The first half of the season went about as well as the Los Angeles Lakers could have hoped. They got relatively good health from Anthony Davis and LeBron James, leading them to the best record in the Western Conference. At +300, the Lakers are tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for the best title odds in the league. Similarly, these two teams are tied at +190 for best odds to come out of the Western Conference. Roster changes at the deadline could very well determine who comes out on top in the West. So what do the Lakers need?
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Update, Feb. 5: The Lakers called the Thunder asking about the availability of PG Dennis Schroder, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported Wednesday.
The Lakers inquired about Dennis Schröder as they look to fortify the PG position leading up to the trade deadline, sources told ESPN. The conversation did not go very far, as OKC -- currently the No. 7 seed in the West -- were not looking to move him without a hefty return.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) February 5, 2020
The Knicks were said to be in on D’Angelo Russell yesterday and now they’re linked to another young piece. This deal makes a bit more sense than adding Russell. The Knicks would be bringing in another young asset, since Kuzma has one more year on his rookie contract before he’s a restricted free agent. The Lakers are likely looking for veteran help for their push at a championship. Kuzma has been the odd-man out for L.A. most of the season, really only showing his value when injuries pop up.
Update, Feb. 3: The Lakers are reportedly exploring the market for Kyle Kuzma, something we’ve heard for most of the past two months. Kuzma is an attractive trade chip and the Lakers could use another shooter to space the floor with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Kuzma is on his rookie deal through 2020-21, so he has peak value. L.A. also doesn’t necessarily need Kuzma to make a run at a title, although he does provide depth in the front court behind the two most important players.
Update. Jan. 20: The Lakers are interested in adding depth at point guard via the trade market. Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes reports that Los Angeles and the Philadelphia 76ers are among the teams vying for the Detroit Pistons PG Derrick Rose. Rose paired with LeBron James in Cleveland not too long ago, but he’s undergone a major transformation since then and is now having a healthy season. Rose is averaging 18.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game this season and would be a spark plug in any offense. But what would Rose cost the Lakers? That remains to be seen.
Update, Jan. 16: The one name that keeps popping up in trade deadline talks for the Lakers is Kyle Kuzma, and whether the team should ship out the young forward. Our friends over at Silver Screen and Roll on SBNation outlined a report from Brian Windhorst stating that Kuzma is on the block depending on who you ask. Windhorst says there’s conflicting information on the Kuzma front as to whether the Lakers are willing to deal him before the deadline.
I’d imagine with how banged up Anthony Davis has been getting recently that the Lakers would be wise to hold onto Kuzma as insurance. If Kuzma is traded for assets or shooting help at guard, the Lakers would only have JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard in the froncourt as PF/C options if AD were to go down.
— Ben Zweiman
Backup Point Guard
This is really the only massive gap on the Lakers’ roster. When LeBron comes out of the game, the offense really falters. While nobody is going to be expected to fill the void James leaves when he comes off the court, Rajon Rondo is clearly not the answer. The Lakers score 6.7 less points per 100 possessions with Rondo on the court and it seems they blow a lead every time he gets up off the bench. Luckily, there is a pretty easy fix lurking in free agency. Darren Collison is reportedly considering returning to the NBA and would be a great addition to the Lakers’ bench. Most importantly, he’s shot over 40% from three in each of the last four seasons and would be an excellent floor spacer in lineups with AD and LeBron.
For all the jokes about Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, he’s played fairly well this season. KCP is shooting 42.2% from three and complaints about his play are slowly disappearing from social media. Paired with Danny Green, the Lakers backcourt is looking better than expected headed into the season. One issue, they are getting almost nothing from Avery Bradley and he’s missed time due to injuries. Getting dinged up is nothing new to Bradley and paired with him shooting just 23.7% from three with middling defense, the Lakers could use an upgrade over him. They don’t need a star, but solid defense and a capable three-point shooter will do the trick. Cough, cough, Andre Iguodala. Iggy would be an ideal candidate for the Lakers to add, but his $17-million salary pretty much takes any trade scenario off the table. Memphis has been extremely patient with the wing since acquiring him from Golden State in the offseason, but if a buyout eventually occurs, the Lakers will be one of the first teams to hit up the three-time champion.
What Do They Have to Offer?
The Lakers traded most of their young players and a boatload of future picks to the New Orleans Pelicans in the trade for Anthony Davis. The deal has been worth it to this point, but it leaves the Lakers a bit barren in terms of pieces to move in a trade deadline deal. Any move for a quality piece will likely have to include Kyle Kuzma. His name has been thrown about in trade rumors recently and trading him makes a ton of sense. Kuzma is only playing 23.5 minutes per game and isn’t a massive part of the Lakers’ rotation. He has name value, but the question is, does he have real trade value. At 24, Kuzma isn’t as young as most people would think. There was hope he would develop into a better three-point shooter due to the gravity of Anthony Davis and LeBron James, but Kuz is shooting just 34.6% from three. Combined with his reputation as a below-average defender, Kuzma isn’t really a strong prospect. He does have name value and maybe that will be enough for a team to bite.