The Los Angeles Lakers badly need to add shooting this offseason. Teams built around LeBron James tend to be most successful when they surround him with shooting, yet the Lakers ranked 25th in the NBA in made 3-pointers last season. Fixing that has been a priority this offseason, and the Lakers seem to have zeroed in on a target: Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings. Hield is a career 40.6 percent 3-point shooter, and only Stephen Curry hit more long-range shots than he did last season.
The Lakers have been linked to Hield for some time, but now, according to The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor, they have "stepped up their efforts" by including the No. 22 overall pick in a deal that would also include backup center Montrezl Harrell and either Kyle Kuzma or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Sacramento's motivations for making such a deal are a bit more complex. For starters, it would clear up a minor logjam in the team's backcourt. Hield began the season as Sacramento's starting shooting guard, but eventually lost that job to standout rookie Tyrese Haliburton. By moving Hield, the Kings can fully commit to Haliburton as their shooting guard of the future. While he isn't quite as prolific as Hield from behind the arc, he did hit 40.9 percent of his attempts last season and is a far better defender and playmaker.
But moving Hield has financial benefits as well. Hield is owed $22.5 million next season and has roughly $62 million remaining on his deal over the next three years. Kuzma has three years remaining on his deal as well if you include his 2023-24 player option, but will make only $13 million per year in that time. Caldwell-Pope is slightly more expensive on a per-year basis, but the 2021-22 season is his only fully guaranteed year left. He is guaranteed slightly less than $5 million for the 2022-23 season. Both would provide serious defensive upgrades over Hield. The Kings had the NBA's worst defense last season.
Harrell's situation is more complicated. He could only be dealt if he picks up his $9.7 million player option. Doing so would prevent him from seeking out a bigger deal in free agency, but after the disappointing way in which his season ended, he likely wasn't going to find one anyway. In Sacramento, he'd have a chance to put up big numbers on a team with less pressure before trying free agency again next offseason.
In fact, he might even finally earn a starting position. The Kings are trying to clear enough cap space to re-sign starting center Richaun Holmes, but they still have a long way to go if they plan to do so. Making this sort of trade with the Lakers wouldn't clear extra space for them, but it would provide a possible replacement should Holmes ultimately leave. For the Kings to clear the space to offer Holmes more than $47 million over four years through his Early Bird Rights, they would likely have to trade Marvin Bagley into another team's cap space. If they manage to do so, Harrell could replace his role as a versatile front-court scorer.
The Lakers are still trying to find a point guard to ease some of James' ball-handling burden. Using some of their assets in a Hield trade could make that a bit harder, especially if they had planned to pursue that point guard through a sign-and-trade. Doing so would trigger a hard cap at the apron, which will be roughly $143 million next season. James, Hield and Anthony Davis combine to make around $99 million, so fitting another expensive ball-handler within that framework would be very difficult.
Still, the Lakers would have the taxpayer mid-level exception to offer to free agents like Patty Mills, Reggie Jackson, and the Miami Heat let him go to use cap space, Goran Dragic. They could also trade whichever of Kuzma or Caldwell-Pope is held out of this deal, plus some of their own free agents through a sign-and-trade, including Dennis Schroder, Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker. It's unlikely, but they could also simply decide to re-sign Schroder and hope that he thrives in a smaller role.
Both teams would have work to do even after making a deal like this, but it is a sensible move for both sides. The Lakers need shooting. The Kings need to move Hield's contract and add a bit more defense to its lineup. It's a straightforward move that would make both sides better next season.