The Los Angeles Lakers entered the 2018-19 NBA season without a legitimate starting center on their roster. JaVale McGee is doing a somewhat impressive job as the man in the middle, but when he needs to rest, opposing team’s big men can easily bully the Lakers under the basket.
To address their weakness at center, Adam Fromal of Bleacher Report suggested that the Lakers may consider targeting Nikola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic via trade. In the proposed trade deal, the Lakers would send Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a 2019 top-25 first-round pick, and an unprotected 2020 second-round pick to the Magic for Nikola Vucevic. However, though Vucevic and Caldwell-Pope match each other’s salaries, both teams will need to wait until mid-December to make the deal since Caldwell-Pope just signed a new contract in the recent free agency.
“Parting with KCP might hurt, given his two-way skills and his enduring status as an upcoming free agent. But Josh Hart is waiting in the wings, and a six-man core of Lonzo Ball, Hart, James, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Nikola Vucevic should make a significant amount of noise in the Association’s tougher half. Even if the incoming big man is a lackluster defensive presence with limited mobility and doesn’t boast reliable three-point range, he’s still a massive upgrade over the current crop of Tinseltown centers.”
— Orlando Sentinel (@orlandosentinel) October 24, 2018
If the suggested trade becomes a reality, it would definitely help both teams in filling up the needs to improve on their roster. The Lakers will be acquiring a reliable big man who can go up against dominant centers in the league, while the Magic will receive a veteran guard who could boost their defense and three-point shooting.
Nikola Vucevic has been impressive in the 2018-19 NBA season. He is currently trying to improve his ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc to make himself more fitted in the modern NBA. In the five games he has played with the Magic this season, the 28-year-old center is averaging 19.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.0 block on 56.9 percent shooting from the field, and 77.8 percent from beyond the arc. The potential acquisition of Vucevic could give the Lakers a better chance of earning a playoff spot in the deep Western Conference.
The Lakers won’t mind giving up Kentavious Caldwell-Pope since they already have Josh Hart to serve as their permanent shooting guard. However, it remains questionable if Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka are willing to sacrifice their precious draft picks for a player of Vucevic’s caliber.