“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” While Christmas is still more than a week away, Friday marked the unofficial start of the NBA trade season and the Los Angeles Lakers are expected to be bigger players this year than they have in years past, according to general manager Rob Pelinka.
“December 15, I think you’re going to see the trade market open up,” Pelinka told ESPN L.A.’s “Mason and Ireland.” “I think teams are going to be aggressive. I always say when there’s limited cap room, there’s more trades. When there’s tons of cap room, teams tend to be more free-agent focused. Since there’s limited cap room around the league, I think teams are going to be aggressive with trying to reshuffle.”
On Friday, many players that signed deals earlier this summer had their trade restrictions lifted. It’s no secret the Lakers are trying preserve their cap space for next summer when superstars like Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins and LeBron James hit the open market, but before they go chasing stars they need to address a few glaring holes on their current roster.
“When there’s needs on a team, I think you always have to try and address those,” Pelinka said. “You can do it in the draft, or free agency or trades. Magic and I are constantly looking at all three of those areas to try and make this team better.”
As a young team, the Lakers are going to have several flaws, but none stand out more than the Lakers’ abysmal three-point shooting. As is stands, the Lakers are the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA, shooting 32 percent from deep despite attempting 26.8 three-pointers per game.
While that’s subject to change as Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, two players that shot above 40 percent from three-point land in college, find their shots, it wouldn’t hurt for them to try and fix that problem this season.
Here are a few players the Lakers can target from here on to the deadine to aid their shooting woes.
2017-18 per game stats: 20.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks, 53.8 percent shooting
Teammate drama. Front office instability. A shooting guard passed his prime trying to co-exist with young players. Oh, the memories.
After trading away two-time All-Star Jimmy Butler for pennies on the dollar and buying out Dwyane Wade just a year after his homecoming, the Chicago Bulls are a mess.
The Bulls (8-20) hold the third-worst record in the NBA and will more than likely be headed to the draft lottery for the second time in five years, where they will get the chance to add another top-tier prospect to their young core which currently features Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Denzel Valentine and the No. 7 pick in the 2017 draft, Lauri Markkanen. For a team that lost five of their best players this summer, things could be a lot worse.
However, in order to properly start their complete overhaul, the Bulls will try and flip their servicable veterans for young players and/or picks leading up to the trade deadline, according to the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson:
According to one Eastern Conference executive and one Western Conference executive, the Bulls have made preliminary inquiries on Mirotic’s value, along with Robin Lopez’s. The Bulls, who are under the salary-cap floor, are seeking to add future assets in terms of draft picks without taking on long-term contracts.
Of the names mentioned in Johnson’s article, the Lakers should be most interested in Mirotic.
Though he doesn’t offer much on the defensive end, his ability to space the floor is something the Lakers could use in their front court. Currently, the only big that has respectable range from deep is Kyle Kuzma. In theory, Brook Lopez does too, but Lopez has clanked 22 of his last 30 attempts from behind the arc.
Adding Mirotic to the mix gives the Lakers more than one threat from three-point range when Kuzma is off the floor and could even make it easier for Luke Walton to move Kuzma back to the starting lineup. A front court off the bench with Julius Randle at center and Mirotic at power forward would be a ton of fun to watch.
Mirotic has a team option in the second year of his contract, so if the experiment doesn’t work out, the Lakers still have the room they need to sign a max-level free agent.
Possible trade: LAL get: Nikola Mirotic; CHI get: Larry Nance Jr. and Corey Brewer
2017-18 per game stats: 11.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 40.0 percent shooting
The Atlanta Hawks are the worst team in the NBA. That’s not a hyperbole, that’s a fact.
With just six wins through 29 games, the Hawks will almost definitely be heading to the draft lottery for the first time since 2007. Like the Bulls, the Hawks have lost more than a handful of key players, including Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Al Horford and most recently Paul Millsap.
Just three years ago, the Hawks took the Cleveland Cavaliers to six games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Life comes at you fast.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for the Hawks. They have an exciting young point guard in Dennis Schroder, who signed a four-year, $70 million extension last year, and they’ve also had some luck late in the draft with players like Taurean Prince and most recently John Collins.
Regardless, the Hawks are headed for a full-blown rebuild and are expected to be sellers at the deadline. One name the Lakers should keep tabs on is Marco Belinelli.
The 31-year-old guard might not fit the young Lakers’ timeline, but he offers the type of shooting the Lakers are desperately missing on the wings.
With the exception of Jordan Clarkson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, none of the Lakers’ wing players are shooting above 35 percent from three. In his 10-year NBA career, Belinelli has shot above 35 percent from behind the arc nine times. In fact, Belinelli’s 38.1 percent shooting from three on 5.1 attempts per game this season would be the highest three-point percentage on the team.
Marco would ideally take the playing time Brewer is getting, giving the Lakers a three-guard lineup off the bench with Clarkson, Josh Hart and Belinelli. Swoon.
Belinelli’s $6.6 million contract expires at the end of the season, so the Lakers shouldn’t have to give up much to get him. If the Lakers can get him for no more than a few fringe bench players and a second-round pick, it should be a no-brainer.
Possible trade: LAL get: Marco Belinelli; ATL get: Tyler Ennis, Corey Brewer and a future second-round pick (via DEN)
2017-18 per game stats: 20.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.4 steals, 0.6 blocks, 40.9 percent shooting
You didn’t actually think you were going to get through an article about Lakers trade proposals without seeing Paul George’s name, did you?
From now until the end of the season, George and his hometown Lakers will be linked to one another, and with good reason. According to Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports, rival executives still expect George to sign with the Lakers this upcoming summer.
Rival executives will argue that his value is depressed because of the alive-and-well rumor he is headed for the Lakers, knowing full well that the Thunder don’t want to lose a superstar for the second time in three summers after Kevin Durant. The lack of leverage, if nothing else, could compel the Thunder to see this through until the summertime.
Now why would rival executives think George is signing with the Lakers this summer?
It couldn’t be because he appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to talk about the prospect of joining the Lakers next summer, could it?
It can’t be because he specifically asked to be traded to the Lakers earlier this year before being traded to OKC out of pure pettiness, right?
No, of course not.
The Paul George experiment in Oklahoma City hasn’t gone to plan so far, as the Thunder (14-15) are holding onto their playoff hopes for dear life with the Utah Jazz (14-16) creeping up behind them for the No. 8 seed.
If the Thunder don’t want to lose a franchise player for nothing again, they should consider moving him before the trade deadline, preferably to the Lakers. Please. I beg of you.
Possible trade: LAL get Paul George and Kyle Singler; OKC get: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Larry Nance Jr., Corey Brewer and CHI’s 2019 second-round pick.
All stats courtesy of stats.nba.com unless otherwise noted.