Lakers trade-deadline targets: 10 potential players who can help put LeBron James, Anthony Davis over the top
Some of these are difficult because of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's no-trade clause, but worth considering
The Los Angeles Lakers are title hunting, and with the Feb. 6 trade deadline on the horizon, they're going to be looking for an extra piece to help their push. What do they need? A backup point guard, or even a starter if he's good enough, who can lead second units and also play alongside LeBron James as a floor spacer and additional playmaker.
Also, a defensive wing who can at least hold his own against elite 3-men like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in a playoff series. Even if you believe LeBron can handle one of those guys at this stage of his career, without compromising too much offense, he can't handle two of them, and the Lakers know they're likely going to have to go through the Clippers at some stage. Shooting is on every team's list.
As far as what the Lakers have to send out, Kyle Kuzma is their most attractive young player, and the Lakers are reportedly for the forward, but he's only making $1.9 million this season. This is a problem. Any player that is going to help the Lakers is going to cost a lot more than that, so salary filler would be a must, and the Lakers don't have a lot of that.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope -- who has played well of late and the Lakers might not even want to sacrifice -- has a no-trade clause, so he'd have to sign off on any deal and he's not likely to want to leave the Lakers. A few destinations might be an exception.
Rajon Rondo becomes more expendable if the Lakers end up getting Darren Collison. Potentially some combination of DeMarcus Cousins and/or Jared Dudley is an option depending on the expense of the returning player. If the player coming back is good enough, the Lakers can dip into their already short supply of future picks.
With that in mind, here are 10 players within the Lakers' reach who can really help their title chase.
This is the No. 1 player on my list if I'm Lakers GM Rob Pelinka. I doubt the Heat would move him for a package centered on Kuzma, but it's worth a call. Miami is cooking without Winslow, who still hasn't cemented himself as a foundational future piece in the way that, say, Bam Adebayo or Tyler Herro has.
Kuzma would slot right into Miami's drive-and-kick offense, and if any coach can turn him into the best defensive version of himself, it's Erik Spoelstra. Miami might also be one of the few places Caldwell-Pope would be willing to go, and even with how well he's been playing, the Lakers would likely jump at the chance to move him for Winslow. Also, Kuzma's $10 million cap hold wouldn't need to interfere with Miami's assumed pursuit of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Winslow would be the physical, versatile defensive wing the Lakers need, highly capable of making life difficult on even the best perimeter scorers, and he's made great strides as a secondary playmaker. He is one of the few players that is halfway-realistically available who I think significantly moves the Lakers' championship needle.
- Lakers get: Winslow
- Heat get: Kuzma, Caldwell-Pope, future first-round pick
We've already heard rumors that the, though there have been conflicting reports about whether they would surrender Bogdanovic essentially straight up for Kuzma (with just a salary filler attached). It makes sense. Bogdanovic is better than Kuzma. The only shot is if Sacramento doesn't want to pay Bogdanovic, an impending free agent, long term.
If the Lakers could get it done, Bogdanovic is a legit big-time playmaker and shooter who would cook in the space provided by LeBron and Anthony Davis. After Winslow, in my opinion, he would be the biggest needle-mover for the Lakers. Like Winslow, given his age (27) and upside, he would be worth adding a future pick to sweeten the deal.
- Lakers get: Bogdanovic
- Kings get: Kuzma, Avery Bradley, future first-round pick
The Pistons are a teardown waiting to happen and Kuzma would arguably become their most promising young player, depending on what you think of Luke Kennard. Meanwhile, Rose is a great fit with the Lakers. He can start, and he's improved enough as a shooter to properly space for floor alongside LeBron while serving as a tailor-made secondary creator. Or he can come off the bench, where we know he can lead second units as a primary creator.
- Lakers get: Rose
- Pistons get: Kuzma, DeMarcus Cousins
Mills is another guy who really moves the needle for the Lakers, either as a starter or a microwave scorer off the bench. Either way, I think Mills would immediately move into the Lakers' closing lineup with his shooting, creating and championship experience. He's also shooting just under 42 percent from 3 on over five attempts a game.
The Spurs are starting to play better, but a rebuild is likely coming, at which point a young talent like Kuzma becomes far more valuable than a 31-year-old Mills making $12 million this season and $13 million next season.
- Lakers get: Mills
- Spurs get: Kuzma, Quinn Cook, Cousins
I don't know how realistic this one is. It would have to be a 3-for-1 deal to make the money work unless it became a three-teamer, and those are complicated for various reasons. Minnesota likes Covington, he fits what the Wolves do well and they have him locked up through 2022 on a pretty team-friendly deal.
But again, are they going to be competing any time soon? Kuzma fits the timeline, and he's a talented young player to put next to Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Hopefully those three develop into something together.
