Ideal Trade Partners for the Los Angeles Lakers During the 2015 NBA Offseason

Ehran Khan@@ekhansworldContributor IIIMay 29, 2015

Could old buddies Mitch Kupchak and Vlade Divac strike a franchise-altering deal this summer?
Could old buddies Mitch Kupchak and Vlade Divac strike a franchise-altering deal this summer?Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

After two thoroughly dispiriting years, the Los Angeles Lakers are back in a position to start making the moves necessary to compete for NBA titles again.

Not only do they have a ton of cap space this summer—with more on the horizon after Kobe Bryant's contract comes off the books—they have the juicy assets necessary to acquire championship-caliber players.

Last season's first-round draft pick Julius Randle was one of the top prospects in his class, and his stock is still where it was coming into the league after sitting out all but 14 minutes of his rookie campaign due to injury.

Second-rounder Jordan Clarkson turned heads around the league with his stellar play down the stretch, earning him All-Rookie First Team honors.

The Lakers have stockpiled the requisite assets, including Jordan Clarkson, to acquire a star player.
The Lakers have stockpiled the requisite assets, including Jordan Clarkson, to acquire a star player.Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

In addition to those two promising young studs, L.A. was awarded the coveted second overall pick in the 2015 draft, with a late first- and early second-rounder to follow. Armed with that treasure trove, the Lakers have the potential to fetch quite a return.

Let's look at three teams that could make ideal trade candidates for L.A. this offseason.

 

Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets are a team in flux. With Kenneth Faried coming off an impressive display with Team USA last summer and Danilo Gallinari slated to return from injury, Denver came into the 2015 season with postseason aspirations.

Those dreams quickly faded, and head coach Brian Shaw was fired before the season came to a close.

There have been grumblings from Ty Lawson about possibly leaving Denver, Faried hasn't lived up to the deal the Nuggets lavished upon him and Wilson Chandler is perpetually on the trading block.

Ty Lawson craves a fresh start. And he already looks good in gold...
Ty Lawson craves a fresh start. And he already looks good in gold...Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

You get the feeling that Denver wants to start fresh under a new regime and will be dangling its guys to see if they get any bites.

Lawson in particular is an intriguing piece for the Lakers to consider. He would provide top-tier quickness and pace at the point guard position that L.A. hasn't had in a generation, and he has two years left on a very agreeable contract.

The diminutive point guard can look like the best player on the floor on any given night, and he can absolutely slice defenses apart in the pick-and-roll. He's great at creating looks for his teammates as well, averaging nearly 10 assists per game last year.

The Lakers can send back a talented point guard of their own in Clarkson, along with draft considerations. To sweeten the pot, the Lakers can also offer to absorb some dead salary weight like J.J. Hickson.

 

Toronto Raptors

Fans north of the border are still in disbelief at how such a promising start to the campaign fell apart so brutally down the stretch.

Widespread changes may be coming to Toronto, and everybody could be on the table as general manager Masai Ujiri—a notable wheeler-and-dealer—looks to right the ship.

The All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan falls under that "everybody" tag. 

Lowry looked like a bona fide star from mid-2014 to mid-2015, and the contract he signed in between was on track to be a bargain. Then Lowry faded badly toward the end of the season and struggled with injuries during the team's brief playoff run.

DeRozan broke out in a big way in 2014, nipping his battery mate for All-Star honors and making his own deal look like a big steal. But the young wing took a step back this past year. He stopped taking threes after an uptick in treys the previous season and shot a career-worst 42.6 percent from inside the arc to boot.

He didn't fare much better in Toronto's first-round sweep, shooting just 40 percent from the field on 20 shots a game and barely getting to the line, where he normally makes a lot of hay.

If the Raptors decide to break up their All-Star backcourt, the Lakers could make a move for either of them.
If the Raptors decide to break up their All-Star backcourt, the Lakers could make a move for either of them.Gary Dineen/Getty Images

With the stock of these two guards at its lowest, and the organization at something of a crossroads, the Lakers may be able to work something out with Ujiri.

Raptors forward Amir Johnson is a free agent, meaning Toronto has an impending hole at the 4 that someone like Randle can plug right away.

In return, the Lakers can snag an All-Star like Lowry or DeRozan, should the Raptors be willing to split up their formerly fearsome backcourt.

DeRozan has more value over time given his youth (he turns just 26 in August), upward trajectory (last season notwithstanding) and price tag. He would also be able to fill Bryant's void at shooting guard in the long term, were he to stay in his native Los Angeles (he can opt out after next year).

Lowry is the better overall player, but he is older by three-and-a-half years and has an injury history. Plus, the Lakers would be tied to him for an extra season, eating into their potential cap room in 2016.

 

Sacramento Kings

This is the ultimate dream scenario. Everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop on DeMarcus Cousins. He has been marked as the next disgruntled superstar to be moved, despite Sacramento's insistence that it has no interest in trading him.

But this is the Kings we're talking about, and if Cousins forces their hand, they will have little recourse but to take offers (I reiterate: This is the most idyllic of ideal scenarios).

And the Lakers are in prime position to cash in with their war chest of assets.

For starters, they can offer the Kings the No. 2 pick in the draft—a shot at replacing Cousins with another uber-talented center prospect, be it Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor.

Then they can toss in either Randle or Clarkson (or both) or any combination of those young players and picks, the rights to swap picks, or anything else Mitch Kupchak and Co. can dream up.

DeMarcus Cousins is the biggest prize rumored to be out there. The Lakers may have what it takes to land the superstar center.
DeMarcus Cousins is the biggest prize rumored to be out there. The Lakers may have what it takes to land the superstar center.Kent Smith/Getty Images

Is Cousins worth betting the farm on? Absolutely.

He's already the most dominant big man in the league, throwing up ridiculous video game stat lines (39-24; 33-17-3-4-4; 24-21-10-3-6) and pulverizing any opponent in his path. He became just the third player in NBA history to achieve his nightly averages of 24.1 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.7 blocks. The other two? Hakeem and Kareem. Not bad company.

Cousins made the All-NBA Second Team in 2015 and is yet to turn 25. Landing him would be a foundational move for the Lakers, and they can build around Boogie accordingly.

No one saw the Pau Gasol trade coming before it actually happened. Though it seems like a long shot now, L.A. should keep up the pursuit of Cousins until the big man's fate is decided.

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