If there is one thing we know for sure with less than a week to go before the 2021 NBA Draft, it’s that the Los Angeles Lakers have been actively working the phones and surveying all their options. The team has discussed multiple deals involving Kyle Kuzma, as well as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and it sounds like they are exploring a multitude of ways they could use their No. 22 pick as well.
The Lakers have looked at at least 38 prospects that we know of, but many of the prospective draft picks they’ve evaluated have stock far below the team’s pick in the back half of the first round.
Now, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN, we may know why the team is casting such a wide net: They are considering trading down to pick up another asset.
With a big group of combo/scoring guards bunched together in the early 20s through early 30s, NBA executives say the Lakers have explored the option of moving down a few slots from the No. 22 pick while acquiring one or more second round picks. ESPN mock: https://t.co/VEdy8p5uV6— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) July 25, 2021
For a team as bereft in draft capital as the Lakers are, this could make some sense. Not only has their vaunted scouting department shown a knack for hitting on late picks in the draft (most recently Talen Horton-Tucker at No. 46), but the team could also use extra picks to grease the wheels in various trades after giving up most of their future war chest for Anthony Davis.
If the team traded down and picked up a later first-rounder and a second-round pick or two, for example, they could then use that pick to facilitate a trade, and then draft a second-rounder to get another young player on their roster, and one with a cheaper cap hit at that.
Second-round picks usually receive a veteran’s minimum contract, and often a non-guaranteed one at that. Meanwhile, first-round picks get a guaranteed salary, scaled based on where they were picked. The difference could help the Lakers navigate the hard cap if they choose to acquire a player in a sign-and-trade, hard-capping themselves in the process.
This makes sense if the Lakers plan on acquiring a free agent via sign-and-trade or using the non-taxpayer MLE. The small difference in salaries between #22 ($2.7M) & the rookie minimum ($925k) helps a lot towards filling up the roster below the hard cap that would be activated. https://t.co/tcW4vbIMr9— Yossi Gozlan (@YossiGozlan) July 25, 2021
In short: Trading down could potentially give the Lakers more options in both free agency and on the trade market, while potentially getting a first-round quality player anyway, if their scouting department’s history is any guide.
We’ll see what the Lakers ultimately do when the draft takes place on July 29, but trading down could make a lot of sense for this front office in a multitude of ways. They just need to see if there is a deal to do so that they like enough to pull the trigger.