The Los Angeles Lakers' 2014-15 roster consists of the following players: Kobe Bryant ($23.5 million), Steve Nash ($9.7 million) and Robert Sacre (approximately $900,000). With only three guaranteed contracts on the books, it makes sense for L.A. to trade down in the 2014 NBA draft as a means of acquiring more picks.
Hiring a new head coach to replace the departed Mike D’Antoni should still be management’s No. 1 priority. The front office will have an easier time finding players if it knows what system will be in place beforehand.
Nevertheless, Lakerland needs a minimum of nine players to fill out the roster for next season besides Bryant, Nash and Sacre. Kendall Marshall will likely have his cheap, non-guaranteed deal picked up during the offseason, but that still leaves the Lakers with a variety of holes to fill.
The Purple and Gold didn’t manage to get lucky in the draft lottery. Instead of vaulting into the top three selections for a shot at high-stock prospects like Jabari Parker or Dante Exum, L.A. actually fell one spot to No. 7 overall.
With that position, the Lakers could potentially land incoming talents like Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon or Marcus Smart. Whether general manager Mitch Kupchak and his scouts are high on any of those youngsters remains to be seen.
On June 26 the Lakers could very easily stand pat at No. 7, draft whichever available target they like best and move forward accordingly.
One possible alternative, however, is trading back in the draft to acquire more assets from another franchise. The Lakers desperately need to add depth while getting younger. They can kill two birds with one stone by moving back from their current draft position.
But what teams—if any—are ideal partners to surrender assets while moving up to No. 7?
Thanks in large part to general manager Ryan McDonough, the Phoenix Suns managed to stockpile picks for the 2014 draft.
In total, the Suns have their own selection (No. 14), the Washington Wizards first-rounder, via the Marcin Gortat trade (No. 18) and the Indiana Pacers' late first-round choice courtesy of the Luis Scola swap (No. 27).
McDonough already said in April, “I think it’s unlikely that we’ll bring in three rookies to the Suns,” per BrightSideoftheSun.com’s Dave King.
The Suns have three valuable first-round picks, but the odds of them using all three to bring in fresh blood are not high.
Phoenix could certainly be seen as a contender to package those assets in a deal for disgruntled Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Love. However, T-Wolves owner Glen Taylor said he wouldn’t trade Love by the 2014 draft, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Jerry Zgoda. That could hurt the Suns’ chances of pulling off a blockbuster.
An alternative for Phoenix—albeit an unlikely one—is using those selections to move up. It could bring a higher-caliber player on board, instead of three rookies from the mid-to-late first round.
Would the Lakers be open to moving back if it meant adding the No. 14 and No. 27 pick? Or would they only do so for Nos. 14 and 18?
If the Suns could move up and nab Gordon out of the University of Arizona—who draws comparisons to former Suns draft pick Shawn Marion—surrendering their picks may be the best option.
As for the Lakers, they’d have to stomach moving down a full seven spots. Still, the appeal of netting a second long-term rotational piece in this year’s draft is a viable route to explore.
Like Phoenix, the Chicago Bulls have multiple first-round picks in this year’s draft. Theirs sit at Nos. 16 and 19.
Due to those circumstances, Chicago could be another team on L.A.’s radar if it chooses to trade back. Once again, Gordon seems the most likely fit.
The former Arizona freshman carved a niche on head coach Sean Miller’s club with his seemingly boundless athleticism and commitment to defense. Those are two qualities that fit Tom Thibodeau’s system perfectly.
Although many scouts tab Gordon as a power forward, his athletic ability suggests he could round out Chi-Town’s frontcourt at small forward. His offense is a work in progress. His defense, however, would only improve the Bulls’ elite status on that end.
Dealing both of their picks for the No. 7 spot may be a bit steep, though. Chicago may try playing hardball by forcing Kupchak to take Carlos Boozer’s expiring contract in return.
From L.A.’s perspective, that’s not entirely horrible. The Lakers need talent in the frontcourt—and the cap space for 2015 is a perk—but Boozer’s $16.8 million cap hit would be a tough pill to swallow.
With those mid-round picks, though, L.A. could target guys like Rodney Hood, Cleanthony Early, Tyler Ennis or Zach LaVine. There’s a ton of upside in that bunch.
The Charlotte Hornets are officially back in the NBA. With the No. 9 and No. 24 picks in the first round, as well as pick No. 45 in the second round, the potential for them to build with the new moniker is prevalent.
If owner Michael Jordan and general manager Rich Cho are enamored with a specific prospect that they don’t think will fall to No. 9, jumping up to No. 7 is an option they should explore.
Moving back from No. 7 to No. 9 ensures that the Lakers won’t lose much ground. Of course, that also means they won’t receive as much yield via trade. Charlotte could offer No. 9 and their second-round selection, but that type of value probably wouldn’t entice L.A. to move from its current position.
The Lakers still have Bryant under contract as the team’s No. 1 option and alpha dog for two more seasons. Surrounding him with enough talent to compete in the playoffs during his last hurrah is the best-case scenario. However, L.A. needs to do so while adding youth for the future.
Lakerland’s first-round pick in 2015 will be headed to the Phoenix desert unless the Lakers bottom out and nab a top-five choice. That likely won’t happen if Bryant is healthy, so the time is now for L.A. to stockpile young talent.
Moving back from No. 7 wouldn’t be a popular move. If Kupchak can find a team willing to vault up there, however, he should definitely allow it to do so via trade.
Hedging his bets with multiple rookies could pay big dividends down the road.
All salary information courtesy of ShamSports.
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