The NBA trade deadline is swiftly approaching (Feb. 18 at 12 PM PST) and considering the Los Angeles Lakers unsightly record, fans are expecting them to be active. However, thanks to a glorious history of pulling off home-run deals, many have expectations that aren’t realistic. I can’t tell you how many Jordan Clarkson and Roy Hibbert for DeMarcus Cousins deals I’ve seen fans propose on the premise that Hibbert’s expiring contract has massive value, just like Kwame Brown’s did when it brought Pau Gasol to Los Angeles.
Unfortunately, the NBA doesn’t work that way anymore. Negotiating a deal in the modern NBA landscape is a little like dating in that both parties have to have something that the other side finds attractive. It’s a two-way street and if one side isn’t getting what they need out of the trade, then they break it off by not responding to texts anymore (probably).
Sure, every once in a while a team comes along that is so desperate that they settle for a terrible deal (like Sacramento’s deal with the Sixers last summer that cleared cap space but cost Nik Stauskas, a 2016 first round pick AND two pick swaps), but those are rare. For the most part, you have to give in order to get.
With that in mind, we are going to take a look at five realistic trades the Lakers could look to make at the deadline. I’m heading into these negotiations with two rules: Lakers won’t take on long-term salaries unless it’s for a potential core-piece, and they won’t make moves that improve the roster this season. Doing so at this point would be counter-productive, as adding wins now only serves to decrease the chances of retaining their 2016 draft pick.
Off we go.
Roy Hibbert for David Lee and 2016 second round pick (via Dallas)
Given the history between these two franchises, it may be unsettling to see the Lakers negotiating with the villainous Celtics, but it does happen from time to time. Remember when Los Angeles gave up Gary Payton, Rick Fox, and a first rounder for Chris Mihm, Jumaine Jones, and Chucky Atkins? No? Probably for the best.
Anyway, the Celtics are currently sitting in the middle of the pack in the East and have put together a few nice little win streaks. David Lee is racking up DNP’s on a roster that is loaded with talented bigs who aren’t true rim protectors like Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, Amir Johnson, and Tyler Zeller. The superfluous Lee has a nearly identical expiring contract to Hibbert, so a straight-across swap is a fairly simple deal.
The Celtics would add Hibbert to give them the option of throwing a different look at opponents, which may be crucial come playoff time. While Hibbert has proven that he isn’t a starting-caliber center anymore, he does give head coach Brad Stevens another arrow in his quiver.
For the Lakers, their incentive is the seconnd round pick. Boston has more of them in upcoming draft than they could ever use, and GM Mitch Kupchak has proven to be adept at finding diamonds in the rough. If the Lakers could reach a buyout with Lee, they would enjoy the added bonus of freeing up minutes for Tarik Black, who is being grossly underutilized currently.
Lakers are rumored to be looking to send Hibbert to a contender as a thank you for sacrificing some of his trade kicker to help facilitate the deal that brought him to Los Angeles from Pawnee last summer, and this seems like a win-win for both clubs.
Brandon Bass, Lou Williams, and 2016 second round pick for Kelly Oubre Jr., Khris Humphries, and DeJuan Blair.
Like Roy Hibbert, the Lakers are rumored to be attempting to send Brandon Bass to a contender. Washington currently isn’t a playoff team in the East, but this move would put them in the mix.
The likelihood of this deal happening comes down to how the Wizards view Williams. Personally, I see his deal (two-years, $14 million) as a positive as it’s easily below market-value and as the cap rises, the deal will look better and better. Lou is producing at roughly the same level as he did during last season’s Sixth Man of the Year campaign, so even though he eats up some future cap space for Washington, it’s money well spent. If Bass is able to be convinced to pick up his $3 million option for next year (an absolute bargain for a team), then he becomes that much more valuable as well.
On the court, the upgrade from Humphries to Bass would give Washington a versatile big-man rotation including Marcin Gortat, Nene and Jared Dudley. Head coach Randy Wittman would have an intriguing mix to experiment with, and Bass’ ability to run the floor and finish at the rim would surely mesh John Wall’s break-neck pace and creative passing.
Meanwhile, adding Lou to back up an increasingly fragile Bradley Beal at shooting guard gives the Wizard’s second unit the punch that they have been lacking, and his ability to create his own shot takes some pressure off of John Wall. Most importantly, with their (and everyone else’s) sights firmly set on Kevin Durant next summer, adding Williams to the Wizards roster gives them an even more move-in-ready squad to tempt KD with.
For the Lakers, this move is all about Oubre, who was the 15th pick in last summer’s draft. Washington likes him a lot, but they already have their small forward of the future on the roster in Otto Porter Jr. The Lakers are lacking young swingmen (aside from Anthony Brown), and Oubre’s age and rookie contract would be a dream fit. Blair and Humphries both have non-guaranteed deals for next year and are basically salary filler, although neither contract is particularly bad.
