With December 15th now in the rear-view mirror, the NBA’s confounding trade season is officially upon us. The date, a silent starting gun, marked the first day that players who were newly signed in the previous offseason were eligible to be traded without restrictions. Of those players, veteran wing Trevor Ariza had garnered the most interest around the league and was linked extensively to the Lakers leading up to this past Saturday.
The team was reportedly in talks with the Phoenix Suns about a possible three-team deal that would have sent out Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a third team, a point-guard and assets to Phoenix and Los Angeles netting the versatile wing according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Ultimately, the deal between all sides fell apart due to the Lakers being “unwilling” to include one of their young players in the trade, and Ariza was shipped to Washington soon after.
According to Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer, the Suns were in fact interested in one of the Lakers’ young core in the potential swap: Josh Hart:
The Suns were willing to dance with the Lakers, but only on their terms. After the first Ariza trade fell apart, the Lakers hopped back in by offering Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and a future second-round pick, league sources say.
The Suns demanded a young player instead of the pick. That player is believed to be Josh Hart. The Lakers obviously refused; Hart is 10 years younger and has been better than Ariza this season.
Parting with Hart — who has been one of the Lakers’ best young players and most seamless fits next to LeBron James on the court this season — would have been a severely short-sighted move, and thankfully was rebuffed by the Lakers.
As O’Connor also stated, Hart is ten years younger than Ariza, and is also on one of the most valuable, cost-controlled contracts on the Lakers. Hart’s annual earnings are potentially not set to surpass $4 million until the 2021-22 season (his qualifying offer) which is an extremely beneficial asset for a team looking to add more star power this summer.
In the same piece, O’Connor also circled back to his initial report, in which he stated the Philadelphia 76ers had “eyes” for Caldwell-Pope but that a deal between the two teams would likely be a “tough match” due to the Lakers’ unwillingness to take on future salary.
Philadelphia has not been the only team interested in acquiring Caldwell-Pope’s services, as Shams Charania of The Athletic reported the 25-year-old wing was on Houston’s radar and continues to have “multiple suitors” around the league. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne also listed the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder as teams with potential interest.
With the Lakers’ seeming willingness to part with Caldwell-Pope in an Ariza swap, it would not be a shock to see L.A. end up parting ways with the guard in a deal by the deadline given his reported value around the league and his money-matching cap number.
It is worth pointing out though that a potential move with Caldwell-Pope may be lateral at best if it’s simply for another rotational player.
Caldwell-Pope has had a noticeable uptick in his effectiveness recently, as seen in his numbers in the last five games, in which Caldwell-Pope is averaging 14.2 points on 51/45/77 shooting splits.
Although the trade deadline is still more than a month away, Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson seem eager and ready to improve the roster when an opportunity presents itself.
With the amount of wild deals that already have occurred in the NBA, it is safe to expect the Lakers to be a team that makes at least one more move in preparation for what at the moment looks to be a run at the postseason. It just also seems like they’re not in rush to do a deal just for the sake of doing it.
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