NBA rumors are going to be flying at a fast and furious pace for the next month until the Feb. 9 trade deadline, and the Lakers will surely feature into many of them. In the latest iteration of our roundup series, we got some updates on the team’s approach to the trade market, the latest on Myles Turner extension talks, and a truly depressing update of how confident the New Orleans Pelicans are feeling about their 2023 NBA Draft pick swap rights.
So without further ado, let’s dive in.
The Lakers are focused on the next three seasons in the trade market, not just this one
Much digital (and real) ink has been spilled on how the Lakers view the trade market, but one thing that has been clear from every rumor, report, whisper and everything in between is that the team is not going into discussions desperate to deal their two currently tradeable first-round draft picks in 2027 and 2029 for a marginal upgrade.
To that end, Dave McMenamin of ESPN reported on his “That’s OD” YouTube show that the team is focused on a specific window with LeBron James that includes this year, but extends beyond it (emphasis mine):
“In general, the league has been pretty quiet... Until things start moving, the Lakers are going to continue to kind of sit back and watch, get intel where they can get intel. My understanding from the people I’ve spoken to is there’s no ‘definitely yes’ or ‘definitely no’ that they will do a deal leading up to February 9th. If the right deal emerges that will make them in their eyes a better team over the next three years, that’s their priority. They want the team to get to the best level it can get while LeBron James is still on the roster, but if that means not making that deal in February and playing out the rest of this season with the group that they have and knowing that they feel there is going to be a better deal in July over the offseason, they’ll do that.
“Because they’re looking at the finality of LeBron as a whole. And yes, it’s tough to stomach the idea of yet another (lost) season, where last year LeBron averages 30 points in Year 19, this year again having a tremendous season individually, to not give him some more talent around him. Because again, as great as LeBron has been, his minutes are too high for a guy at this stage of his career. You’re putting yourself at risk when you do that. Still, though... this is the way they think of it: ‘What’s better? A deal now — and that deal may not even be available — but a deal now that we think will get us into the first round for sure? Or a deal in the summertime that we feel like will give us a shot at the second-round or Western Conference Finals for sure?’ And that’s the math that they’re doing here.”
The merits of both sides of that calculus have been debated ad nauseum by myself, every writer on this site and pretty much everyone in this community, so I won’t do so to death here. Still, it is very clear that this team is at least projecting confidence that LeBron James won’t begin to decline this year or next season (during which he’ll turn 40 years old). Far be it from a blogger in their early 30s who has to use a massage gun just to get out of bed every day to doubt the physical capabilities of the #WashedKing, but that does seem like a bold bet.
And if it continues to not pay off like it has the last two seasons so far, well, the New Orleans Pelicans are licking their chops, because...
The Pelicans are scouting Victor Wembanyama with their Lakers pick
Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported a truly sobering update on the latest episode of his “Hoop Collective” podcast — that the New Orleans Pelicans were feeling so good about their 2023 pick swap with Los Angeles stemming from the Anthony Davis trade that they sent members of their front office over to France to scout Victor Wembanyama:
“The Pelicans had personnel in France, and they spent some time talking to Victor’s people. In fact... I don’t know how often the Pelicans have been there, but they sought it out... Now, the chances aren’t very high. But if you want to allow yourself to dream, you can understand why Victor might be keeping an eye on the Pelicans. Because him on that squad? That would be a cruel twist for the Lakers, but there is a reason the Pelicans were spending some time there: Because it’s on the board. It’s not likely, but it’s on the board.”
For a full reminder of the full context on this: The Pelicans have the right to swap first-round picks with the Lakers in the 2023 NBA Draft should they so choose. As the standings sit right now, the Lakers (19-23) have a 23.5% chance of handing the Pelicans a top-four pick, and a 5.3% chance of forking over the No. 1 overall choice, widely presumed to be the precocious French phenom.
So, not high odds to give up a player many have touted as the most promising since LeBron himself, but not insignificant.
Now, did the Pelicans probably do this mostly just for the due diligence they would do on any draft’s top prospects if they felt they might get a pick in that range? Maybe. Is it also simply good process for an NBA team to take every chance they can to familiarize themselves with a top player’s game and their camp at any legal opportunity? Yes. Did the Pelicans’ scouts simply want to expense a trip to France? We can’t rule it out.
Moving on: In slightly better news about a center...
The latest on Myles Turner’s extension talks
We have provided a few updates on the status of Myles Turner’s contract talks with the Pacers, most recently that Turner is so far rebuffing offers and potentially could end up on the trade block again as a result. In the latest movement in this saga, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports reported that talks are still fluid between Turner and Indiana, and that he may not have a huge market for a deal even if he does become available in a trade:
Indiana and Turner’s new representatives at CAA are in fluid extension conversations, sources confirmed to Yahoo Sports... The trade chatter surrounding Turner has indeed seemed to cool. For years, the Hornets presented a likely landing spot. But now, Charlotte does not appear very keen on upgrading its roster ahead of the deadline. The interest from Dallas and New Orleans in recent seasons has also dissipated, sources said. And the Lakers seem content waiting for a bigger return for their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks than a potential acquisition of Turner and Buddy Hield that was discussed before the season began.
However, that doesn’t mean the Lakers would be able to get him for pennies (aka Patrick Beverley, Kendrick Nunn and some seconds or a first), even if they did re-register interest. In fact, they may not be the only team who would potentially want the big man in their own city, Fischer wrote:
If Turner’s contract talks ultimately stall, New York and Toronto have registered interest in recent transaction cycles, sources said. The Knicks hold a trove of first-round draft capital to spend, although the recent performance from Mitchell Robinson may quell any of New York’s attempts to upgrade its frontcourt. The Clippers remain a legitimate suitor for Turner as well, sources told Yahoo Sports.
Now, maybe the Lakers are really out on Turner and have decided the Indy deal isn’t worth it. The lack of links between the two parties since the offseason would certainly suggest that. However, color me skeptical that it would be for the oft-speculated reason that they’ve decided they don’t want a center to play next to Anthony Davis. Not when they appear to be working out veteran 5s with the intention of needing a new backup so Thomas Bryant can start next to Davis.
And if they actually still want a center to play next to AD and could keep Bryant in his energy-big role off the bench, they could do worse than one of the best defensive centers in the NBA who can also shoot threes at a decent clip. The frontcourt fit wouldn’t be perfect, but the Pacers signaling in leak after leak that “we’ll extend him, we swear!” does paint the picture of a team hoping to have better offers come in than they would get or are getting right now. And if Indy slides in the standings without likely first-time All-Star Tyrese Halliburton for (at least) the next two weeks, and the Lakers don’t make another move, expect the two sides to get linked again before the deadline. For all the same reasons we’ve talked about it approximately 90,582 times this year, it just makes too much sense.