The NBA trade deadline is just three days away, and unlike last year, there is a healthy amount of noise surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers. That was true before LeBron James suffered the high ankle sprain that’s expected to keep him sidelined for at least three weeks, but the noise around the team has only gotten louder in wake of his injury.
All that being said, the Lakers are still more likely to be big players in the post-trade deadline buyout market than they are the trade deadline market, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (emphasis mine):
“The Lakers are preparing to go into the trade deadline looking more long-term with this team, and trying to make sure that they can plug some holes for when they do have a healthy LeBron James and Anthony Davis back for the playoffs... I don’t know that [James’ injury] impacts it, because they know they’re going to get both guys back and they have to build a team and make moves that are designed for the long-term, not for a short stretch of time here.
“And listen, the Lakers have been active in the trade market, but I think for them the buyout market after the trade deadline is where they could really impact, because then you’re adding players without having to lose anyone in a trade or have to trade out assets. Certainly Andre Drummond remains a real big target for the Lakers if he’s bought out and doesn’t get traded between now and Thursday.”
If you’re a Lakers fan, that should be music to your ears.
As important as winning games without James and Davis will be for their seeding in the Western Conference, their No. 1 priority should still be putting together a roster that best complements the superstar tandem of James and Davis. Those things aren’t always mutually exclusive, but with the Lakers’ lack of assets and tradable contracts, it might be this year.
That doesn’t mean that James’ injury won’t have an effect on how the Lakers approach these next few weeks, though. In fact, Frank Vogel all but confirmed it will after the Lakers’ loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.
“I think it will certainly impact what our mindset is come the trade deadline,” Vogel said. “I don’t know in what way, I haven’t had any of those conversations overnight. It’s in the midst of a back-to-back, all of your focus is on what do we got to do to win this game.
“I’m sure we’ll get into deeper conversations in the coming days, but obviously when you have two keys that are going to be out, you look at the trade market differently and obviously the buyout market differently. Those are conversations that will be had in a couple of days.”
No one knows exactly what the Lakers are going to do — not even Vogel — but one thing’s become clear in the last few weeks: they want to be aggressive in improving their roster the same way they were in the offseason. We’ll see if their determination amounts to anything before Thursday’s deadline.