Never before in their back-to-back title seasons have the Lakers faced a greater confluence of adversities. Injured, inept, or just otherwise under-performing, the Lakers have slipped to third (nearly fourth) in the West, and have at times looked overmatched against the other titans of the league.
So, do the Lakers need a shakeup? The almost part-owner of the Detroit Pistons weighed in here.
Okay, so it’s definitive then. Let’s make a move.
The following takes into consideration two factors: One, the trade would either keep on track or provide stimulus to this year’s title run; and two, it would lay the foundation for the Lakers to contend again AB (After Bryant).
Only straight up trades were looked at—finding another team who is both standing to benefit from a trade and at the same time willing to help the Lakers was a little too metaphysical for my tastes. I also considered who the Lakers are as a team rather then just who might be available. If LA is looking for a point, I don’t know that Andre Miller is the guy they’re looking for.
The following are some moves that could help the Lakers.
This is like calling your shot.
It’s Auerbach’s cigar or putting Darko into the game.
This is declaring, "Hey, league…it’s over."
Time to get funky.
The salaries match perfectly. It’s like it’s meant to happen.
Barnes has been great for the Lakers this year, supplying (somehow) more perimeter toughness then Ron Artest.
With him out, the Laker rotation has felt rather flimsy.
One note as we break into some real trades: Anything will be extraordinarily difficult for the Lakers to pull off for one, rather substantial reason—they have no significant expiring contracts. Thus, any deal will have to be made player for player, and it’s hard to get a lot for a little with that being the case.
Now, let me preface this with I see potential in everything. It took me six years to realize Tim Couch wasn't a future Pro Bowl quarterback, and he only played five years.
But this has the potential to be a great trade for the Lakers. Call it the "low-risk high-if-the-guy-ever-develops-a-basketball-IQ-reward" theorem.
This is me, as Mitch Kupchak, collecting assets. Collecting possibilities. Collecting 7’3” Tanzanians in the hopes that they go Tasmanian.
Memphis supposedly wants out from under Thabeet’s contract, and while the Lakers can’t offer that, they do have a myriad of ways to allow them to get out from under the shame of his contract.
You don’t want to give up a rotation player, but would you take a Luke Walton on the chin for the opportunity to develop one?
(Editor’s note: There’s a reason why this trade hasn’t happened, and it’s probably the same reason I’m an optimist and not an NBA GM.)
The Lakers give up a smaller (though important) piece now in hopes of grooming one of the most talented, under-groomed players in the league for later.
And what better guy to groom him under than aged counterpoint, Lamar Odom?
Anthony Randolph is a perpetually under-achieving, prodigiously versatile four who would be a great fit playing alongside the current Laker bigs.
Because he is rarely going inside. If ever.
That said, Anthony Randolph is a real talent and if there’s any mold for him to step into, it’s the hybrid four that Lamar Odom plays.
How to pry Hinrich away from the Wizards has been the question of the season for LA. They might have to sweeten the pot a little bit, but this might not be too far off.
With it, the Wizards get a slightly less able version of Hinrich in Blake, and more flexibility. The Lakers will miss Barnes' toughness, but will regain some with Hinrich, formerly one of the better on-ball defenders at the position.
And also, should it matter, he has historically given Dwayne Wade fits.
(A small Laker throw-in would be needed to make the salaries work.)
This is actually another B/R’s idea, and it would be a good one for the Lakers to pursue.
Wallace is essentially a better, younger, more steady version of Artest.
He is consistently tenacious, to the point that the biggest qualm most basketball people have with GW (nicknamed "Crash") is that he’ll concuss himself out of the league. There have been rumblings of late that he may be had at a discount. Diaw is a lesser version of Odom, who would be a substantial, but in this case worthy, loss for the Lakers.
The Bobcats would have to choose this Wallace trade over one that would bring cap space.
What they’d be getting in this scenario is Odom on a good deal, and Ron Artest (who Jordan loves) locked up through 2013-14. It’s not a shoe-in, but it’s not egregious either. A throw-in would be needed here, too.
(Okay, another side note—these next four are big boys. They all involve losing something substantial, but they’re risks taken to A: dramatically shake a stagnant foundation, and B: lay the groundwork for the Lakers to compete again AB.)
As noted, the biggest issue for the Lakers in trades like these is that they really don’t have any expiring assets—which is the basis of what the Sixers would be looking for in an Iguodala package.
Instead, the Lakers offer contributing players and a chance at a makeover.
This trade gives the Sixers Odom, a versatile passing four Philadelphia could use, and a starting position open for Evan Turner, who needs it now to develop.
Iguodala provides the Lakers a versatile, athletic three to play next to Kobe Bryant and relieve him of the pressure of having to defend most athletic wings.
Best thing about Iguodala? Second-fiddle is a role he wants. For some guys, that’s a bad thing. For Iguodala, it’s knowing his limitations.
His contract is a bear, but with this Lakers team locked in for the foreseeable future anyway, that shouldn’t be too much of a worry.
I was telling people I swore off this trade as recently as two weeks ago.
But let me reconsider under this potential pretense: One thing Andrew Bynum will never do is someday fill Kobe’s shoes as the leader of the team; for better and for worse, the desire to be at the forefront of things just doesn’t seem to be part of his personality.
Chris Paul on the other hand? Tenacious. He’s a bulldog.
My biggest worry with Paul is that nobody seems to be connecting his ever-so-slight decline in play to the cartilage removal surgery he had last year. I haven’t seen the same level of Chris Paul since. Not alarming, just concerning.
On the other hand, if you put up Paul's knee next to Bynum's—well, I don't know. You'd probably be able to ride the bus with the senior discount. As long as you bought the tickets with your knees. Or something.
Knees aside, this trade would be for the future, and it would work for the now.
That's an exceedingly versatile lineup.
Of the final three slides, this is the one most probable to happen. Which is to say, not very.
One important distinction here is the relationship between Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant.
As close to Kobe as anyone in the league (ever?), I think Kobe would have an easier time adjusting to Carmelo then any other premiere player. The addition of Billups weakens the Laker rotation (simply on account of the exports necessary to match salaries), but provides both an elite field general to organize the incoming chaos and a nice fit in the triangle.
Something else to consider: The Celtics are built to handle the Lakers of 2010. They are not built to deal with Carmelo. Nor, really, Billups. It’s almost sacrilegious to suggest replacing Fisher for the playoffs, but indeed, that’s what Billups would be brought in to do.
Seemingly readily available in any Carmelo deal, I think Chauncey substantially sweetens the pot for the Lakers in a deal meant to help this season, and then provide a centerpiece for the future.
This one’s a reach, a doozy, and maybe, just maybe, strangely plausible. The fallout of the post-LeBron James talent migration is that every team must now consider the reality of moving on without their centerpiece.
I don’t think a Gasol and Bynum addition makes Orlando an instant contender or anything, but I do think the package is large enough that they would have to consider it. The Magic would keep Bynum, try to re-swing Gasol to get younger on the perimeter, and then stock up on draft picks (the Lakers would send a few over too).
It’s rebuilding on steroids.
Maybe this is a Cavs fan overreacting to the threat of someone leaving. Or maybe I’ve picked up on the signs now. If they’re being honest with themselves, the Magic will know that they aren’t winning anything in the next two years. Gilbert Arenas is in there as incentive.
Get out while you can Orlando. Get out while you can.