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3 trades the Lakers can make before the deadline

The Lakers can improve at the trade deadline, despite their limited assets.

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Houston Rockets v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Trade season is officially upon us, with most of the league now eligible for trades as of Dec. 15. And in the midst of a disappointing season, the Los Angeles Lakers are expected to be buyers. However, given their lack of assets, making a move may prove to be difficult.

Outside of the big three of Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers really only have two tradable salaries: Talen Horton’s $9.5 million salary and Kendrick Nunn’s $5 million salary. Combined in a trade, they’d allow the Lakers to take back $18.2 million in salary. The Lakers also can’t trade a first-round pick until 2027 due to the Ted Stepien rule.

It’s not a lot to work with, but there are still a few moves they could make to even out their roster. Let’s take a look at the ones I jumbled together on the trade machine.

Trade No. 1

Oklahoma City Thunder vs Brooklyn Nets Set Number: X163865 TK1

LAL get: Kenrich Williams

OKC get: $2 million trade exception and a 2023 second-round pick (via CHI)

Williams isn’t the biggest name on the list, but he definitely has the potential to make the biggest impact and he, in my opinion, is the most realistic target for the Lakers.

Williams, in his second season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, has found his niche in the NBA as a 3-and-D player. He’s shot 37% from 3-point range on two attempts per game — a regression from the 44.4% he shot last season on 1.8 attempts — this season and the Thunder have posted a defensive rating of 103.5 with him on the floor, which would be the second-best defensive rating in the NBA. With him off of the floor, they’ve posted a defensive rating of 115.5, which would be the worst defensive rating in the NBA.

The Lakers lost a good chunk of the players that made up their defensive identity in the offseason, and it’s shown in the early part of the season. Unless there’s a buy-back clause in Alex Caruso’s contract with the Chicago Bulls, trading for Williams would be the best thing for the Lakers to do at the trade deadline. He’s really good. And, potentially importantly, the Thunder and Lakers have shown an ability to reach agreement on trades in the past.

Trade No. 2

Atlanta Hawks v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

LAL get: Delon Wright and Cam Reddish

ATL get: Talen Horton-Tucker and Kent Bazemore

I want to start off by saying I’m not nearly as high on Talen Horton-Tucker as many people seem to be. Do I think he’s going to be good? Yes, maybe even as soon as the Lakers trade him, but I also think he’s a really awkward fit with the core Los Angeles already has in place.

Right now, Horton-Tucker plays like an undersized, slashing forward whose best secondary skill is playmaking (though his interior defense is underrated). For the season, he’s shooting 61.8% from the restricted area and 25% from everywhere else. That, to me, doesn’t sound like someone who should be closing (or starting) games alongside Westbrook, James and Davis.

If you disagree, you may want to skip this trade, and maybe the next one too. If you agree, or are simply on the fence, then keep reading.

On Monday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that rival teams were calling the Atlanta Hawks about Reddish, with the asking price from the Hawks presumed to be a first-round pick. The Lakers can technically offer the Hawks their 2027 first-round pick, but it’s hard to imagine them parting ways with a pick that far in the future for someone who isn’t a star, or at least a highly-productive starter.

Horton-Tucker is similarly valuable asset to the Lakers, if for no other reason than they don’t have many, but trading him for a package centered around Reddish would be a win for both teams.

Reddish, the No. 10 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, is just as raw as Horton-Tucker is despite being a year older; the difference is that the things Reddish does well right now would arguably help the Lakers more than the current version of Horton-Tucker. Especially at the position he plays, small forward.

In his third season with the Hawks, Reddish is averaging 11.2 points per game on 40% shooting from the field and 36.7% from 3-point range. This is the first time Reddish has shown signs of having a reliable jump shot since high school, but it’s looked legit through 23 games.

Defensively, Reddish has shown just as many flashes as Horton-Tucker and, similar to the Lakers guard, he has the physical tools to one day be an special defender. He’s 6’8 with a massive 7’1 wingspan.

Wright would help the Lakers in his own right (pun intended), particularly on the defensive end where the Hawks have posted a -7.9 point differential with him on the floor, per Cleaning the Glass, but Reddish and the extra season of rookie salary would be the real get for Los Angeles.

Oh, and did I mention Reddish and Horton-Tucker share an agent and that agent happens to be Rich Paul of Klutch Sports? That seems notable, considering the well-documented close ties between the Lakers and that agency.

Trade No. 3

Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers - Game One Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

LAL get: TJ Warren

IND get: Talen Horton-Tucker and DeAndre Jordan

Everyone wants Jerami Grant or Myles Turner. I want Jerami Grant or Myles Turner. But the odds of the Pacers or Pistons trading either of them for a package of Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, salary filler and a 2027 first-round pick are extremely slim, especially when you consider what other teams can offer. And that’s fine.

The Lakers made their big play in 2019 and they won a championship because of it. They also made a splash when they traded for Westbrook in the offseason. Now, any big move they make will likely have to come with some sort of risk, and trading for Warren would certainly fit that bill.

Warren, the Michael Jordan of the NBA Bubble, has not played a single minute of basketball this season because of a stress fracture he suffered in his left foot in January. Warren’s latest foot scans suggest he’s close to making his return, but there’s no guarantee that he’s the same player he was during the 2019-20 season, which, to be clear, was a really, really good player.

Through 67 games in the 2019-20 season, Warren averaged 19.8 points per game on 53.6% shooting from the field and 40.3% shooting from behind the arc. It’s by far the best season of his career to date, but his previous two seasons with the Phoenix Suns hinted that a breakout was coming.

Again, we don’t know if he’ll be that player when he comes back from his injury, or when he’ll come back from his injury for that matter, but if the Lakers are going to get a player of that caliber, it’s going to be under imperfect circumstances. For that same reason, I think they ultimately pass on making a home run trade, but Warren would likely be the type of gamble they might have to make in order to meaningfully upgrade their wing spot.

Anyway, the Lakers obviously aren’t limited to those deal constructions, but these are a few of the types of trades they could make. Do you think they will pull the trigger on any of them? Is there another trade you like? Let us know in the comments below.

For a few more deal ideas, check out these lists of possible Eastern and Western Conference trades with each team assembled by our own moderator, BeautifulLakes. And for more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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