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Lakers Mailbag: Trade deadline candidates, who will be the 3-point specialist?

The offseason is almost in full snooze mode but there’s still plenty to talk about!

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The onset of the NBA’s real summer is setting in, though Kyrie Irving asking for a trade off the Cleveland Cavaliers certainly livened things up.

The Los Angeles Lakers might be wrapping up the 2017 free agency period very soon. Their targets are locked onto finding a veteran backup point guard, and the domino that is Derrick Rose may be falling very soon.

It’s time for another round of Lakers questions and answers to start the week!

Feel free to shoot any Lakers questions to SSRmailbag@gmail.com and I’ll spend some time gathering them up week-to-week.

Depending on our record, whom do you see as the likeliest candidates to be traded at the deadline?

The player you can can almost guarantee the Lakers will be shopping at the trade deadline is Luol Deng, whose contract is a travesty explored in past mailbags already. I think there’s a possibility they take calls from contenders interested in the expiring contract of Brook Lopez as well.

The Lakers’ toughest decision going into the trade deadline may circle around Julius Randle, though. I’ve gone into the why already, but he’s going to be an expensive young piece to retain as a restricted free agent next summer.

Clearly the Lakers want to use their cap space to land superstars, but Randle’s going to get a massive offer sheet unless the Lakers work out a deal outright. If the team decides it’s willing to spend on Randle, the next logical step would have to be considering Larry Nance, Jr.’s future with the team.

There’s also Jordan Clarkson to weigh in this equation, who the Lakers reportedly surveyed the trade market for and made available for Paul George. His $12.5 million for the 2018-2019 season, and $13.4 million for 2019-2020, is a bit pricey for the player he is (and isn’t).

I expect the Lakers will look at tightening the screws on their roster even tighter once they get a closer look at how everything fits together heading into the trade deadline. They’ll have plenty of ways to approach it.

Can you create a Lakers contender without relying on max free agents focusing on role players that would excel in a Lonzo Ball inspired offense?

I suppose you can, but when you look at the landscape of the NBA, it really comes down to what you believe a “contender” is.

Without any max-level free agents, it’s hard to see the Lakers having the firepower to go up against teams like the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, who might be loaded with stars for the foreseeable future. This is pending on what Chris Paul does next summer, of course.

Building a contender without adding a star is hard to see considering every team is trying to find its way to land multiple All-Stars, the Lakers included. The development could come from within, mostly reliant on Lonzo and Brandon Ingram becoming stars in the next several years, but it certainly feels like at least one star will need to jump on board for the Lakers to become a serious threat.

It’s possible LA does it without making a big free agency splash, but history tells us it’s incredibly rare for a team with equal parts sans superstar(s) anchoring it to consistently contend.

Why don't the Lakers take a flyer on KJ McDaniels? Aaron Afflalo? Mike Dunleavy? Randy Foye? Most of them can shoot and fill out the bench.

I think the Lakers are completely focused on getting whomever they feel is the best backup point guard possible right now. The meetings they’ve taken since the signing of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — only two have been reported but it’s fair to say there could have been others that never hit radars — are with players who fill that role (Derrick Rose, Ian Clark).

The Lakers have been patient in free agency and aren’t trying to bite off more than they can chew at one time. They focused on trying to find the right player to sign with the large one-year contract they could offer, and are now examining which backup guard they can slot behind Lonzo to use the $4.3 million exception they have.

I think once that is solved — it could be soon with Rose taking a meeting in Cleveland with the Cavaliers on Monday — they’ll move onto guys of that caliber, who can fill those deep-bench veteran minutes.

When the Lakers drafted Kyle Kuzma most people thought it was a stretch, however the Lakers seemed genuinely excited.

Do you think they did so because they anticipated moving Randle, possibly for George, or did they just really feel Kuzma was too good to pass on?

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said the front office was doing “backflips” when they were able to draft Kuzma at No. 27, and at this point we have to believe they saw something in his game during workouts. We sure saw it in Las Vegas.

The Lakers reportedly made picks No. 27 and 28, and either Randle or Clarkson available to the Indiana Pacers in the days leading up to the draft. It never happened, and there was no indication from reports that the Lakers were even in discussions to land George once the smoke settled on draft night.

I think the meticulous process in which the front office brought in prospects deserves way more praise than it’s gotten, especially after seeing the results at summer league. They did it in the past with Nance, Jr. and Clarkson under the previous regime, and it certainly looks like that’s carried over.

It’s no coincidence decision makers like Ryan West and Jesse Buss, who are key in their scouting efforts, are still involved.

Who will lead the Lakers in three-point shots made and shooting percentage between Lopez, KCP and Lonzo?

Lonzo did many great things during summer league, but his shooting from deep was not one of them (42 attempts, 23.8%) . It looks like it’ll take time for Ball to be a consistent outside threat in the immediate, but that’s something that can improve over the course of the season.

In the meantime, I expect both Lopez and Kentavious to do the heavy lifting from deep. Lopez making it rain from deep last season (134 made threes, 34.6%) raised a lot of eyebrows, and he should be a great pick-and-pop partner for Ball. He’ll also be key as a trailer big in transition.

But I’m taking Caldwell-Pope in both of these categories. He connected on 153 made threes in two of his last three seasons, shot 35 percent from deep last season, and could look even better as Ball’s running mate in a free-wheeling offense.

KCP might be set for a big season on another contract year, and the Lakers will be better for it.

Thanks for checking out the SS&R mailbag! I answer 3-5 questions per week at a minimum, so get them in to SSRmailbag@gmail.com.