Why Lakers Should Pursue Gary Trent Jr. Again Amid Trade Rumors for SG

Jake RillJune 16, 2022

Toronto Raptors' Gary Trent Jr. plays during Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Monday, April 25, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

The Los Angeles Lakers' disappointing 2021-22 season featured a trade deadline in which the team didn't make any moves. They stuck with their core and tried to turn things around, but they were unsuccessful and went on to miss the playoffs.

That doesn't mean the Lakers weren't trying to make deals leading up to Feb. 10, though.

According to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, Los Angeles "called and poked around" on Toronto Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. At the time, the Lakers were "dangling" a trade package featuring Kendrick Nunn, Talen Horton-Tucker and a first-round draft pick "throughout the league."

For whatever reason, nothing materialized. Trent stayed in Toronto and helped the Raptors make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. And the Lakers didn't complete any deals as their struggles continued.

Maybe it's time for Los Angeles to again call about the 23-year-old and perhaps step up its pursuit this offseason.

Sean Deveney of Heavy.com recently spoke to one Eastern Conference executive who believes a Trent trade could be "something to explore" for the Raptors, especially if they're not planning on signing him to a long-term deal. And there could be a scenario that ends up making sense for both Toronto and Los Angeles.

"The [draft] pick is the key thing, if the Raptors think that pick is going to be valuable, and it might very well be, then it makes some sense," the executive told Deveney. "Horton-Tucker and Nunn, you assume he is going to play again and be a pretty good bargain. The Raptors like Horton-Tucker, remember they wanted him in the Kyle Lowry deal that fell through with the Lakers."

Even if Los Angeles needs to offer a stronger package than Nunn, Horton-Tucker and a first-rounder, it should find a way to make a move for Trent. It could be worth the Lakers offering more draft capital or strengthening the offer in some way.

The Duke product spent his first two-and-a-half NBA seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, which traded him to the Raptors in March 2021. He's since filed a key starting role in Toronto and continued to improve.

This past season, Trent averaged a career-high 18.3 points in 70 games while shooting 41.4 percent from the field. He's also been a tremendous perimeter defender, an area of his game that keeps getting better.

Trent is the type of player the Lakers should be looking to add this offseason. They would just need to fit his $17.28 million salary for the 2022-23 season into their payroll. And it may only be a short-term solution, as there's reason to believe he could decline his $18.56 million player option for 2023-24, if he continues to keep upping his game next season.

Of course, whether L.A. adds Trent comes down to whether Toronto is willing to move him and what its asking price would be in that scenario. But if the Lakers have an opportunity to make it happen, they need to get it done and fill one of the bigger holes in their lineup.