After so much pressure on the team to make a move at the beginning of the season following a dismal start on the court, the Lakers have relieved some of that pressure in the best way possible: by winning. As the old adage goes, winning solves everything and though everything isn’t solved with the Lakers, it’s a lot easier to live with the warts and faults of the team when they’re coming away with wins.
It also has provided the Lakers with the luxury of leverage and the ability to be a bit more patient. When the losses were piling up and the pressure was mounting, teams could use that against the Lakers in trade negotiations. But with the tables turning, the leverage is shifting back in the Lakers favor.
At the same time, Russell Westbrook finding a role where he can be an average NBA player has gone a long way in lessening the sense of urgency to make a trade. In fact, it may not even be Westbrook who is the favorite to be dealt at this point with the team also exploring deals for Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn attached with a first round pick.
All of that context has gone into the latest comments from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. On Wednesday, he appeared on NBA Today to discuss the Lakers trade discussions, which are in a very different light at this point in the season.
“I think this stretch has bought them a little bit of time now to really not have to rush into anything. The conversations that are going on right now ahead of the trade deadline, outside of Jae Crowder, John Collins who are players I think both teams want to move sooner than later, it’s mostly teams just calling each other going ‘What are you interested in? What are the needs you’re trying to fill? Here’s what we would like.’ Not so much making concrete offers. That starts to come as we get closer to the trade deadline.
As for the Lakers, I think their strategy remains the same which is, we know what their assets are — the ‘27 and the ‘29 first round picks — that they’re not going to use those unless they can get back essentially an All-Star level player. It remains to be seen if those kind of players are available at the deadline. Like a lot of teams, I think the Lakers will watch Chicago, see if that is an organization that might pivot before the trade deadline. But I think what’s more realistic is expiring contracts and maybe one of those picks in a deal. I don’t know that there’s a two-pick deal out there for the Lakers.”
There’s a lot to unpack in Woj’s comments. For one, the Lakers’ stance of waiting until mid-December or later to make a deal might not be entirely of their own accord. If the rest of the league isn’t ready to make a trade, the Lakers can’t make things happen.
And nor should they given the little bit of wiggle room they’ve afforded themselves with their improved form. Canvassing the league and being prepared to make a deal when the opportunity arises is the best move they can make.
That opportunity could ultimately be the Bulls, a team the Lakers are reportedly monitoring. As they continue to struggle, they could eventually flip the switch and look to offload players with the Lakers hoping to pounce on the opportunity.
There’s also that final sentence from Woj in saying a two-pick deal might not exist. If the Lakers weren’t willing to move both picks for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner and the Wizards aren’t — and shouldn’t be — interested in parting with Bradley Beal for the two picks despite the Lakers’ interest, it’s hard to imagine any other deal coming about. There isn’t an All-Star available that the Lakers can conceivably acquire, so it’s hard to see them trading both picks.
Taking all that into account, it’s in the Lakers best interest to remain patient for the time being while staying prepared for any situation that may arrive.