Ranking the Most Indispensable Los Angeles Lakers Nearing the Trade Deadline
The trade deadline is just on the horizon, and among the teams most likely to make a deal in the next several days are the Los Angeles Lakers.
They've had a shaky enough season thus far—by their standards, at least—for some personnel changes to warrant serious consideration. Not helping matters whatsoever are the lingering effects of the failed Chris Paul trade, from Lamar Odom's departure to the prevailing thought that the trigger is still waiting to be pulled somewhere in order to get them fully back on track.
So with the high probability of a trade in La-La Land, the question becomes who should stay put? Whom can this team ill-afford to lose at this juncture? In descending order, my modest list...
Your thoughts are, as always, welcome.
Not appearing on this list will be Luke Walton and Troy Murphy, as I consider them to be ideal trade bait...
8. Josh McRoberts
There's just something about Josh McRoberts that makes me wonder what would have him so underplayed and undervalued thus far in his career. He doesn't really make you want to put the ball in his hands that much, but he shows you flashes of a guy who'll flat out make defenses regret sagging off him, albeit still only flashes.
The Lakers may feel no particular need to hang onto McRoberts, but it's not a cinch that he needs to go, either. If injuries were to carve out a larger slice of the rotation for him, he could be a fan favorite, and quite useful under the basket.
Of all the no-name throw-ins the Lakers would need to package in order to get back something befitting their lofty aspirations, McRoberts should be the last one they consider dealing.
Highly debatable? Certainly.
7. Steve Blake
Steve Blake is a smart, pleasantly low-maintenance point guard who does his job as professionally as he can. He and Derek Fisher make an acceptable two-headed quarterback for a roster whose strength is focused elsewhere either way.
I just don't see why the Lakers would move either Blake or Fisher for anything but a clear upgrade at the point, and last I checked—do correct me if I'm wrong—the Lakers weren't big money players in the Deron Williams sweepstakes.
Other than this, all poor shooting aside, Blake doesn't give the Lakers any reason not to want him around. But if D-Will does become a possibility, then Steve can likely kiss his dream of an acting career goodbye.
6. Matt Barnes
Last time I checked, Matt Barnes was the Lakers most frequent starter for a reason. Being a reputably usable asset throughout his career, there is no shortage of teams—a few big'uns in particular—that would ask about him. He also comes relatively cheap for his brand of all-around ball.
Conversely, few people would call for anyone's head were he to be dealt, especially considering the Lakers propensity for pulling in some especially crowd-pleasing trade returns.
The demand for Barnes would far outpace the Lakers desire to move him, so the question is how much Kupchak and co. are willing to pass up to keep him. Admittedly, he would make a pretty cherry throw-in in a larger package, perhaps of the blockbuster variety.
5. Metta World Peace
Does Ron Art—I'm sorry—Metta World Peace have a whole lot of trade value? Depends on who you ask, i.e. who's desperate enough to gamble on his wholly unorthodox brain wiring.
His All-Star days are well behind him, and his game-by-game impact is nothing to write home about, but Art—dammit—World Peace has that "ready for war" edge to him that, frankly, only a select few teams (read: not Houston) can still exploit to serious benefit.
Defensively, he's one of the few guys who could get under absolutely anyone's skin on the floor, thanks to his street-caliber rough touch. The more perceptive coaches out there know what they can get from him and they'll be inquiring.
I think this one comes down to Coach Brown and whether he's confident enough—in spite of the relatively poor showings by both parties thus far this year—that he still has a genuine face card in World Peace going forward.
If the urge to tinker becomes too much to resist, he could possibly be on his way out, only for the Lakers to realize later that they sorely miss the little things that used to be Metta's department.
Not to be overlooked, if the Lakers were to enlist the services of Gilbert Arenas, a rare stabilizing phenomenon could take place—which I call the Jack Haley effect—much to the team's advantage.
4. Derek Fisher
As the Lakers last link to the past besides Kobe, Fisher brings a wealth of experience. He was Bryant's draft-classmate in 1996 and he's been there through all the ups and downs—save for his brief time in Oakland and Salt Lake City when the Smush Parker-run Lakers stunk up the town.
Well, maybe not stunk, but...moving on.
The Lakers are most likely too classy as an organization to trade Fisher, and not dumb enough to deliberately upset Kobe Bryant.
Not that Fisher's value is purely sentimental—he is still starting, after all—but he's has been shooting the ball at a pretty awful clip this season. One can't help but think (or hope) that this is just another example of the lockout causing a temporary disruption in a player's quality of play. He's still easily one of the league's most timely shot-makers.
Either way, at his advanced age, it's not likely too many teams are interested in Fisher beyond a mildly intriguing throw-in, so it's doubtful the Lakers front office will have its loyalty tested all that hard as the deadline closes in.
3. Pau Gasol
On to the bottom three, which I'm sure you saw coming the moment you read the title...
Of the Big Three, Gasol would be the least painful for the team to part ways with, but they would still suffer massively from losing the lynchpin of the huge frontcourt.
People still have last year fresh in their minds, when Gasol had seemingly lost his edge. His numbers were consistent with his usual output, but he seemed to disappear when the team needed him most.
The Lakers must realize they still have arguably a top-five power forward, not to mention a rare combination of size and smoothness (when times are hard, they call it softness).
Of course, offers will continue to roll in, and of course, L.A. is feeling the itch to make a move. With Gasol, they would be wise not to scratch it or risk losing a key part of their team personality in exchange for some less unique talent.
2. Andrew Bynum
The Lakers may not have the All-Star center of their dreams right now, but at least they have an All-Star center...
Still, Bynum's progress doesn't remove his name from the trading block, simply because he's the first guy teams ask about when dialing up Mitch Kupchak. The temptation to deal him may be dwindling at the moment, but he's too hot a commodity for his name not to get tossed around.
That said, between Bynum's production and his largely untapped upside, a shrewd negotiator like Kupchak can likely be trusted to zealously protect his newest All-Star.
The Lakers used to dangle his raw potential—something you can both sell, and part with comfortably for the right price—in front of possible trade partners; now they dangle an actual star. Presumably, their asking price has risen accordingly, and most likely sits at "an offer we can't refuse."
1. Kobe Bryant
I know the last slide is usually the meatiest, but what can I say? If you need someone to explain to you why the Lakers should hang on to Kobe, you should leave this site and never return.
If the Lakers trade Kobe—I can barely type it, it's so ridiculous—the people of Los Angeles may very well vote in the return of guillotines.
I don't care how much or little he has left in the tank, or what the Lakers can get for him, they would not be where they are today—both historically, and this season—without Kobe, and they cannot allow themselves to be talked into something as foolish as trading him.
UPDATE: As has been overlooked by me and pointed out by several, Kobe's no-trade clause makes trade talks largely moot. At the risk of overexposing myself, I should point out that Kobe's inclusion was a direct instruction on this particular assignment.