The fallout from the Lakers’ decision to not make a trade at the deadline will be felt for quite some time moving forward. In not trading any player from the roster, whether it was Russell Westbrook or DeAndre Jordan, the Lakers opted to stand pat and challenge the current roster to win with what they had.
But, obviously, that wasn’t the only motivating factor in the team not making a move. In fact, an irrational belief in the roster they created likely wasn’t even the primary reason for not making any moves. As has been the case multiple times over the last year, the Laker’s motivations may have been tied to the luxury tax.
On Tuesday, Dave McMenamin and Ramona Shelburne — perhaps the two reporters most connected to the Lakers — of ESPN appeared on their colleague's podcast “Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective” to discuss the Lakers. When talking about a Russell Westbrook-John Wall swap, both McMenamin and Shelburne revealed information about the team’s motivations at the deadline.
McMenamin: “There was an iteration of the John Wall trade that included Christian Wood that would have involved more money. I’ve been told from other sources in Houston that there was a message that the Lakers were not willing to take on more money.”
Shelburne: “That’s kind of the word around the league that the Lakers were making calls, if there was a trade that made sense, they would do it. I’ve heard it described as ‘maybe half-hearted efforts.’ They would do something if it was low-hanging fruit but they weren’t really willing to feel any pain, whether that was luxury tax money, whether that was more encumberment in the future, whether that was draft compensation. In other words, they called, they tried to do some things but there wasn’t a sense of the same kind of urgency I think you heard from the players the night of the Milwaukee game and especially after the Portland game.”
First, this isn’t the only mention of a trade involving Christian Wood and the Lakers. On the day of the deadline itself, Windhorst was the one who insinuated, in a typical Windhorst way, that the Lakers and Rockets had a deal on the table at some point involving Wood. McMenamin going straight on the record with his report on Tuesday certainly lends more credence to that.
According to Windhorst, there potentially was a deal discussed with the Rockets involving Westbrook, THT and a 2027 first for John Wall and Christian Wood pic.twitter.com/iLp2xYfa9u— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) February 10, 2022
And if it is the case that the Lakers turned down a trade that would have brought back Wood and sent out Westbrook, then WOOF. On paper, a frontcourt of Wood and Anthony Davis would be remarkably good with the versatility to still space the floor while having size and scoring. Davis’ otherworldly talents on the defensive end could have made the pairing work and would have helped the Lakers in so many ways not just this season, but next season as well when Wood is still under contract.
This season, Wood is averaging 17.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game on 48.4% shooting from the field and 37.1% shooting from the 3-point line on five attempts per game. That scoring mark is down from last season when he averaged 21 points per game on 51.4% shooting overall. At 26 years old, Wood could also offer a youthful injection the Lakers have very little of on the roster as well.
But luxury tax concerns have driven much of the conversation with the Lakers and their roster moves over the last year. Alex Caruso is not a Laker this season because of it and it seems now that Wood is another name that could be added to that list. Relitigating the insanity of the LOS ANGELES LAKERS being worried about luxury tax payments is fruitless as the same points were made a handful of months ago during free agency.
Shelburne adding that the Lakers weren’t seriously looking at making any deals doesn’t exactly ease concerns about the team moving forward, either. Perhaps the front office is aware that this is a lost season and isn’t willing to do literally anything to jeopardize the future until this offseason, but that’s affording them a lot of benefit of the doubt they haven’t remotely earned.
What remains clear, based on Tuesday’s reporting, though is that the Lakers’ main motivation in building a roster is not simply getting the best players available as so long as that’s the case, there will be a pair of handcuffs on the roster applied by the team itself.