Magic Johnson was named president of basketball operations just before the 2017 NBA trade deadline, and ever since then, the Los Angeles Lakers have made a move at every single deadline since. Even when Johnson only had less than 24 hours to make a deal, he made a deal.
Expect that trend to continue this season, especially if the Lakers are still outside of the playoff picture by the time Feb. 7 rolls around.
But what kind of trades are they targeting this year? Bill Oram of The Athletic reports that there are two different types of deals that Lakers are looking for as the trade deadline approaches:
• The trade that shores up the current roster and increases the Lakers’ chances of saving face and making the playoffs.
• A blockbuster that lands the Lakers a second superstar that makes them a true threat in the Western Conference this season and beyond.
We’ve already detailed the names of shooters Oram reported the Lakers would want to help them make the playoffs right now, but it sounds like the Lakers would rather do the second type of deal anyway. It just may not be possible:
The second is obviously the priority, even if it means parting with some combination of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma. Ideally, the Lakers would be able to land a second star in free agency and keep the core intact. However, with Anthony Davis unlikely to become available by the deadline, that particular dilemma may be a moot point this season.
In other words, the Lakers would like to add someone that can help them compete for a championship this season, but unless that player is comparable to Davis, they’re going to wait for the real thing, and they might have to wait until next summer to make their move.
Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Davis doesn’t plan on requesting a trade and that he will do a “full evaluation” of his career with the New Orleans Pelicans this summer. Combine that information with the fact that Davis is injured, it’s unclear if the Pelicans will or won’t make the playoffs and the fact that the value of the Lakers’ assets are arguably at an all-time low given their inconsistent play and injuries, and a trade this season seems highly unlikely.
However, this report does suggest that the front office doesn’t feel like the young core has improved enough to deem any of them untouchable in a trade for Davis. That was likely always going to be the case, but this is the first time we have a good sense of how Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka value their own young players.
Unfortunately, because the Lakers are probably going to wait until next summer to make a blockbuster trade, they should have a relatively uneventful trade deadline this season. While they will almost surely make a move before the deadline, any trade they make will have to be for players on expiring contracts, which limits their pool of players by a lot (as well as the impact any such deal might make).
Is that the smart move? Absolutely. It is the fun one? No.
Things could always change between now and the trade deadline, but expect very little fireworks when the time comes, barring an unexpected trade request from Davis.