their way.
As the trade deadline approaches, will the Lakers make a deal to stock their cupboard even further with assets? Looking back on the past two seasons, deals have been few and far between in-season. The only Laker that's been dealt during the year since 2013 has been Steve Blake, who was sent to the Golden State Warriors for MarShon Brooks and Kent Bazemore. Unfortunately for the Lakers, all that deal did was show the Atlanta Hawks that Bazemore could indeed play given the opportunity, which precipitated a two-year deal that's now looked upon as a bargain.
That all being said, it seems that the atmosphere around the league is ripe for a trade. The Lakers are one of the few teams in the NBA that not only has players other organizations would want, but are also well out of playoff contention enough for them to deal.
Need a guard with scoring punch that's willing to come off the bench? Lou Williams is your man. Need an offensive-minded big man who's not afraid to scrap in the paint? Brandon Bass, raise your hand, please. Need a backup center that's going to give you some stout defense without complaint? Let's just admit that's what Roy Hibbert is. Do you need Nick Young? No? Well, the Lakers will give him to you anyway.
But what's their trade value? Who on the Lakers, even the young players, would fetch the most in a trade? Who's likely to get dealt? The scenarios, personnel needs, contracts, cap space and asset stash are never quite the same. However, for the purposes of this exercise, we'll try to match up comparable situations as best as we can.
Let's go player by player and decide who has the most trade value on this Lakers squad.
Unlikely to be traded
The Lakers aren't likely to trade any of these players -- in fact, I'd be downright shocked if they swung a deal involving any of the following guys. However, in the case that the Sacramento Kings suddenly about face and decide to deal DeMarcus Cousins or the Hawks want to turn away Horford before he can leave in free agency, let's just see how much value each player has.
The 2015 second-rounder hasn't shown much in his limited NBA experience thus far, but seeing as his tool kit screams "3 & D player", I'd be shocked if the Lakers gave up on him so early. It'd take at least a first-round pick for the organization to part with him at this point in his career. That's unlikely.
The former Mizzou Tiger is really difficult to assign value to, despite his age and production in just his second year. It's not because he's not playing well -- after all, he's putting up comparable numbers to Lou Williams for just a fraction of the price.
As a second-round pick, Clarkson's contract expires after this season, though he'll be just a restricted free agent, with his current team being able to match any offer given to him. However, like Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin before him, Clarkson could be offered a mammoth deal by another team, which would force the Lakers to pony up big bucks in order to keep him.
There aren't a whole lot of comparable players, just based on his age, experience and impending free agency. In the lieu of actual past experiences, I'd say that the guard could probably fetch the Lakers a protected-first at this point.
Larry Nance Jr.
Coming from the basketball factory known as the University of Wyoming, Nance has emerged despite his pedigree from the Big Sky Conference and being the 27th-overall pick. He's been a pleasant surprise for a Lakers team hurting for an athletic big man, putting up very solid production for an otherwise horrible squad.
Again, I don't suspect that anyone in the front office is looking to deal him based on his contract and youth, but he'd be worth a first-rounder at this point, similar to Adreian Payne with the MinnesotaTimberwolves last season.
Julius Randle/D'Angelo Russell
Even after a pair of very up and down rookie seasons, Randle and Russell still have that new car smell on them. Just 19 and 20, respectively, the two former lottery picks are still laden with a ton of potential. If the Lakers were to put them on the block, like the Sixers did with Michael Carter-Williams last season, they'd each fetch at least one first-round pick, if not more. More than likely, at least one would have to be included in a deal for a superstar, accompanied by Nance, Clarkson or Brown.
However, I'd be absolutely stunned if the Lakers decided to part with either, especially with the prospect of a world without Kobe Bryant looming in the immediate future.
Even at this stage in his career, Kobe is virtually priceless specifically to the Lakers organization. The team's entire 2015-2016 marketing campaign is directed toward Bryant, and even though all the tickets have already been sold, the gate is completely tied to his presence. From a public relations standpoint, the team could never, ever part with him, as well as the fact that Kobe has an ironclad no-trade clause and will not consent to being moved. In fact, I'd almost encourage it happening just to see the tirade the Mamba would unleash upon the digital world.
With his injury situation, inconsistent play and $25 million dollar salary, even in spite of the dollars his retirement tour is generating, Kobe's trade value isn't very high. It almost doesn't matter, because there's no team in the league, even for a team that's 9-41, that value Kobe more than the Lakers do.
