Potential Trades Lakers Should Consider with No. 7 Pick
With the sixth-worst record in the NBA, the Lakers dropped another notch—they now have the No. 7 overall pick.
Unless, that is, they choose to trade their pick away. Speaking at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, per Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak expressed a willingness to trade the team’s pick in order to better the team: "A high pick is valuable. You can select a player if there's a player there that you like, or you can look to move the pick and improve your team."
The Lakers will certainly be able to pick a quality player at No. 7. The question is whether they can turn that pick into a franchise game-changer through a trade.
On the other hand, this draft is loaded with hot prospects, and nobody yet knows who could fall or who could rise in the final order come draft night on June 26, 2014.
Here then are five possible trades the Lakers should consider, not necessarily ranked in order of preference or feasibility, given the challenges of draft-pick trades.
This one might as well be addressed first. Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves is the most obvious top name on the Lakers’ wish list.
According to Sports Illustrated and the The Associated Press, Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders and owner Glen Taylor may be relaxing their previously firm position on not trading away their prime asset:
With the NBA draft lottery coming up this week and an increasing concern that Love will leave for another team after next year, that stance has softened, two people with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The Timberwolves are now open to the idea of trading Love is the right deal comes along.
What that deal looks like is open to interpretation. As reported by Adrian Wojnarowski for Yahoo Sports, teams planning on pursuing Love include the Lakers, Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls.
Of those teams, only the Celtics have a better draft pick than the Lakers, at No. 6.
Love, a three-time All-Star and native of Los Angeles, would be an immediate game-changer for the Lakers and likely their face of the future. That is, if he would agree to a long-term contract.
Swinging a deal would be the difficult part. The T-Wolves would most likely want a high draft pick and a veteran player or two who could add to the team’s stability and leadership. The Lakers, however, only have three players locked into contracts for next season—Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre.
They won’t trade Bryant, of course, Nash is chronically injured and Sacre is a second-year utility player.
The Lakers will have enough cap room available, however, to absorb Love’s contract without adding an additional player apart from their draft pick to the deal.
Would the No. 7 pick be enough to entice Minnesota? It seems doubtful. The Lakers may have to hope that Love is still an available free agent in 2015.
Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The 28-year-old point guard is also coming off his best season in the NBA, having averaged 17.9 points and 7.4 assists in 79 games.
Known for defensive toughness as well as the ability to go off on some mind-bending scoring streaks, Lowry led the Raptors into the first round of the playoffs and to the final moments of a Game 7 before losing to the Brooklyn Nets by a single point, 104-103. Lowry had a game-high 28 points in the process.
The Raptors will do everything they can to bring Lowry back. His $6,210,000 salary was a relative bargain last season—who knows how much he can command on the open market?
But what if Toronto can’t convince the veteran to stay? He’s got plenty of suitors, and the Lakers, of course, are in desperate need of a top-quality point guard. They’ve also got the No. 7 pick as well as the expiring contract of Nash.
The Raptors tried to land Nash, a native Canadian, during the free-agency summer of 2012. That never came to pass of course, with the famed point guard instead electing to sign with the Lakers.
Trading a draft pick for any free agent, of course, would necessitate agreeing to terms in principle, and executing a swap after July 9, per the NBA's free agent moratorium. In other words, Lowry would have to agree to a sign-and-trade.
Would there still be any interest on the part of Toronto? Or will the Raptors and Lowry continue to move forward together, looking to improve on the success of this past season?
Luol Deng has something in common with the Lakers’ upcoming draft selection. The 6’8” small forward was the No. 7 overall pick by the Phoenix Suns in 2004—10 years ago. The Suns promptly traded his draft rights to the Chicago Bulls where he became an integral part of the franchise.
Deng’s short stay with the Cavaliers was unremarkable, and the 29-year-old unrestricted free agent will now be fielding offers.
According to Sam Amico of Fox News, the Lakers are one of the interested parties.
Could Los Angeles use its No. 7 pick to attract the No. 7 pick from a decade ago? The Cavaliers would have to do a sign-and-trade, but there could be a real upside for them.
Cleveland was the big winner in Tuesday’s lottery with the No. 1 overall pick. Might it like the opportunity to double-dip in this year’s top seven?
Deng would make an instant impact with the Lakers. A long, versatile swing forward, Deng can score the ball in a variety of ways, from back-to-the-basket post plays or from mid-range. With long arms and a knack for disrupting on the defensive end, Deng is the kind of two-way player who could come in as a proven commodity.
The Lakers will be in dire need of frontcourt help this coming season. Pau Gasol, Chris Kaman and Jordan Hill are all unrestricted free agents, leaving only Robert Sacre—the No. 60 pick in the 2012 draft—under contract for next season. Los Angeles can also extend a qualifying offer to Ryan Kelly, making him a restricted free agent.
Kelly was the team’s No. 48 pick in last year’s draft and was a pleasant surprise during his rookie season, playing in 59 games as a classic stretch 4.
Sacre and Kelly are decent role players, but the Lakers need a solid starter at the center position.
Marcin Gortat could be that guy.
Known as The Polish Hammer for his defensive toughness, Gortat has a nice scoring touch as well, either from the low block or extending out to mid-range. With the Washington Wizards falling to the Indiana Pacers in the second round of the playoffs, Gortat will next move into the summer’s free-agency market.
The Wizards would doubtless like to bring Gortat back, but they also have to deal with fellow unrestricted free agent Trevor Ariza as well as a host of other empty roster spots.
And, they don’t have a first-round draft pick this year.
Perhaps the Lakers’ No. 7 pick and cash consideration could work into a nice sign-and-trade scenario.
And Gortat could reunite with his favorite pick-and-roll passing point guard—Steve Nash. As Gortat said to Vince Marotta of Arizona Sports last season: "I miss Steve. I'm not going to deny it. I do miss him, I miss him a lot. He was great, he's a great role model, on the court, off the court. I mean hands down, the guy is just super good, super great.”
The Lakers need help at all positions, including point guard. They could luck out if Dante Exum slips in the draft, but that seems a remote possibility. There’s also Marcus Smart, a workhorse with good size and strength.
Collison started 35 games this season when Chris Paul was out with a separated shoulder, and was also an integral contributor off the bench during the Clippers’ playoff run.
The 6'0" guard can be a streaky shooter but had some big games recently, scoring in double figures three times against the Golden State Warriors in the first round and twice against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the semis.
As the 21st overall draft pick in 2009, Collison hasn’t been able to stick with one team, having played with the New Orleans Hornets, Indiana Pacers, Dallas Mavericks and the Clippers over five seasons.
Per Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, Lakers GM Kupchak is not only open to trading, but would also like to explore acquiring additional first-round draft picks:
We may look to get a pick some other way because we have guys we interviewed who aren’t going to be gone before the second round, but they’ll be around after [our current pick]. You only get so many assets in this league. Draft picks are an asset. There’s cap room, draft picks and players. Those are assets you can use to rebuild a team.
The Clippers currently hold the No. 28 pick in the first round. Would they consider trading the draft rights for that selection, Collison and perhaps either Danny Granger or Glenn “Big Baby” Davis for the Lakers’ No. 7 pick?
Given that Collinson, Granger and Davis all have player options, sign-and-trades would have to be worked out, extending their contracts and ensuring that they wouldn't simply be expiring contracts for the Lakers.
It would definitely be one way for the Lakers to start filling roster holes quickly.