The Los Angeles Lakers decided not to make a move at the NBA Trade Deadline on Thursday afternoon, but still appear well on their way to making quite possibly the best acquisition of any team in the league: Darren Collison.
Collison has long been thought to be choosing between the Lakers and Clippers in free agency, and common sense would point to Collison being more interested in the team that has a gaping hole at point guard on their roster.
Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer confirmed that’s exactly what the scuttlebutt around the league:
League sources have long believed that Darren Collison's preference is the Lakers over the Clippers. With Isaiah Thomas now going to the Clippers, it's reasonable to expect the Lakers to eventually sign Collison.— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) February 6, 2020
Marc Stein of the New York Times confirmed that report, and offered another name the Lakers might be interested in:
The Lakers are expected to give free agent guard JR Smith a post-trade deadline audition (perhaps as soon as next week) and remain favorites to sign Darren Collison if Collison elects to make a comeback to the NBA -- in addition to potential pickups on the buyout market— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) February 6, 2020
It should be pointed out that, according to David Aldridge of The Athletic, Isaiah Thomas will be bought out by the Clippers, but at this stage of his career, it made little sense that he would demand very many rotation minutes for them anyway.
Given that the Clips (along with the Lakers) have been linked to FA Darren Collison (still reportedly deciding) for weeks, and freed up multiple roster spots for potential buyouts post-deadline, this doesn’t come as a shock.— David Aldridge (@davidaldridgedc) February 6, 2020
Back when reports first surfaced that Collison wanted to return to the NBA after a brief retirement, the word was that he would wait until after the trade deadline to make a decision on where he would eventually play. Said date has now been pushed back another week to All-Star Weekend, but the reasoning probably remained the same: Collison seems to have wanted to make absolutely sure that whichever team he played with would not have competition at his position.
So, with the Clippers already employing Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams, that’s a pretty clogged rotation for Collison to try to carve out some minutes in.
Compare that to the Lakers’ point guard rotation of Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso and Avery Bradley playing out of position, and it was always pretty logical that Collison would prefer that opportunity.
Another important factor to keep in mind is how much more money the Lakers can offer than the Clippers. The Lakers have DeMarcus Cousin’s injury exemption to use, whereas the Clippers only have a prorated veteran’s minimum. The difference here isn’t hugely significant by usual NBA standards (right around $1 million — as confirmed by Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report), but these things do matter — especially to a player who passed on the opportunity Collison did this summer.
So, by standing pat at the deadline for the first time in Rob Pelinka’s tenure with the Lakers, they could essentially add a starting-caliber point guard without giving up anything beyond whoever they choose to waive to open a roster spot. Seeing as an alternative was trading away Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, or somehow Danny Green, that’s a much more feasible route to make work.
We now return to the waiting game on Collison, though. If it goes better than the last time a coveted free agent chose between these two teams, then the Lakers would stand to make as important an addition as any team will following the trade deadline.
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