The clock is ticking. Thursday’s NBA trade deadline is swiftly approaching and Los Angeles Lakers fans are on pins and needles, hoping that the purple and gold will make a move. In the midst of another losing season and with star guard Kobe Bryant about to deliver his final curtain call, it would appear that Los Angeles is sorely in need of a trade.
However, complicating things is the fact that the Lakers will only get their 2016 draft pick if it falls somewhere in the top three, otherwise it becomes property of the Philadelphia 76ers (a lingering effect of the Steve Nash trade). With just 11 wins and 44 losses, the Lakers currently have the second-worst record in the league, which gives them roughly a 55 percent chance of retaining their precious pick in the lottery.
Due to this, the Lakers are not likely to make a deal that improves the team immediately, as it could cause them to lower their lottery odds by winning too many games. Of course, if a no-brainer trade for a superstar lands in their laps, then the team will certainly go for it, but the chances of that happening are slim. Assuming a Godfather offer doesn’t appear, the Lakers will firmly be in “sell” mode.
Unfortunately, their most valuable trade chips happen to be the young players that they are hoping will be their future core namely D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Anthony Brown, and Larry Nance Jr.
There isn’t much for opposing teams to get excited about on the rest of the squad, especially since Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak won’t be too keen on taking on any players who might tie up future cap space.
Roy Hibbert’s value is negated by his massive contract, while Nick Young’s errant shooting and long-term deal means that no one will be bending over backwards to acquire him. Metta World Peace isn’t going anywhere. Ryan Kelly, Tarik Black, and Robert Sacre are all on cheap deals, but have yet to prove that they are rotation players.
Reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams will have some interested parties, but his contract is a steal and he has proven to be a valuable asset on the floor, so opposing teams would have to overpay to pry him loose.
Still, the situation isn’t hopeless. The Lakers do have one player who both has real value and is very much available: Brandon Bass.
Bass is a veteran big man who has the versatility that coaches love and would go a long way towards strengthening a contending team’s frontcourt rotation. He is on a fantastic deal that pays him just $3 million this season with a player option for next season at the same price.
It’s also clear that Bass, who is unlikely to pick up his option for next year, probably won’t remain in Los Angeles. Thanks to the the rising salary cap, he can surely make more on a new deal and with the Lakers firmly in rebuild mode, Bass will almost certainly search for a contending team to spend the remainder of his prime with.
This is where things get a bit tricky for Kupchak, though. He has been in this position before with a free-agent-to-be who was unlikely to stay in Los Angeles, and failed to find a viable trade at the deadline. Though each situation had its own particular nuances, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and Jordan Hill all remained on the Lakers roster through their respective trade deadlines, then departed during the summer and left the Lakers with nothing in return save for money off the cap.
Kupchak is known for being a shrewd negotiator and has high asking prices for his players. However, not getting what they could for Howard, Gasol, and Hill has come back to haunt the team, as they have found themselves asset-poor as they attempt to rebuild the once-great franchise.
Things may be different this time around, though. The Lakers had hoped to re-sign both Howard and Gasol, so even though it was far from a sure thing that either player would return, they didn’t want to rob themselves of the chance to pitch to their All-Star big man by accepting a low-ball offer. Jordan Hill, meanwhile, was on a contract that paid him more than his services on the court were worth, making it difficult to find a taker in spite of his skills.
Bass, on the other hand, is on a fantastic contract; one that is so good that he would actually increase his trade value by picking up his option for next year because it’s clear that he should be making more than $3 million.
Additionally, with Randle and Nance entrenched as the Lakers power forwards of the future, it’s also crystal clear that there isn’t much room for Bass to return to Los Angeles next season. Dealing Bass now for less than market value, unlike Gasol and Howard, won’t carry with it the opportunity cost of signing him this summer.
Add in the fact that moving the veteran Bass to a playoff-bound team is the type of benevolent move that builds goodwill with agents and it’s safe to say that making a deal is a no-brainer. Even if the only asset received for Bass is a late second round pick, the Lakers have proven adept at identifying and obtaining diamonds in the rough.
Last year’s trade deadline was incredible with the Lakers being one of the few teams to not make a deal. This year, it’s imperative that they act and not let assets slip through their fingers. Brandon Bass has been an excellent addition to the team this season, now it’s best for all parties if the Lakers find him a new home. The return won’t be substantial, but every little bit helps.