If the Los Angeles Lakers are going to cut someone to make room for an addition in the buyout market, the most likely candidate to be let go has to be Troy Daniels.
DeMarcus Cousins is in all logical likelihood never going to play this year — no matter what the Lakers say — but the team has consistently maintained there is a chance he could return, and his closeness with key locker room figures like Anthony Davis, Rajon Rondo and LeBron James nearly ensures his safety.
The same goes for Quinn Cook, who — like Daniels — is a lightly used guard at the end of the bench, but is also a theoretical trade asset this summer (due to his two-year contract) who has been a key to the team’s chemistry now. Rondo — no matter how much some fans are sick of him — is also in all likelihood safe due to how much the organization and his teammates value his presence in the locker room.
That leaves Daniels, who has only played 446 minutes, the third-lowest total on the team among players with more than five total minutes. He sort of replicates some of the skills that Cook brings, but Cook has a bit more in his bag, already making Daniels somewhat expendable. And it’s been widely reported that the Lakers are canvassing the in-season free agency/buyout market, with Daniels being constantly mentioned as the most logical cut in blog posts like this one.
In a Q and A with Brandon Robinson of Heavy, Daniels admitted that such speculation has bothered him:
For sure. No question. I mean people might say that he’s not —– and yeah but everybody says it’s a business, and when they say it’s a business it really IS a business. I’ve been traded five times in my career in the past seven years so I’m scarred for life. So whatever happens. I just think whatever happens is going to happen and when it does happen, just stay strong stay true to yourself and continue to work if it happens.
While I’ll acknowledge that most fans likely don’t care about Troy Daniels’ feelings, and that the Lakers should not dictate their business decisions based on such whims, this is still why their public recruitment of Darren Collison — reportedly including a visit to the locker room — when they’d have to cut a player to make room for him was so strange.
The team has kept things a little tighter since Collison opted to remain retired, and many of the players they were linked to are now off the market. There is still a theoretical chance they end up signing someone like Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters or J.R. Smith, but the front office also might just decide to let the team with the best record in the Western Conference (41-12) roll for the rest of the season, especially given how good this group’s chemistry has been.
In the same interview, Daniels made the case for continuity:
Obviously we’ve been up and we’ve been down. That’s what teams do. You go up, you go down. You go up, you go down. But media and everybody speculating we need help with this, we need that… we have the perfect team to win a championship. Whatever the case may be. I think we can match up with the Clippers good, I think we can beat Milwaukee in seven, I honestly do if everybody’s playing to their type of basketball. We have a couple of the best players in the world.
The Lakers may test his theory, but if they don’t, it still will likely be Daniels who isn’t sticking around. As he acknowledges, talk like that is just part of the NBA business. No one (outside of the biggest stars) is ever really safe.
For as long as the Lakers don’t make any addition to their roster, expect speculation to continue over who they might add. No matter how much it bothers Daniels, or anyone else on the team.