The Los Angeles Lakers made a number of changes to their roster to increase their chance of winning a championship in 2012-13, but they are far from a finished product. Although they have added all-stars Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and players to their bench, there are still a few question marks in the Lakers lineup and room for improvement in some key positions.
The Lakers management has done a great job this offseason of addressing their deficiencies from previous seasons. Nash was brought in to shore up the point guard position, an area of need that has plagued the Lakers for years. The Lakers also upgraded their bench by signing free agents Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks and adding depth via the Howard trade.
Despite their upgrades, small forward is still an area of concern for the Lakers. Metta World Peace still has value, but he is erratic at best and is due over $14 million over the next two seasons. The following slides will point out 5 possible trade solutions the Lakers should consider that would offer immediate improvement at the small forward position.
While Reggie Williams may be relatively unknown to most casual NBA fans, he is actually a solid scorer at the small forward position capable of both starting and coming off the bench.
Williams opened eyes by averaging 15.2 ppg in his rookie season for the Warriors in 2009-10, then followed up with 9.2 ppg and shooting .423 off the bench his sophomore season before joining the Bobcats as a free agent last season.
The Bobcats drafted small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to be their starter for years to come and Jeff Taylor as his backup, Williams can most likely be acquired at a low cost to fill a need for the Lakers. Williams is also in the final year of his contract at $2.5 million for next season so his price tag is affordable.
Williams may not offer the defensive abilities of Devin Ebanks, but his long range shooting and scoring off the bench would more than make up for the loss on the defensive end.
Xavier Henry came out of Kansas as a freshman with high expectations and a reputation as one of the best shooters in the 2010 draft. He hasn't quite lived up to those expectations yet, but Henry has flashed enough potential to make an intriguing trade target for the right team.
Henry hasn't shot many three pointers in his career to date (he's made 9 out of 34 attempts in his first two seasons) but at 6'6" and 220 lbs. with a smooth lefty release, he may be a good fit in the Lakers new Princeton-style offense.
Ebanks hasn't been able to hit jumpers consistently when he's gotten playing time and long-range shooting will be key for the Lakers wing players this season. The Lakers can throw in Morris to the point-guard thin Hornets to sweeten the deal. Swapping Ebanks' one-year, $1 million deal combined with Morris' deal worth about $937k, and the salaries would work.
Henry also has a club option for next season before he reaches restricted free agency in 2014, so if he doesn't work out with L.A. they can let him go without any long-term commitment. It's a low-risk move that may be worth considering.
This is a trade that may be more wishful thinking than realistic given Metta's history in Detroit, but it's a move that would make a lot of sense for both teams.
Tayshaun Prince is a perfect fit for the Lakers. The lanky lefty is from Los Angeles—he went to Dominguez HS in Compton, CA—can create his own offense and make plays for others, and he is a plus defender who can knock down the three ball (.367 over the course of his 10-year career).
Prince, 32, just inked a 4-year, $28 million deal in December and has about $21.7 million remaining for the next three years, but he's the type of player who can remain valuable throughout the length of the deal.
World Peace makes $7.2 million for this season and has a $7.7 million player option for next, but if he's somehow dealt to the rebuilding Pistons he would most likely opt out and look to land with a contender, thus saving the Pistons close to $15 million in cap space from 2013-2015.
It may be unlikely to happen, but a World Peace for Prince swap makes too much sense on paper for it to go unexplored.
The biggest obstacle for any team considering to trade for Pacers forward Danny Granger is the $27 million price tag he carries over the next two years. What makes that price tag even more of a risk is the fact that Granger's production has regressed each of the previous two seasons.
Despite his declining production, Granger is still offensively one of the most versatile forwards in the NBA. He shoots the basketball well from long range (.384 for his career) and put the ball on the floor and is athletic enough to be a capable defender.
World Peace enjoyed the best seasons of his career playing for the Pacers so a return to Indiana wouldn't be out of the question for him. The Pacers have decent point guards in George Hill and D.J. Augustin but Blake's veteran leadership could be an asset to them. Ebanks would be more of a throw in to make the Lakers taking Granger's salary less painful financially.
Luol Deng's name has been in trade rumors for years now, and those rumors won't cease anytime soon unless he's dealt or offered a huge contract extension. Deng has a ton of value as a prototypical 6'8" small forward capable of defending, knocking down open jumpers and playing effectively off the ball—all qualities that would fit the Lakers needs at the wing position. Deng is also only 27 years old.
Deng is owed over $27 million for the next two seasons so he won't come cheap. The Lakers could offer a package of World Peace and Steve Blake (who are owed a combined $22 million for this season and next) and a throw-in to make the deal work. Deng could immediately step in as the starting small forward, and with the Lakers having so much depth at point, Blake's absence would not be missed.
The Bulls will be in a holding pattern until Derrick Rose returns sometime after New Years. They brought Kirk Hinrich back to play the point in Rose's absence and drafted Marquis Teague to be a back up, but Teague probably isn't ready to play significant NBA minutes yet. Blake, on the other hand, is.
Chicago has also been grooming Jimmy Butler to eventually take over at small forward if the Bulls can't re-sign Deng in 2014 (which is unlikely since so many teams will have cap space to bid for him). Chicago might as well take a risk on World Peace for the short term, and if he doesn't work out they can go with Butler and let him develop his game while playing starter's minutes.
An all-star forward of Deng's caliber is definitely worth the investment for the Lakers and with Chicago expected to have a down season, the opportunity to get Deng's salary off the books may be an option they would be willing to explore.