For the Lakers, it's simple: Covington spaces the floor as a 35 percent 3-point shooter (and that's actually the worst he's shot in the past five seasons, so there's reason to think he could get hot at the right time), and he's a 6-foot-7 wing defender to stick on a Kawhi or Paul George, or Donovan Mitchell if the Lakers play Utah, or Jamal Murray if they play Denver, and on down the line.
- Lakers get: Covington
- Timberwolves get: Kuzma, Avery Bradley, Cousins
Morris says he wants to stay with the Knicks, who have in turn said they don't intend to trade him. We'll see about that if Kuzma were to end up on the table for veteran player in Morris who is on an expiring deal and doesn't at all fit the Knicks' timeline. The Knicks would get a young, potential All-Star-level scorer in Kuzma (yes, you can still talk yourself into Kuzma having that kind of potential) with no pressure to contribute right away on a championship level.
In Morris, the Lakers would get a 46.9 percent 3-point shooter (second in the league) who can create his own shot (always a must in the playoffs) and defend those elite wings. Morris has plenty of playoff experience and will not shy away from the stages the Lakers expect to be playing on come May and June. Plus, again, he's an expiring deal, so it's just a rental. No future cap ramifications to even consider.
Problem is, Morris makes $15 million. The Lakers would have to send out four players to make the salary work assuming they can't get KCP to lift his no-trade, and I'm not even sure they would want to trade KCP for a rental. If it did go down, the 4-for-1 swap would leave the Knicks with too many players on their roster, so they'd have to cut a few players or turn it into a three-team deal where they send an extra guy out.
- Lakers get: Marcus Morris
- Knicks get: Kuzma, Quinn Cook, Cousins, Jared Dudley
Young is having a down season in Chicago, but there's no reason to believe his shooting numbers wouldn't rise back up in the space LeBron and Anthony Davis create. More importantly, he's the 6-foot-8 defender we keep talking about. The Lakers need this. And the Bulls need young players that can grow on their timeline.
I'm not sure I pull the trigger on this one if I'm the Lakers. Young is solid and potentially helps them, but if he doesn't rediscover his game the Lakers will still have to pay him over $13.5 million next season with a non-fully guaranteed $14.1 million on the books for 2021-22.
Still a name to watch.
- Lakers get: Young
- Bulls get: Kuzma, Avery Bradley, Cousins
This one is complicated. For starters, KCP likely isn't going to sign off on going to OKC, so the Lakers would have to pile up a lot of little salaries to get in range of Schroder's number. Also, there are whispers around the league that the Thunder might actually become buyers at the deadline.
But if they ultimately do decide to sell, Schroder to the Lakers makes a lot of sense. Schroder is blistering this season at 18.5 points per game on a career-high shooting percentage from both the field and 3. He would be instant offense off the Lakers' bench and a source of legitimate firepower in a potential closing lineup.
Meanwhile, the Thunder continue hoarding young assets, putting Kuzma alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a boatload of future picks to either put into a deal for a big-time player -- perhaps one dissatisfied with his current situation (the same way they got Paul George) -- or serve as the foundation of a more patient rebuilding plan.
As mentioned in the Morris/Knicks scenario, a 4-for-1 deal is tough in that it leaves OKC with too many players. They'd have to cut a few or, like New York, turn it into a three-team deal where they send an extra player out. If they did decide to move Danilo Gallinari, that would be a potential avenue to involve a third team. Again, complicated. But worth considering for both sides.
- Lakers get: Schroder
- Thunder get: Kuzma, Avery Bradley, Cousins, Dudley
Everyone wants Bertans, who is legitimately one of the best shooters in the world -- over 43 percent from 3 on almost nine attempts a game. Watching him fire away on the Wizards is becoming appointment television, and playing alongside LeBron would give him more open looks than he's ever seen.
The Wizards love him, but he's a restricted free agent this summer and if they don't want to pay the number he'll likely demand, they'll be looking to get something for him while they can. It might require the Lakers adding a future draft pick. Bertans has been that good.
Kuzma will present the same restricted free agent dilemma in 2021, but at least the Wizards would have a year to chart his growth and see where they are with Bradley Beal and John Wall after he returns.
- Lakers get: Bertans
- Wizards get: Kuzma, Quinn Cook, future pick
The Heat almost traded Dragic once, and now that Winslow is back, he becomes more expendable even though he's having a terrific season off the bench, especially with Avery Bradley potentially coming back to Miami in a Lakers deal. Dragic likely moves right into the starting and finishing lineup for L.A., but there's a reason that I put this one so low on the list.
Dragic makes $19 million, so the Lakers would realistically have to send out three players to make the money work. Let's say Miami is one of the few places KCP might considering waiving his no-trade clause for, the three outgoing Lakers could be Kuzma, KCP and Avery Bradley. Those are all rotations players. Dragic is better than all of them on their own, but is he that much better to represent a meaningful enough upgrade in the aggregate to give up on Kuzma?
It's one to consider, but not one to expect.
- Lakers get: Dragic
- Heat get: Kuzma, Caldwell-Pope, future pick
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