Despite doing an admirable job weathering the storm during Anthony Davis’ absence, the Lakers still find themselves in an uphill battle.
At 23-27, the team currently sits 13th in the Western Conference but are just mere games away from sneaking back into playoff contention. That said, they will need to jump multiple teams in the standings to do so, and will likely be jostling for positioning amongst that cluster of clubs from here on out.
The returns of Davis and Lonnie Walker should help their cause, as should the recent addition of Rui Hachimura. However, if the Lakers hope to separate themselves from the crowded pack and make a run, they will likely need even more external help.
With the league’s trade deadline just ten days away, what follows are a few potential moves the team can still make to help check the multiple boxes that still remain.
Magic receive: Lonnie Walker, Damian Jones and two second-round picks
Lakers receive: Mo Bamba
Although Anthony Davis has played 99% of his possessions at center this season according to Cleaning the Glass, the team could still benefit from having another viable big on the roster.
Even with the emergence of Thomas Bryant and the spirited play of Wenyen Gabriel, the team has noticeably lacked defensive size in the front-court whenever Davis has been off the floor. The same could even be said when Davis has played, specifically due to the team’s much maligned smaller makeup around him. One solution to do this could be playing two bigs.
The Lakers interest in Mo Bamba dates back to the offseason, and even most recently as they were once again linked to the center.
Next to or in place of Davis, Bamba should help shore up the team’s rim protection with his blocking acumen and Cronenberg-esque 7’10” wingspan. According to the BBall-Index, Bamba ranks in the 95th percentile in adjusted rim points saved per 75 possessions and in the 99th percentile when it comes to post defense.
The latter could especially be helpful when it comes to preserving Davis’ body against the league’s more physical bigs.
On the other end of the floor, Bamba continues to prove to be a spacing threat as he’s canned 40% of his chances from three this season and 45.5% of his pick and pop looks, according to Synergy. This could make him an especially intriguing cog in Darvin Ham’s four-out, one-in offense.
Beyond his multi-faceted skillset, Bamba’s contract also should be appealing to the Lakers. Owed just $10.3 million next season, the team could finally begin to build continuity on a roster that has readily been shaken-up. And if things don't work out in the the remaining 30 games, the Lakers also have a potential out as his deal is non-guaranteed until June 29th.
For the Magic, who haven't been shy about being open to moving Bamba, a trade with the Lakers could help declutter the glut of size they have on their depth chart. They would also replace the 24-year-old for another in Walker, and recoup some draft capital in the process.
Bamba is set to garner much interest amongst teams looking for front-court help in the following days, and the Lakers’ offer will likely only be enticing to the Magic depending on how they value Walker and the number of second-rounders ultimately offered.
Other options: Get a center back within a multi-player deal (like Jakob Poeltl) or scour the buyout market.
Spurs receive: Patrick Beverley and a second-round pick
Lakers receive: Josh Richardson
While this won't be the sexiest hypothetical offer you’ll see floated around before the trade deadline, Josh Richardson could be the type of move on the margins that pays dividends.
Even after the Rui Hachimura deal, the Lakers remain irritatingly too small on the perimeter. The team’s size discrepancy has also been compounded by the continued use of the three-guard grouping of Russell Westbrook, Dennis Schröder, and Patrick Beverley, which has bled points (122.6 defensive rating).
Although Richardson won't likely be a defensive upgrade over Beverley, he is five inches taller and sports a 6’10” wingspan. These physical tools may help him stand better odds against the opposing wings that have burned the Lakers all year.
Richardson should also be a considerable improvement over Beverley on offense, specifically when it comes to outside shooting.
While his raw shooting numbers may not set the world on fire (37% from three), he projects to be a cleaner offensive fit when considering his career-high 3-point frequency and familiarity with spotting-up (38% conversion rate).
Richardson’s shooting should also benefit from playing next to the likes of LeBron James and Anthony Davis as opposed to his current rebuilding squad.
According to the BBall-Index, Richardson has been hampered by the difficulty of his looks as he currently ranks in just the 23rd percentile in terms of shot quality and the 9th percentile when it comes “openness rating.” Those numbers should improve if he lands in Los Angeles.
Richardson is also simply a more fluid scorer overall than Beverley, who outside of his open looks, is not much of a threat with the ball in his hands.
Although Beverley has played much better of late, recent reporting continues to suggest the team is open to parting ways and upgrading at the guard spot if an opportunity presents itself.
It is worth mentioning the difficulty of making a deal with the Spurs, especially when it comes to the Lakers. That said, Richardson is approaching free-agency and has a reported current asking price of just a second-round pick, which the Lakers still possess four of.
Losing Richardson for nothing would be unwise for the Spurs if an offer is actually on the table, regardless of who is presenting it on the other side of the phone.
Other options: Gary Harris or Jalen McDaniels.
Pistons receive: Patrick Beverley, Lonnie Walker, a top-three protected first-round pick, and a future second-round pick
Lakers receive: Bojan Bogdanović
There is no secret that the Lakers want Bojan Bogdanović. The 33-year-old sniper has not only been one of the league’s hottest perimeter shooters this season, but he would also immediately be the best spacing threat James and Davis has played next to during their tenure with the team.
Although they’ve certainly improved from their horrifically cold start, the Lakers still lack gravity from the outside, which has allowed opposing defenses to load up the paint and force the ball out of the hands of their stars. Adding Bogdanović would go a long way in improving this.
So how good has his shooting actually been?
According to Synergy, Bogdanović currently ranks in the 91st percentile on jump-shots, 96th percentile on his catch and shoot chances and is converting a mind-boggling 51% of his un-guarded 3-points attempts.
We’re talking Kurt Russell wielding a flame-thrower types hot.
The forward would also give the team the missing ingredient of a movement threat in the half court, an area where the shooter ranks in the 100th(!) percentile in off-screen share (the percentage of half-court scoring chances derived from off-screen opportunities) according to the BBall-Index.
The Lakers experienced first-hand how dangerous Bogdanović can be darting off screens and rising up in quick succession in an earlier game this season.
For as good as Bogdanović has been on offense, his defensive limitations are definitely worth acknowledging.
The Lakers would likely need to bank on the combination of his shooting, being 6’8” and his sturdy frame being enough for Davis’ backline help to offset those impediments.
Bogdanović will continue to be amongst the buzziest names heading into the trade deadline as any receiving team would also net his services going forward given his recent contract extension.
There have already been negations between the two teams, which reportedly stalled when the Pistons held firm on needing an unprotected first-round pick in return from the Lakers.
While it remains to be seen if either side ultimately budges on their stance, perhaps the inclusion of a young player like Walker and a second-rounder can help grease the wheels with the lottery protected first to land the human torch himself.
Other options: Gary Trent Jr or Doug McDermott.
Even after their first cannonball into the trade pool, the Lakers still possess most of their remaining tradable assets to bolster their squad. How many of those are actually included in future deals could ultimately determine how big their next splash will be.
As is the case with every deadline, there will undoubtedly continue to be more names other than those proposed here that are linked to the team ahead of February 9th.
The Lakers would be smart to continue to canvas the league until the final buzzer rings, be creative and leave no stone unturned — no matter how big or small.
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