The Los Angeles Lakers have good depth at every position this season with the exception of one position: Small forward.
Outside of LeBron James, the Lakers don’t have a true small forward on their roster, and it’s hurt them this season, particularly in both of their matchups with the LA Clippers, who have a three-headed monster on the wing with Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Maurice Harkless.
It’s for that reason the Lakers have reportedly made calls about getting help on the wing before the Feb. 6 trade deadline, and the latest name they’ve been linked to is Minnesota Timberwolves forward Robert Covington. According to Ben Cohen of the Wall Street Journal, the Lakers are one of five teams that have inquired about the 29-year-old (emphasis mine):
A rapidly escalating arms race for this star role player is pitting the league’s elite against each other. As much as the Minnesota Timberwolves want to keep him, they’re a longshot to make the playoffs, and this might be the time to maximize their return on Covington. He has no shortage of suitors. The Lakers, Clippers, Mavericks, Rockets and 76ers are among the teams that have expressed some Covington interest, according to people familiar with the matter. Before they can battle for a championship, they have to bid against each other.
Covington — a career role player — might not be a household name, but he would fill a few needs for the Lakers upon arrival.
For starters, Covington, 6’7, would give the Lakers another big player to throw on the likes of George and Leonard with a 7’2 wingspan. He’s not just big, though — he can also capably defend both forward positions. On the season, Covington is ranked sixth in total deflections (149) and fourth in steals (72).
Covington is also a career 35.9% 3-point shooter. His percentages admittedly haven’t been great this season, but his career numbers suggest that they will stabilize, and playing with Anthony Davis and LeBron James could even put him over the top.
Arguably the most appealing thing about Covington, though, is his contract. Covington is owed just $36 million through 2021, including $12.9 million in his final year. While that number is much higher than Kyle Kuzma’s rookie contract overall, the final year of Covington’s contract is expected be a better value in 2021, when Kuzma will be eligible for an extension. Additionally, Covington’s salary in 2021 will be just $2 million more than Kuzma’s $10.6 cap hold.
Suffice to say, there’s a lot to like about Covington, which is why so many teams are interested in acquiring him. It’s also why a trade between the Lakers and the Timberwolves is unlikely. Five games separate the Timberwolves from the No. 8 seed Memphis Grizzlies, and their trade with the Atlanta Hawks for Allen Crabbe suggests that they’re in asset-acquiring mode. Outside of Kuzma, the Lakers don’t have a ton of assets to offer.
In other words, unless the Timberwolves see Kuzma as a natural fit alongside Karl-Anthony Towns, the Lakers will likely be low on the list of teams Minnesota considers trading him to.