What better way to kick off the NBA trade deadline than a four-team, 12-player deal? Unfortunately, the Los Angeles Lakers weren’t part of that massive trade, but they could be involved in a smaller one as the week progresses.
Before then, though, it’s important to understand the financial restraints they have going into trades, and the value that each player may have in any prospective deal, although the latter is admittedly a bit subjective. Below is a breakdown of how much trade value each player on the Lakers has going into the trade deadline, but instead of doing a 1-15 ranking, we separated them into tiers.
These guys probably aren’t getting traded
Last summer, the Lakers signed a few players to team-friendly contracts that would be helpful in a trade this week. Unfortunately, those players can’t be traded because of the nature of their contracts.
Three players — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo — can’t be traded without their consent because they signed a one-year deal with a player option, meaning that if they were traded, they would lose their bird rights when they hit free agency and lose the opportunity of cashing in on a bigger deal.
In layman’s terms, they have an implicit no-trade clause.
Truth be told, though, there’s only one player in that group that the Lakers would benefit from trading, and that’s Rondo. Caldwell-Pope has established himself as one of the most reliable 3-point shooters on the team and McGee is having another career year in Los Angeles, shooting a career-high 65.4% from the field. Rondo, on the other hand, has struggled to be an above replacement level player this season, and the second unit has paid the price for it. As a result of that, he also probably wouldn’t be that easy to trade, anyway, and almost certainly would not net the Lakers anything good in a deal.
It’s unlikely that the Lakers will cut Rondo because of his ties to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but that’s the only other way they can get out of his contract this season.
There are only two players on the Lakers that should be considered untouchable, and if it isn’t obvious, their names are LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Sorry, Alex Caruso.
The James-Davis duo has lived up to the hype through the 41 games they’ve played together. On the season, James and Davis are averaging a combined 51.6 points, 16.8 rebounds and 14 assists per game, with James contributing 10.7 assists per game. Additionally, the two-man lineup of James and Davis has posted a net rating of +10.8 in the 1,028 minutes they’ve played together.
They’re really, really good, and the list of players that would be worth trading them for is small. So, unless the Milwaukee Bucks coming knocking on the door with Giannis Antetokounmpo, expect these two to be safe at the trade deadline. Even then, James and Davis can just recruit him in 2021.
This may be a borderline hot take, but Dwight Howard should be considered untouchable too. It’s going to be incredibly hard to find someone that offers the production he does on such a small contract.
It would take a lot
As disappointing as Kyle Kuzma has been this season, he’s shown just enough to still be considered an asset. In other words, the Lakers aren’t going to just give him away. If he’s not on the team past the trade deadline, it’s because the player they acquired is someone they’re confident can be in their closing lineup in a playoff series.
The same can be said of Danny Green, who’s shooting below his career average from behind the arc (37.2%, down from 40.2%), but his defense and experience in the postseason make him a valuable player for the Lakers. Plus, even at 37.2% from behind the arc, he’s one of the better 3-pointer shooters on the team.
A report from Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday suggested that Green might be in trade talks with the Knicks, but the fact that the leak seemed to be from the Knicks’ side at least indicates that it’s unknown how much or little interest the Lakers would have in moving Green.
The last inclusion in this group is Alex Caruso, and that may come as a surprise to people. While the gap in production between Caruso and Avery Bradley is small, it definitely exists, especially when it comes to their respective fits with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The three-man lineup of Caruso, James and Davis has the highest net rating (+19.8) of any lineup featuring James and Davis. The three-man combo of Bradley, James and Davis has also been effective, posting a +13.8 net rating in about 300 more minutes, but it hasn’t been as impactful as Caruso’s lineup has been. There’s a few reasons for that, but it ultimately boils down to Caruso’s combination of size, speed and basketball IQ. Bradley tries really hard on the defensive end, and he’s been an ace from mid-range this season, but Caruso’s fit with the starters has been more natural because he’s such a low-usage player.
The biggest reason for Bradley’s omission from this list, though, is his $4.7 million salary, which is the biggest salary ballast the Lakers have outside of the aforementioned names. If the Lakers are going to make a meaningful trade at the deadline, it has to start with Bradley.
That being said, Bradley isn’t the player teams are reportedly calling about, so Caruso may end up being the one that’s moved.
Rookie Talen Horton-Tucker probably deserves an honorable mention here, too. The kid has some serious potential.
On the block
The Lakers really don’t have anyone else on the team that would hurt them to include in a trade. Quinn Cook and Jared Dudley have shown a ton of heart this season, but they’re not irreplaceable. Meanwhile, Troy Daniels has been fine in spot minutes, but he’s too far down the rotation for his absence to make a difference one way or the other when the postseason rolls around.
That’s not to say that the intangibles these guys bring don’t have any value — or that it will be easy to make a trade on a human level amidst the last week or so the Lakers have had — but from a strictly basketball standpoint, there’s probably better fits for the Lakers out there, and they attach a second-round pick to any one of them, maybe they could get a meaningful upgrade.
The NBA trade deadline is tomorrow, Feb. 6 at 12:00 p.m. PST.