With the Lakers’ self-imposed deadline to start looking at more potential trade options coming up in less than 12 hours — Dec. 15, when nearly everyone in the NBA who was signed this summer is eligible to be dealt — now is as good a time as any to check in on the latest rumors about what the team might do.
Courtesy of a few NBA insiders, here are the latest reports.
Lakers interested in Jae Crowder?
All season, Jae Crowder has remained what my friend Mitchell Maurer over at Brew Hoop has referred to as “a disgruntled member of the Phoenix Suns;” technically on the roster, but not playing for the team and working out away from the organization after asking the front office to trade him this summer when he was told he would not be starting this year or extended as he prepares for free agency this summer.
Crowder has primarily been mentioned as a potential target for the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat, but Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report — always one of the most plugged-in reporters on all things Lakers — wrote in his trade intel roundup on Wednesday that the Lakers have interest in the veteran forward and longtime LeBron James combatant:
Phoenix was close to sending him to the Milwaukee Bucks in a three-way deal with the Rockets. Talks extended to include the Warriors, but nothing came of it. Other teams believed to be interested include the Heat, Hawks and Lakers.
A Crowder ($10.1 million) and veteran’s minimum contract player for Patrick Beverley ($13 million) works cap-wise and could only be completed after Dec. 15, when players signed to the latter type of deal this summer are eligible to be traded, so theoretically this could be the type of deal the team has been waiting for.
Still, while this front office hasn’t shied away from reuniting former foes — see Westbrook, Russell and Beverley, Patrick — James and Crowder have their own history, from seemingly not getting along as teammates in Cleveland, to their fireworks-filled showdown in the NBA Finals when Crowder was with Miami, to getting annoyed with each other during the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs. Crowder has, however, been complimentary of James off the floor, so maybe there is hope they could be the latest former foes turned friends in Los Angeles after Westbrook and Beverley’s bestie turn.
On the court, Crowder would seem to be a big help. A 6’6, rangy forward who is relatively switchy and tough defensively while being able to hit 34.6% of his threes in his career could help this roster. Now, would the Suns be willing to give him up for less than a first, given that he’s not playing for them? It’s fair to guess they may get better offers, and the Lakers shouldn’t necessarily beat them, so for now, consider this one probably an outside possibility.
The Knicks are not planning to attach a pick to get rid of Evan Fournier
Yesterday, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reported that the Lakers want more than just Cam Reddish — presumably, draft pick(s) — to take on Evan Fournier’s contract from the Knicks. He also wrote that the Knicks are “reluctant” to part with a first to get off of Fournier’s contract, however, and ESPN NBA insider Brian Windhorst took that line of reporting even further on Thursday.
On the latest episode of his “Hoop Collective” podcast, Windhorst said that the Knicks are not in so much of a rush to get rid of the $18.5 million Fournier is owed next season that they would give up a pick to send him elsewhere.
“I can just tell you, it’s my understanding — because this has come up with Fournier because he’s on the bench right now — there’s this belief out there that the Knicks are looking to get off of contracts, looking to get off of Fournier... From what I understand, the Knicks are not interested in shedding salary going forward. They’ll do business, but I think there’s a concept that they’ll attach a pick to get off of Evan Fournier or something like that, and to my understanding that’s not true.”
Well, there goes the moonshot of the idea that the Lakers could get two players they could potentially use along with another first-round pick to play with on the trade market. Alas, some dreams are too good to be true.
As always, maybe the Knicks’ stance changes before the deadline on Feb. 9, but it seems more likely they’ll hang on to Fournier in the hopes they can use him as salary ballast in a trade for a star rather than just using a pick to dump him. Oh well.
But speaking of that type of dilemma...
The Miami Heat may have interest in Russell Westbrook... as a buyout guy
No, sorry, this is not a rumor that the Heat are the first team to show interest in giving the Lakers an asset for Westbrook. Unfortunately, it is just a report from Pincus’ trade scuttlebutt roundup cited above that if the Lakers do ultimately deal Westbrook, the Heat would have interest in him on the buyout market:
NBA sources have listed the Miami Heat as a potential destination for Westbrook as a post-trade buyout candidate.
This isn’t the first time Pincus has connected the Heat to Westbrook. In November, he wrote that “if Westbrook is bought out, the buzz around the league has him signing with the Miami Heat.” So it does seem as though he would have a suitor... on the buyout market, at least.
But — as my vocal doppelganger Darius Soriano wrote for us earlier this week — with Westbrook playing this well, it is an open question whether the Lakers would, or even should, trade him. There are arguments to be made for or against, depending on the price to do so or who the team would be getting back. That’s not a scenario we envisioned this summer, but it’s where the Lakers find themselves. As a result, and unfortunately for the Heat, their interest may not end up mattering very much if the Lakers end up just keeping their Sixth Man for the stretch run and opt to make smaller moves centered around Beverley and Nunn instead.
Do any of these reports excite you? Let us know in the comments below. 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.