On the block
Robert Sacre/Marcelo Huertas/Tarik Black/Ryan Kelly
All due respect to the four of these guys, but I'm not even sure that besides Black any of them would even fetch a waiver claim. None of them play consistent minutes for the Lakers -- the worst team in the Western Conference and arguably the NBA. Why would any organization trade anything of value for these four? That is, unless the receiving team was in desperate need of the best towel-waver in the league, the worst man-bun in the Western Conference or the sweetest Brazilian unintentional comedy stylings in the league.
Again, I believe only Tarik Black would be worthy of a waiver claim from another team, but even then, he's not actually fetching anything of value.
Metta World Peace
I still can't get over this statement: if your team needed some solid veteran leadership, Metta World Peace could be a marginally valuable trade chip. Wow. Never in my wildest dreams as few as seven years ago could I have fathomed that this would be true.
MWP isn't a contributor on the court -- that much is obvious. However, with only a veteran's minimum salary, a young team might value his leadership (my God!), though I can't imagine any other squad giving up any asset of value that offsets what the Lakers would lose by not having Metta around.
2016 is a weird time, my friends.
Near career lows across the board? Check. Seemingly rotten attitude? Check. Not playing for one of the worst teams in the league? Check. Big money contract compared to production? Let's give that another check.
This is the current Swaggy P era, ladies and gentlemen. And this once-productive swingman is the equivalent of buying Broadcast.com stock ... in 2016. Young could not possibly be playing worse with unsteady minutes in a rotation with much higher priority players than him. This of course follows up on a '14-15 campaign where he played absolutely awful, registering essentially the same shooting splits he's putting up this season, albeit with more shots and more minutes.
With over $11 million due to him over the next two seasons after this (which includes a $5.6 player option he's sure to pick up at this pace), Young may actually cost the Lakers an asset to unload him. However, with so few sellers in this trade market, a still serviceable three-point percentage and a contract that doesn't look very expensive with the rising cap over the next two seasons, LA may be able to sell a team in need of a wing with long range chops.
A protected second-round pick is the absolute best-case scenario, but more than likely, it's going to be either another player with a bad contract or a combo of players that will immediately be waived by LA.
I've examined the former Hoya big man in recent weeks and it's not that he's still not a valuable NBA player -- it's simply that he's not going to be anything more than a backup center on a good team going forward. He's still a solid shot blocker and a paint deterrent merely with his size, but with a $15.5 million dollar price tag attached to him and unrestricted free agency incoming, it's going to be difficult for another franchise to piece together enough salary to get back a player that's probably going to be coming off the bench.
At this point, I doubt the Lakers would be able to be able to get anything more than a second-round pick for Hibbert. Last season, Brandan Wright, a much more athletic, versatile big got the Boston Celtics a protected future first-round pick. Considering Roy's limitations and poor season up to this point, I can't imagine any team throwing the Lakers anything close to what the C's got for Wright.
Brandon Bass isn't the most talented player on the block for the Lakers. That's most likely Lou Williams, or even Roy Hibbert, on a good night. However, when combined with a very affordable contract and his relatively hot play as of late (averaging eight points and five rebounds in just 21 minutes over the past month), it's easy to see why Bass would be attractive to a team looking for a solid big man off the bench.
A similar situation saw a suprisingly decent Phoenix Suns grabbing Marcus Morris from the Houston Rockets two seasons ago for a second-round pick. Bass isn't the same type of player as Morris, but he'll serve in the same type of role as the first or second big man off the bench. With Larry Nance Jr. out until after the All-Star break, hopefully the former LSU forward will be able to up his trade value a bit more.
With just two years and $14 million remaining on his deal after this season, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year has to have the most trade value of any guy on the block.
His numbers are largely the same as they were last year, laying down an average of 15/3/3 with almost identical shooting percentages. Lou is still the same offensive spark plug that he was in Toronto and even Atlanta, with some obvious deficiencies on the defensive end. For a team looking for some scoring punch from their guard unit off the bench, he's a perfect solution.
Last year, the hottest guard on the market was Arron Afflalo, who fetched Orlando a first-round pick from the Portland Trailblazers. Isaiah Thomas, a much more similar player to Williams, also got Phoenix the very same return. For a gifted, controllable player like Lou who's putting up solid production, I'd expect much of the same if the Lakers do indeed want to deal him.
The Lakers, unlike last season, absolutely have reason to deal their vets. Not only are they looking at a potential upcoming draft where their pick falls out of their possession, but they also finally have the young players that they'd like to devote more time to.
As much as I enjoy Lou Williams's play and think he could play a part on the team's next playoff-caliber team, if he's going to fetch a first-rounder in return, he's got to be on the block. Same goes for Brandon Bass and his hustle and Roy Hibbert and his ... height (? -- I'm struggling here!).
LA has plenty of value on their team and I expect them to fully explore the market for the first time in decades.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino