The NBA playoffs haven’t ended yet, but the offseason has already begun for teams that were eliminated from the postseason or didn’t make the playoffs. Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, who were knocked out of the first round by the Phoenix Suns a few weeks ago.
The Oklahoma City Thunder recently offered a reminder for such teams that trade season is fully upon us, dealing Al Horford, Moses Brown and a 2023 second-round pick to the Boston Celtics for Kemba Walker, the No. 16 overall pick in the 2021 draft and a 2025 second-round pick. And while the Lakers aren’t well-positioned to make a splashy trade like that, they do have a number of assets they can dangle in deals this summer.
I’ve complied a list of those assets ranked from best to worst, but there are a few things that should be noted about the list:
- The value of these assets ultimately depends on the team that has interest in them, so think of each ranking as the basement-level value for each asset.
- Some of these assets won’t be made available for obvious reasons, but still had to be included for consistency’s sake
With that out of the way, here’s the list, with the players’ salary for next season in parentheses:
1. Anthony Davis ($35.6 million)
LeBron James is without question the best player on the Lakers, but Anthony Davis is only 28 years old, has four years left on his contract — including a player option for the 2024-25 season — and is only a year removed from finishing second in Defensive Player of the Year voting. The Lakers obviously aren’t going to trade him, but if they did, they’d get a nice package in return.
2. LeBron James ($41.1 million)
Do I really need to explain this one? He’s LeBron James; every team he joins becomes a championship contender, health permitting, which is why it would take James asking out for the Lakers to trade him. Fortunately, there’s no reason to believe he’s going to do that before his current contract expires in 2023.
3. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($13 million)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s production cooled down towards the end of last season, but he still ended his fourth season with the Lakers shooting 41% from 3-point range on 4.4 attempts per game. That, combined with the knowledge that his contract is non-guaranteed for the 2022-23 season, makes him a real asset.
4. Kyle Kuzma ($13 million)
At 25, Kuzma is probably too old for the “promising young player” label, but there’s definitely room for him to improve as a player, and the good news is that he’s shown that he can do it. In the past two seasons, he’s become a real contributor to winning on both ends of the floor, and whether or not a team thinks they can develop him beyond what he is, he’s still a valuable player. Plus, he still has three years remaining on his recent extension that kicks in next season, including a $13 million player option for the 2023-24 season.
5. Talen Horton-Tucker (restricted)
Talen Horton-Tucker isn’t technically under contract with the Lakers next season, but he’ll be a restricted free agent and that, in theory, makes him a candidate for a sign-and-trade. Granted, any team that acquires him in a sign-and-trade would hard cap themselves, but a team may think he’s worth the risk because of his age (20) and physical gifts. It’s possible the Lakers could get something for him if they are willing to facilitate his exit to a preferable destination.
6. Their 2027 first-round pick
Because of the Stepien Rule — which prohibits teams from trading first-round picks in back-to-back seasons, named after legendarily bad Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien — the only future first-round the Lakers have to offer is their 2027 first-round pick, because they could potentially still owe a 2025 first-round pick to the Pelicans as a result of the Anthony Davis trade, so until the fate of that pick is decided, 2027 is the nearest future first-rounder they can deal.
There’s no telling where the Lakers will be six years from now, but that’s what makes the pick so potentially enticing. The only reason that it’s not ranked higher is because, for the Lakers, the contracts of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and Talen Horton-Tucker are more valuable because they don’t have salary filler otherwise.
They’d also likely only make the pick available if an All-Star level player was on the table, so the pick doesn’t mean much without the contracts.
7. The No. 22 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft
The Lakers will have no choice but to pick for themselves in the draft this year because of the aforementioned Stepien Rule, but they can trade the player they select 30 days after the day he signs his contract. The No. 22 pick isn’t going to get you a star player, but the No. 22 pick packaged with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and/or Kyle Kuzma will almost certainly get you a bona fide starter.
8. Marc Gasol ($2.69 million)
Retirement is always on the table if Marc Gasol doesn’t want to be traded, but if he’s open to the idea, the Lakers could flip him for another player on a veteran’s minimum contract.
9. Alfonzo McKinnie ($1.9 million)
Alfonzo McKinnie’s salary is non-guaranteed next season and for the 2022-23 season, so a team looking to shed some salary may be able to part with one of their more productive end-of-the-bench players for him, which is ironically how the Lakers ended up with McKinnie last summer while salary dumping JaVale McGee to make room for Gasol. Time is a flat circle.
It’s not unreasonable to think that the Lakers can get a meaningful upgrade by sacrificing a combination of the assets that they have (outside of James and Davis), but generally speaking, it’s going to be hard for them to make a big trade because they already made their home run play with the Davis trade. If they do make moves this summer, it’s going to be for guys that can get on base.