The Los Angeles Lakers are in a difficult position as the trade deadline approaches. With only a four-game lead over the No. 7 seeded San Antonio Spurs and LeBron James and Anthony Davis still weeks away from returning, winning right now is a priority for the sake of seeding and avoiding the play-in round. However, when the Lakers are at full strength, they are, at the very least, the Western Conference favorites. Any moves that they make should be geared towards the postseason given their status as a defending champion, but doing so may cost them in the short term while Davis and James are still recovering.
Consider Montrezl Harrell. With Davis and James out, the Lakers need every ounce of offense they can find. Harrell is their fourth-leading scorer. Yet when Davis returns, the Lakers will have something of a logjam at center. Davis is going to play more minutes there in the postseason. Marc Gasol has thrived in the starting lineup, so there is no reason to change it. Markieff Morris played some center in the postseason in the Orlando bubble, and the Lakers are reportedly interested in Andre Drummond on the buyout market. Add all of that up, and as valuable as Harrell is right now, he could become an afterthought when the postseason arrives.
The Lakers seem to have acknowledged that reality. According to Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer, the Lakers are willing to entertain offers on Harrell as the deadline approaches. The Hornets, who reportedly tried to sign Harrell during the offseason, are interested. It is unclear what they would give up to get him, though, as Fischer reports that the Hornets are expected to keep young guard Devonte' Graham. When LaMelo Ball replaced him in the starting lineup, Graham, a restricted free agent this offseason, seemed like a possible trade candidate, but now that the Hornets have lost Ball for the season, they'll need Graham if they plan to keep pushing for a playoff spot.
The Lakers sorely need shooting, and aside from Graham, the Hornets don't have an obvious method of providing it. They could, in theory, construct a three-team arrangement with the Lakers where they acquire Harrell and send draft capital to a third-party who provides the Lakers with the shooting that they're looking for. Players like Terrence Ross and Norman Powell make sense as possible targets. The Lakers would surely be interested in Hornets guard Terry Rozier, but even if Charlotte was willing to give him up, he is simply too expensive for the Lakers to acquire in a Harrell deal given their hard cap constraints.
The Lakers likely won't pull the trigger on any Harrell deal until they have a better sense of Drummond's availability. If they think they can replace Harrell on the buyout market, there's little reason to keep him considering the scarcity of perimeter talent on the market and their own crowded frontcourt. However, without an obvious replacement in mind, the Lakers will have to be careful. Retaining Harrell will help them rack up regular-season wins while James and Davis recover. That isn't quite as important as shoring up the postseason roster, but it isn't something to be dismissed entirely.