LA Lakers Rumors: Buying or Selling Gossip Ahead of 2014 NBA Draft

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LA Lakers Rumors: Buying or Selling Gossip Ahead of 2014 NBA Draft
USA TODAY Sports
Could Steve Nash and Michael Carter-Williams switch jerseys on draft night?

With the NBA draft rapidly approaching, the rumor mill is churning at a furious pace.

The Los Angeles Lakers are exploring a number of options to upgrade their roster and get their rebuilding program up and running as smoothly as possible.

Here are three directions L.A. could go.

 

Trade the No. 7 pick to Philadelphia

ESPN Insider Chad Ford (subscription required) reports that the "Lakers have strong interest in a package of [Michael] Carter-Williams and Thaddeus Young for the No. 7 pick and Steve Nash," but "so far there hasn't been any traction on that deal."

The thinking is that with Joel Embiid likely free-falling out of the top five, the Sixers may lose out on their intended target—Andrew Wiggins—and instead select top international prospect Dante Exum.

Exum's addition would make Carter-Williams expendable, and Philly could use the reigning Rookie of the Year as bait to snare a third top-10 selection in Thursday's draft.

While also giving up Thaddeus Young may be unpalatable for the Sixers, a straight swap of MCW for the No. 7 pick is an intriguing possibility for both sides.

From the Lakers' perspective, this would come down to whether they believe last season's top rookie is better than any of the players who would be available to them with the seventh pick.

This may initially seem like a no-brainer, but Carter-Williams' value at the moment is overinflated.

Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
Michael Carter-Williams was named the NBA's Rookie of the Year in 2014, but does that overstate his value?

He was crowned as the best of one of the worst rookie classes (subscription required) in NBA history.

Also, you must factor in that his numbers got a massive boost from Philly's league-leading pace and the utter lack of NBA talent around him, which gave him the ultimate green light to do as he pleased.

Carter-Williams' inefficiency was glaring. He had the 12th-worst turnover ratio and the second-worst effective field-goal percentage among all guards who averaged 16-plus minutes in 50-plus games, and PER graded his season as just a hair above league average (15.5).

Obviously, he should improve as his career continues, but it's far from certain that he's a better prospect than someone like, say, Marcus Smart.

Plus, trading their first-round pick for MCW means the Lakers will be sacrificing one year of valuable rookie salary.

Verdict: Buy 

This trade would be viable if the Sixers do end up selecting Exum at No. 3.

 

Trade the No. 7 pick to Golden State

Over the weekend, Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times broke the news that the Lakers had entered talks with the Golden State Warriors to flip the No. 7 pick for guard Klay Thompson.

That transaction was supposed to be part of a three-way deal that would also send Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love to the Bay Area.

Nothing has come of these talks, however. Golden State and Minnesota appear to be getting closer to a direct trade that would leave L.A. out of the arrangement.

Chad Ford stated in a radio interview Tuesday that the Warriors and T-Wolves have come to an agreement on the players involved in a Thompson-Love swap.

Sam Forencich/Getty Images
Klay Thompson is already one of the top three-point marksmen in the league.

The two sides are still haggling over other details, however, so if it falls through the Lakers may be able to trade for the promising young guard in a separate move, as ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne suggested.

In that case, L.A. must weigh the upside of a rookie taken with the seventh pick against the guaranteed production of Thompson.

Son of former Laker Mychal Thompson, Klay has blossomed into one of the best sharpshooters in the league. 

He averaged over 18 points per game while knocking down nearly 42 percent of his triples in 2014. He's the opposite of Carter-Williams in that advanced metrics probably understate his actual value.

What should the Lakers do with the No. 7 pick?

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Thompson's 14.3 PER rates him as slightly worse than an average player, but his elite long-range shooting contorts defenses and opens up the rest of his team's offense—a valuable trait that cannot be captured by the numbers.

His effective on-ball defense also bears mentioning and makes him one of the best young two-way wings in the game.

Just 24 years old, Thompson has steadily improved his off-the-bounce and post-up scoring as well, and he projects to be among the league's top 2-guards over the next decade.

Should L.A. trade for Thompson, they could lock him into an extension as soon as this summer or wait until he hits restricted free agency in 2015.

Verdict: Sell 

It appears that the Warriors do not need the No. 7 pick to grease the wheels on a Kevin Love trade. If Ford's sources are correct, then Thompson is already earmarked to go to Minnesota. 

 

Keep the No. 7 pick

Keeping the pick and staying in the draft may be the least exciting of all the options, but it could turn out to be the best one.

This draft has been touted as the deepest in a number of years, and there should be several enticing prospects for the Lakers to choose from with the seventh overall selection.

In his latest mock (subscription required), Chad Ford has L.A. taking Julius Randle, bumping him ahead of Marcus Smart after Randle was "dominant in [his] workout" with the Lakers.

Layne Murdoch/Getty Images
According to Chad Ford, Julius Randle was brilliant in his workout with the Lakers.

Smart remains in the running as well after coming in for a second workout with the organization. Ford described his workout as "strong."

Then, of course, there is the possibility that former projected No. 1 pick Joel Embiid slides down far enough that he is available at No. 7. 

If the Lakers decide to retain their pick, they should be able to select from multiple strong candidates with the upside to become franchise cornerstones.

Another option—put forward by Ramona Shelburne—is for L.A. to take the best player available in the draft and then flip him along with Steve Nash's expiring contract in a deal that doesn't return any salary.

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
The Lakers may try to free up enough cap room to chase LeBron James in free agency.

Such a move would open up enough cap space this offseason to pursue two free-agent superstars—for instance, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony—for nearly max-level contracts.

A scenario like that may seem far-fetched, but if the first domino falls (dumping Nash and the No. 7 pick for nothing) then, all of a sudden, it becomes a real possibility, with the allure of playing in a city like L.A. for a franchise like the Lakers beckoning stars from afar.

Verdict: Buy keeping the pick, Sell packaging it with Nash this offseason

If the No. 7 pick doesn't directly net a proven star, the Lakers should hold on to it. Dumping a promising rookie for the mere hope of signing two big-money free agents is the wrong move. This team needs to start looking to the future.

Whatever ends up happening, it will be fascinating to see how the Lakers tackle their offseason, beginning with the draft on Thursday night.

 

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