LA Lakers Trade Speculation: 5 Best Backcourt Mates to Pair with Kobe Bryant
Howard would be an upgrade over Andrew Bynum, but if the Lakers are going to deal some of their best assets, they should do so to resolve a more pressing problem.
Derek Fisher and Steven Blake aren’t cut out to be Bryant’s running mates any longer, and Los Angeles would be doing itself a great disservice by ignoring this. With a number of players sure to be available, the Lakers are not short on options.
However, with Bryant nearly two months removed from his 33rd birthday, they are running out of time.
Jose Calderon of Toronto Raptors
With Jerryd Bayless’ stock on the rise, the Toronto Raptors may be more apt to deal Jose Calderon.
Calderon is an extremely unselfish player and is fairly athletic, especially when compared to Fisher. Additionally, he is adept at protecting the ball, even when threading the needle. He can also score when called upon; he is lethal from the outside.
The Lakers need a fresh set of eyes handling the rock. They need someone who will do more than just bring the ball up the court. They need a playmaker.
Calderon fits that criteria, and while the price for Lamar Odom is a steep one to pay, the Toronto Raptors would likely relish in the chance to acquire him. This gives Los Angeles an opportunity to dump an unwanted contract like Luke Walton’s or Steve Blake’s in exchange for a more favorable one like James Johnson’s.
If the Raptors are simply interested in shedding salary though, and the Lakers use draft picks as the centerpiece instead of Odom to get a deal done, then it is an even more favorable opportunity.
With the need of a productive playmaker to pair with Bryant greater than ever, Los Angeles would do well to make an inquiry regarding Calderon’s availability.
Jonny Flynn of Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets have a plethora of capable points guards, and the newly acquired Jonny Flynn may be just the youthful punch Bryant and the Lakers need.
Last season, Flynn only averaged 5.3 points and 3.4 assists per game, failing to live up to the hype he generated during his rookie season. That being said, he is only one year removed from his rookie year, in which he averaged 13.5 points and 4.4 assists per game.
If put into the right situation, Flynn will recapture some of the swagger he lost. He is an unselfish player who can create shots for both himself and his teammates. This bodes well for Bryant, who currently plays alongside the lackluster play-making skills of Fisher and Blake.
Given the Rockets depth at the point guard position, Flynn's price tag should prove not to be so expensive. If the Lakers put together a cheap expiring deal or two, and a first rounder, it should be enough to get a deal done or at least talks moving.
Flynn is unproven at only 22 years old, but the potential dividends for Bryant and company easily outweigh the risk—especially when you consider Bryant's current running mates have proven they aren't up to the challenge.
Monta Ellis of Golden State Warriors
Monta Ellis is a shooting guard, but he is capable of handling the point guard duties and would thrive alongside Bryant.
With the Golden State Warriors, Ellis dominated the ball—partly because he had a green light to, but also because there was no clear point guard on the team.
Los Angeles would prove to be a different story. Ellis would be playing next to one of the greatest to ever grace the court, and his role would be unquestionable; he would know he was the second offensive option and that his first course of action is to feed Bryant.
A straight-up trade of Odom for Ellis would go through, but Hollinger’s analysis hypothesizes that the Warriors' win total increases by four while the Lakers’ decreases by three.
While this may deter some Lakers fans from making such a move, keep in mind Ellis is listed as a shooting guard. The fact that he would run he point changes everything.
Ellis can score as well as pass, and he gives Los Angeles another superstar to pair with Bryant, as well as for the future.
Additionally, we must not forget that Bryant would welcome his youth and scoring, as it lifts much of the burden to win off his shoulders.
Ellis may have struggled in finding an identity with Golden State, but alongside Bryant, role confusion becomes a non-issue, making this a dangerous pairing.
Ramon Sessions of Cleveland Cavaliers
The 25-year-old Ramon Sessions would serve as a great running mate for Bryant.
Sessions averaged 13.3 points and 5.2 assists per game last season, one in which he spent most of it on the trading block. He is a willing defender and elusive ball-handler, and his unselfish tendencies make him a great partner for Bryant.
While Sessions may be available, his price is unclear. Odom’s value certainly matches his, but the Cavaliers already boast Anderson Varejao, rookie Tristan Thompson and Antawn Jamison’s expiring contract. This means Cleveland may not be so apt to accept Odom in return.
The good news for the Lakers is that Sessions is arguably expendable to the Cavs, meaning a couple of fillers and a first-round draft may catch their attention. In the event it doesn’t, Los Angeles could always dangle Ron Artest, but such a move may not be justifiable by either team.
The uncertainty surrounding Sessions’ cost should not prevent the Lakers from making an inquiry though. If he can be had for the right price, he would prove incredibly valuable to the team.
Sessions is capable of spectacular things, and Los Angeles would be wise to give him legitimate consideration.
Chris Paul of New Orleans Hornets
Los Angeles wants another superstar to boast so why not target one who can run the entire offense and carry the team in the absence of Bryant?
Chris Paul fits such a bill, as he is easily one of the league’s best point guards and has an unmatchable court vision.
While Paul seems poised to leave the New Orleans Hornets, his 15.9 points, 9.8 assists and 2.4 steals per game will not come cheap. As a result the Lakers have to be willing to rock the boat, and there is no reason why they shouldn’t be.
A possible trade would involve the Lakers sending Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom to New Orleans in exchange for Paul and Emeka Okafor.
The Lakers lose Bynum but obtain a player in Okafor to at least yield a somewhat similar low-post presence. If Los Angeles was willing to throw in a first round pick, the Hornets might even be willing to take Steve Blake off their hands too.
Paul’s first, second and third instincts are to pass the ball, ensuring he would thrive alongside the heralded Bryant. He also gives the Lakers a consistently productive player, more than worthy of being the team’s second option.
At the expense of Bynum, Paul obviously doesn’t come cheap—but championships never do.