The Los Angeles Lakers have a shooting problem. Mainly, that they don’t have any reliable shooters. As things stand right now, the team’s best 3-point shooter, just based on percentage, is Rajon Rondo (39 percent) followed by Lance Stephenson (38 percent).
In 2019, your best three-point shooters simply cannot be Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson.
With the February 7 trade deadline fast approaching, it would appear addressing this need is the front office’s top priority, according to Bill Oram of The Athletic:
A team source said the Lakers will pursue any 3-point shooter on an expiring deal, a group expected to include former Laker Wayne Ellington, Orlando’s Terrence Ross, Memphis’ Garrett Temple and Trevor Ariza, who many believe could be on the move again before the deadline if Washington continues to falter in the East.
Of the names listed above, Ellington stands out because of his time previously with the team. The problem is: Because the Eastern Conference is so bad this year, his Miami Heat currently reside in the eighth seed of the playoffs. Not too far behind them are Ross’ Magic and Ariza’s Wizards, the latter of whom have played better since John Wall suffered a season-ending foot injury. It’s going to take some convincing to get a team either in the playoffs or just barely out of them to be a seller at the trade deadline.
Oram also reported that there is one more name on that list, but that a deal for him would be more complicated than any of the above players:
Another possible target is Orlando center Nikola Vucevic, but with Vucevic expected to be named an All-Star in the East, his value would be significantly higher.
It’s worth pointing out that Vucevic has absolutely eviscerated the Lakers this season, averaging 33.5 points in the meetings between Orlando and the L.A. His performances in those games isn’t the deciding factor given the All-Star-caliber year he’s having, but playing like that in front of Magic Johnson certainly can’t hurt your chances of him wanting to acquire you, either.
Ellington would probably cost an expiring contract (probably Stephenson) and either a young guy or a second-rounder. Because Ross is making more than Ellington, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will likely have to be included in the deal to match salaries (plus either a young guy or a pick). Ariza’s prices will probably be similar to Ellington’s and Ross’, but Temple might be had for a little less given the lack of name recognition compared to the others in this group.
Vucevic’s price is a lot more complicated, as Oram points out. He likely costs the Lakers multiple assets beyond the contracts to make a deal work. Also, acquiring him means the Lakers would likely have to make a decision on their glut of similarly-skilled bigs already on the roster. There likely won’t be enough playing time in the rotation for all of Vucevic, Ivica Zubac, JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler. So if Vucevic is acquired, look for one of those guys to either be included in the deal or made available in another trade.
Again, though, it’s worth considering that Caldwell-Pope has a non-trade clause because of the type of contract he signed last summer, significantly complicating his value and the types of deals he can be included in. That’s one of several factors I touched on earlier this week in this piece about all the complications the Lakers are going to deal with as they try to add to their roster. That hasn’t changed. What has changed, however, has been how desperate they might be to make a deal happen nonetheless.
The Lakers are slipping down the standings. LeBron James’ return date remains ambiguous. Plus, the guys who were supposed to spread the floor this year (Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Josh Hart) have been mostly disappointing in that regard.
It’s going to be an interesting deadline period for everyone involved but especially for the Lakers. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka don’t want to be the first front office to fail to get LeBron to the postseason since the 2004-05 season. That would be an almost irreparable blow to not only their reputations as executives, but to the organization as a whole.
If the Lakers continue to slide down the standings, they might might be forced to rethink their priorities extending beyond this season. At the very least, they might have to become a little more flexible in their hard-lined stances. The roster has a legitimate flaw in its makeup that you simply cannot have in 2019. It’s up to Johnson and Pelinka to correct their mistakes and go get some shooters.