The Lakers may have won the 2020 NBA championship, but they will also surely look at any ways they can better this offseason. And given that the team will be mostly limited to exceptions in free agency after re-signing Anthony Davis, the main way for them to look to make meaningful upgrades will be on the trade market.
Lakers guard Danny Green is aware of both of those realities, and while he hasn’t been explicitly mentioned in any concrete trade rumors yet — which makes sense, considering teams can’t complete trades until the NBA and its players formally agree on a return plan — his status as the third-highest-paid Laker (due $15.4 million this year), expiring contract and somewhat underwhelming postseason all make his name coming up almost inevitable.
On the latest episode of his podcast, “Inside the Green Room,” Green’s co-host Harrison Sanford asked him about trade speculation involving him, and how he manages rumors about himself. Green took a relatively zen stance on it all:
“It’s not the first time I’ve heard it and it won’t be the last time. I remember the first time I heard a trade rumor I was in San Antonio, it might have been like my second or third year, and (it was like) ‘oh, they’re talking about trade rumors with you. You must have made it at this point!’ So it’s been almost 10 years now of me hearing about trade rumors. But you ignore the noise. If it happens, it happens. RP (Rob Pelinka) is a respectful guy, I’m sure he’ll give me a call.
“I understand the nature of the business. Everybody is going to get better, everybody is looking to make moves and get better, so we need to do that as well. Hopefully part of that process is still keeping me here.... I think the group that we have is special. And I think we can still make something special happen regardless of what moves are made outside of us.
“Obviously Golden State is going to be healthier, Brooklyn is going to be healthier, teams are going to make some moves, (but) I still believe that we have the talent with the pieces that we have now — it’s going to be hard to bring back 10 free agents, but if we bring back the majority, with the nucleus that we have now with the guys on the roster — I still believe we have a special team that can do something great.”
Green also said that with what looks to be a shorter turnaround than any of us imagined before the next season begins leading to shorter training camps and less time for new players to learn the Lakers’ system, there would be some benefit for the defending champions in continuity, something our own Sabreena Merchant also recently highlighted.
He wants to keep everyone together to defend their title:
“I think it’ll be better for us to keep the whole group together instead of bringing in new faces, but that’s above my pay grade. I don’t make those decisions. I trust RP, they make great moves, he should have been executive of the year once again. He did an amazing job this past summer, I’m sure he’ll do an amazing job this fall or winter figuring it out.”
Pelinka would be negligent to not look at what’s out there, but as Green suggests, he may have a hard time finding someone that is worth giving up multiple rotation players for. Everyone wants the Lakers to get another creator or a superior shooter, but one of the main ways the team won was with the waves of different defenders it could throw at opponents while keeping everyone communicating and on a string.
Trading Green, their first-round pick and, say, Kyle Kuzma (with maybe Quinn Cook’s partially guaranteed $3 million contract thrown in) would provide enough meaningful salary ballast to take back a really good player, but it would also take away two guys that — for all the hate they took from segments of this fanbase — were keys to the Lakers’ defense during this title run. Could whichever player they bring back address those weaknesses without creating a new one?
None of this is to say that the Lakers shouldn’t look at trades. Again, they have to. It’s just to point out that they should try to avoid creating a new hole in their roster while seeking to plug a current one, especially when this current mix just won them a championship. They should of course look to keep improving, but for all of Green’s faults, he was still a key part of this championship mix who knew and played his role to a T, even through injury.
The thirst for an offseason splash is understandable, but it may be more prudent to just run it back and see if Green’s shooting stroke can return while he continues to provide some of the best team defense in the league. The Lakers will look, but they don’t have to make a move, which is a good position to be in. We’ll see if they can use that leverage to find a meaningful upgrade, but if not, at least we already know this current team is pretty good.