Lakers Are Aiming Too High in Latest NBA Trade Rumors Involving 1st-Round Draft Picks
The Los Angeles Lakers are doing more than practicing patience on the trade front.
They're also hoping for a splurge they simply can't afford.
While they have a pair of first-round picks to offer, neither will convey until way down the line (2027 and 2029). They'd also be presumably attached to an unwanted contract, whether it's Russell Westbrook's bloated deal or smaller, but still overpriced, salaries like those of Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn.
That's the best the Lakers have to offer, yet they don't plan on cashing in those chips for anything less than "essentially an All-Star-level player," per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Lakers are fine to set their wish list to its maximum optimism setting, but if they really want to broker a deal that gets Anthony Davis and LeBron James more help, they need to be realistic about how much their assets are actually worth.
The Problem with the Lakers' Package
When—or maybe if—the Lakers ever sacrifice one or both of those future first-rounders, the picks will have to be packaged with at least one player. All of the reasonable trade candidates will immediately drag down the value of that package.
Westbrook has been reasonably effective in a reserve role, but he's paid like a superstar ($47.1 million this season, per Spotrac). It's such a colossal overpay—he's shooting 40.6 percent and averaging a whopping 4.7 turnovers per 36 minutes, via Basketball-Reference—that you could argue one of those first-rounders is needed just to incentivize someone to take the financial hit.
Beverley ($13 million) and Nunn ($5.3 million) are cheaper, but they may not have any more trade value than Westbrook. At least Westbrook has a few numbers working in his favor (like his 14.7 points and 7.3 assists per game). Beverley is averaging a career-worst 4.2 points. Nunn is putting up just 5.7 points while matching his 1.2 assists with 1.2 turnovers. Beverley is shooting 27.1 percent from the field, and both are shooting below 27 percent from three.
All three have negative trade value, meaning their attachment to any trade will only drag down the overall appeal of the package. Pivoting to other players doesn't really work. Dealing away a James or Davis would torpedo the season. Potential sweeteners like Austin Reaves or Lonnie Walker IV are needed in the rotation. No one else makes enough to line up salaries in a significant swap.
There Aren't Even Any Stars Available
Let's assume for a minute that L.A. actually had enough to reel in a star. Who would that player even be?
There are no disgruntled stars eagerly awaiting a change of address. (None that we know of, anyway). There aren't as many teams tanking as expected, and those residing at the bottom of the standings don't have stars on the roster.
Could that change between now and the deadline? It's possible. Maybe Bradley Beal reverses course and finally wants out of the District. Perhaps the Chicago Bulls agree with the external assessment that they're heading nowhere fast and pivot toward a tank job intended to save the top-four protected pick they owe the Orlando Magic.
Which of those are guaranteed, though? None. Even if a star or two shakes loose, it's more likely than not that a different suitor could trump the Lakers' offer. The odds aren't nearly good enough to treat this as the sole trade strategy.
What Should the Lakers Target?
If the Lakers can keep Davis and James healthy, then they don't have to worry about finding another star. They'll have enough star power to hang with anyone, assuming Davis continues playing at the MVP level he was flashing before a recent illness.
The aim, then, should be for depth and reliability.
The Lakers need more size on the interior, more length on the perimeter and more defense and shooting all over. Stars who scratch that many boxes receive the untouchable treatment. So, the smart move is targeting role players who can address an area or two.
The oft-discussed Indiana Pacers package of Myles Turner and Buddy Hield still intrigues for the way it would directly address some of the Lakers' largest weaknesses. However, you can find similar packages of role players across the trade market.
Not everyone will agree that this team should part with a valuable future first or two in deals for non-stars, but if L.A. is serious about significantly improving the roster this season, that remains the likeliest path.