What the Los Angeles Lakers do at the trade deadline will help define what type of season this ultimately turns out to be. Do they stand pat, or seek upgrades that fit better around LeBron James and Anthony Davis? Do they even have the pieces to be able to get something done?
All those questions will be answered over the next month, and according to Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times, the Lakers are already seeking out the answers (emphasis mine):
The Lakers also are preparing for the trade deadline, which is Feb. 6 at noon PST, and monitoring the buyout market.
Activity often ramps up league-wide in advance of the trade deadline, but the Lakers are still in a fact-finding mode. A person familiar with the team’s plans said the Lakers, who have the best record in the Western Conference, don’t plan to make any dramatic moves, but would be interested in improving the “fringes” of their team if the right deal arises.
To that end, the Lakers are willing to listen to offers involving any of their players except LeBron James and Davis, the person said.
The Lakers not making James or Davis available is possibly the least shocking thing ever, but their openness to offers for anyone else is notable here. While this leak says they don’t plan to make any blockbuster changes, just simply doing something to improve their weaknesses at 3-point shooting, ball-handling and wing defense could make an outsized impact — even if the player brought in isn’t seen as some sort of star — just because this team is already so good that simply papering over one of their glaring flaws would make them nearly flawless.
With that mentality, it makes sense that we’re already hearing plenty of chatter about the Lakers’ most desirable non-LeBron, non-Davis trade asset, Kyle Kuzma, even if the Lakers are leaking that they want less leaks about that kind of stuff (again via Ganguli):
This year the Lakers would like to conduct their business more quietly, though reports already have surfaced that teams are calling about Kyle Kuzma. According to a person familiar with the conversation, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka initiated a call with Sacramento to gauge the Kings’ interest in Kuzma.
Putting aside how amusing it is that the Lakers are letting it be known that they want less leaks this year through an anonymous leak about how many leaks they’ve already had, the nugget here about Pelinka calling the Kings regarding Kuzma is an interesting one.
The first leak about those talks painted the Kings as willing to part with Bogdan Bogdanovic in a deal for Kuzma, which immediately led to anonymous pushback from the Kings. If Pelinka indeed initiated those talks, it might mean he’s more willing to part with Kuzma — the biggest draft steal of his tenure — than the picture of him that previous reports have painted.
The bottom line here, though, is that very little of this is surprising. The Lakers are so close to being an outright favorite for the title if they can just bump up a few of their weaknesses into being net neutral areas for them. That wouldn’t require a huge move, which is good, because the Lakers don’t have the assets to get a huge trade done.
Still, even with the best record in the Western Conference, the front office would be negligent to not see if players like Kuzma can bring them the piece that will put them over the top. As nice of a young prospect as the 24-year-old is, that’s what teams in title contention do, and as such it’s notable to see that the Lakers are approaching things that way.