The loss of Lou Williams would force head coach Byron Scott to give D’Angelo Russell all the minutes he can handle, and Bass’ departure would clear the way for Black to showcase his skills at center — especially if Humphries and/or Blair could be flipped elsewhere. Currently, Lou and Bass have the highest PER on the roster, so the odds of keeping the draft pick could conceivably go up if this move allows Los Angeles to catch Philadelphia in the tank race.
Losing Oubre would be a tough pill for Washington to swallow, but if this move gets them to the playoffs and allows them to make enough noise to catch KD’s attention, it would be worth it.
Should Washington completely balk at including Oubre, a similar deal could be built around Washington’s 2016 1st round pick.
Ryan Kelly for Philadephia 2016 second round pick (top-55 protected)
When Ryan Kelly was selected with the 48th pick of the 2013 Draft, he was expected to become the quintessential stretch four in Mike D’Antoni’s offense. Unfortunately, after Kelly’s promising rookie season, D’Antoni was replaced by Scott and Kelly quickly became a square peg in a round hole.
This deal would reunite Kelly with D’Antoni, who is now an assistant coach for Brett Brown and the Sixers. As surprisingly decent as the Sixers have been recently, they lack shooters for point guard Ish Smith to kick the ball out to. Additionally, with bigs like Jahlil Okafor needing space down low, a perimeter-oriented big like Kelly would be an ideal fit.
On an expiring contract, Kelly is a minimal-risk tryout for Philadelphia, although his man-bun doesn’t help his value. He is an NBA-level player (Kelly tears up the D-League whenever he is sent down), and a change in scenery may do wonders for him. Dario Saric’s arrival from Europe next season could complicate things should the Sixers decide to keep Kelly around, but they have had no qualms about stockpiling young talent, regardless of any logjams that could be created.
For the Lakers to get anything out of a player who certainly won’t be staying in Los Angeles next season has to be considered a win, even if it is just an open roster spot (the seconnd round pick would never actually convey, but per league rules something has to go to Los Angeles).
Roy Hibbert for Joakim Noah
No picks or anything else coming the Lakers way here aside from Noah, who is out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. So why does this make sense?
From the Chicago side of things, Hibbert gives them a rim protector to play behind Pau Gasol. Since Noah went down, the Bulls have compensated by shifting his minutes to promising rookie Bobby Portis. However, Chicago is hoping to have a solid showing in the playoffs, and a veteran rim protector like Hibbert could prove valuable in limited minutes.
Los Angeles would fulfill their goal of shipping Hibbert to a playoff team, and they would inherit Noah’s Bird Rights, which could be useful should he decide to sign with the Lakers after his shoulder heals.
The Lakers could very well be losing Hibbert for nothing in this deal, but at the very least, they would free up minutes for Black in the process.
D’Angelo Russell and 2016 second round pick for Robert Covington and 2016 first round pick (via Lakers)
For the record, I don’t agree with trading away the No. 2 pick in last summer’s draft halfway through his rookie season. Russell hasn’t shot out of the gate the way that Karl-Anthony Towns or Kristaps Porzingis has, but he hasn’t had the most friendly of circumstances to deal with, so patience is needed. Still, rumors have spread that the Lakers may consider dealing him.
In real life, should they opt to part ways with Russell at the deadline, the Lakers would likely be looking for win-now pieces. However, improving the team at the deadline would almost surely end the possibility of landing a top pick this year.
Instead, should they decide that Russell isn’t the player for them, a deal like the one I’m proposing here would help the Lakers build their future core while maintaining their draft positioning this summer.
Remember that even if Los Angeles does retain their pick this year, they will have to send Philadelphia a first round pick at some point, so this deal adds a valuable future asset even if the team does finish with a top three.
Furthermore, Robert Covington provides Los Angeles with a young, talented swingman on an incredible contract. The Lakers would actually have even more cap space to play with because Covington makes considerably less than Russell does.
For the Sixers, parting with both Covington and the pick would be a tough sell. However, because the Lakers pick is top-three protected this year and next year, they are trading an asset that would be at best a fourth overall selection in exchange for a player in Russell that they were hoping would fall to them last draft. This move gives them a core of Russell, Okafor, Noel, Saric, and Embiid to build around, and it has to be noted that Russell would likely thrive in the D’Antoni-influenced offense.
Trading Russell certainly isn’t the preferred choice for Los Angeles, and finding the right deal would be difficult, but this move at least seems to to be one that would intrigue both sides. More likely, if the Lakers do decide to move their prized rookie for win-now pieces, they will do it during the summer when they won’t hurt their chances of retaining their draft pick.