With February’s NBA trade deadline for the 2016-2017 season now less than two months away, rumors are already swirling around the Los Angeles Lakers. As usual, the Lakers are being connected to a variety of different rumors and scenarios, and most of them are unlikely to happen. While the team is going to listen to offers, they are probably not going to make any major deals.
In speaking with ESPN, Lakers head coach Luke Walton says the organization is hoping to grow and build with their young core that is already in place.
“If you grow from within, you control your own destiny. That’s the game plan. We want to see what this group can do. We don’t want to rely on anything else — on free agency, or trades.”
With a record of 11-22, the Lakers are not currently a good team. For a city that prides itself on having a great basketball team, fans are already becoming impatient in the post-Kobe Bryant era. While Bryant was once a great player, he had not had an impact on victories for years. Injuries and old age caught up to him, and the Lakers have not made it out of the first round of the playoffs since the 2011-2012 season. They have not made it out of the second round of the playoffs since the 2009-2010 season, a year in which they won the championship.
With Bryant gone, the Lakers finally have an opportunity to build from within. Their young core, which features D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Brandon Ingram, looks to be solid. None of them are going to make the All-Star team yet, but they are all still young. All of their names have been thrown around in trade rumors, many of which have been bogus, but it is likely the organization gives their young trio a few years together to see how they gel.
While Walton shot down the idea of a major trade, ESPN’s Zach Lowe speculated on why a deal could make sense.
“In that environment, maybe the Lakers should bust up their young core to trade for a stud now — to at least get one proven A-plus player in the door. Get one still locked into an ancient, pre-boom contract — say, a temperamental big man playing 400 miles north and earning less than Allen Crabbe — and the Lakers would have a brief moment in which they could carve out space for a free-agent co-star.”
The Lakers would surely jump at the opportunity for such a deal, but finding a young stud that is on a team-friendly contract is going to be next to impossible to find. While they exist, getting a team to trade them is going to be an entirely different story. And even if the team in question listens to offers, the Lakers would have to potentially give up too much. DeMarcus Cousins always remains a possibility, but the organization may not want to deal with the headache.
Assuming the Lakers decide to build through the draft and allow their current core to develop, things are not going to be entirely smooth sailing. Unless the Lakers end up with a pick in the top three of next year’s draft, they are going to have to send their first-round draft pick to the Philadelphia 76ers. While the Lakers are not a good team this year, they are not that bad. Unless they start losing a lot of games, it appears as though the Lakers first-round pick is going to fall outside of the top three positions, which means it will be sent to Philadelphia.
If the Lakers do manage to keep their pick this year, it becomes unprotected in 2018. According to RealGM, there is also a scenario where the Lakers will have to send their 2019 first-round draft pick to the Orlando Magic.
“If the L.A. Lakers convey a 1st round pick to Philadelphia in 2017, then the L.A. Lakers will convey their 2019 1st round pick to Orlando; if the L.A. Lakers do not convey a 1st round pick to Philadelphia in 2017, then the L.A. Lakers will instead convey their 2017 2nd round pick and 2018 2nd round pick to Orlando”
While the team does not expect to be overly active in the trade market this year, a lot can change. Things can happen in the locker room, and great deals can present themselves.
[Featured Image by Michael Reaves/Getty Images]