B/R Staff Roundtable: What Should Lakers Do at the 2023 Trade Deadline?
The Los Angeles Lakers have some decisions to make between now and the NBA's February 9 trade deadline.
How aggressive can they be with Anthony Davis' return-to-action timeline? How many pieces does the team need to join the contenders' tier? Is there even a deal that would get them there? With some mystery still surrounding AD's health, is it even worth going all in?
Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus explored all of the above and revealed a handful of paths forward for one of the league's most visible and storied franchises.
- Should they go all-in and trade both of their oft-discussed 2027 and 2029 first-round picks? Would players like Bradley Beal or DeMar DeRozan be available in that case?
- What about only sending one of the firsts for a lesser-known helper like Bojan Bogdanović?
- If Davis and LeBron James are healthy, could the team get away with simply shuffling in some other role players?
- Or, should the organization just sit this one out and hang on to the picks?
In other words, L.A. might be able to pursue a blockbuster, a notable upgrade, a minor upgrade or simply stand pat.
With all of those options on the board, Bleacher Report's NBA staff rolled up its collective sleeves, chose the Lakers' best path and provided specific trade packages for each.
Blockbuster: Myles Turner, Buddy Hield
Lakers Receive: Myles Turner, Buddy Hield
Pacers Receive: Russell Westbrook, 2027 first-round pick, 2029 first-round pick
The Lakers and Indiana Pacers have seemingly been circling each other (and this possible deal) since at least as far back as this past offseason. The thing is, Indiana is led by soon-to-be-All-Star Tyrese Haliburton and might be good enough to justify pulling out of this possible trade altogether.
"Multiple sources indicated this week that if [an extension] isn't reached, it would finally prompt the Pacers to move on and deal Turner," Moore wrote. "At this point, I'll believe it when I see it, given how many times Turner's name has appeared in trade rumors."
The Lakers are the team that could turn believing into seeing, by putting both the 2027 and 2029 first-round picks and Russell Westbrook's expiring contract on the table.
As good as the Pacers have been, this team isn't likely to knock off the East's top teams and truly contend for a title. Padding the asset stockpile and gearing up for another run closer to Haliburton's prime makes sense. And the playing time vacated by Hield and Turner's departures could accelerate the development of younger players like Bennedict Mathurin, Aaron Nesmith and Isaiah Jackson.
For L.A., assuming Davis can stay healthy (a significant risk, for sure), Hield and Turner feel like borderline perfect additions to a lineup with him and LeBron. They're not stars, but there's already enough star power in the top two. The Lakers won a title by surrounding their marquee duo with defense, shooting and players who were willing to accept defined roles.
Both Turner and Hield provide floor spacing. In Hield's case, that's true in historic fashion. He's second all-time in career threes made per game. And of course, Turner is one of the game's best shot blockers. Plus, he'd move AD to the 4 (at least in the starting lineup), which is where he started games for the title-winning 2019-20 team.
Yes, there's plenty of risk attached to the all-in approach. Pincus wrote that a setback to Davis could mean season-ending surgery. If that happened after dealing two first-round picks, the buyer's remorse would be severe.
But LeBron is still playing at an All-NBA level at age 38. He made a commitment to the team by signing an extension this summer. He doesn't have many more chances to win a title in front of him, and the Lakers need to reciprocate.
Notable upgrade: Bojan Bogdanović, Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel
Lakers Receive: Bojan Bogdanović, Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel
Pistons Receive: 2027 unprotected 1st-round pick, 2023 second-round pick, Max Christie and Russell Westbrook (to be bought out)
The Lakers are 17-12 overall since Nov. 13 and sit just a game-and-a-half outside of the West playoff picture. LeBron James and Anthony Davis have both been outstanding this season, with L.A. not looking all that far away from being a real threat to go on a playoff run. While landing another All-Star may be out of the question given their limited trade assets, the Lakers have to look for some sort of upgrade at the deadline and give James at least a chance at a fifth championship.
Bogdanovic is the perfect fit for this team, but the Lakers shouldn't get off the phone with the Pistons just yet. Landing Burks and Noel, two proven veterans with various skill sets, would make L.A. a better defensive team and deeper overall.
Bogdanovic is a tough, playoff-tested forward who's connecting on 45.9 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes this season, per NBA.com, en route to his 21.0 points per game.
Burks is also shooting the lights out this season, making a career-high 43.8 percent of his overall threes while chipping in 14.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists off the bench. Noel is a versatile defender and talented rim protector who would give the Lakers frontcourt more depth behind Davis.
A starting lineup of Dennis Schröder, Patrick Beverley, James, Bogdanovic and Davis with Lonnie Walker IV, Burks, Austin Reaves, Thomas Bryant and Noel off the bench is suddenly a really interesting squad and still possesses the 2029 first-rounder to use as future trade bait.
The trade also shaves $9.2 million off the Lakers' payroll this season, and club options for Burks and Noel next year give L.A. some financial flexibility.
Minor Upgrade: Josh Richardson
Lakers Receive: Josh Richardson
Spurs Receive: Patrick Beverley and a 2023 second-rounder (most favorable from the Lakers or Chicago)
General manager Rob Pelinka said during exit interviews last spring that he would be the "caretaker" of LeBron James' legacy. He then proceeded to take a dump all over the Lakers roster and, by extension, LeBron's age-38 season.
Months later, even as they're coming off a five-game winning streak and preparing for Anthony Davis' return, the Lakers are waaay more than one trade away from contention. So much so, in fact, it doesn't make short- or long-term sense to trade their 2027 and 2029 first-rounders. Those must be reserved for stars, and that market, for the time being, doesn't exist.
That doesn't permit the Lakers to do nothing. You have to do something when LeBron is still LeBron. You also don't get to use your own failure as a shield against chasing upgrades.
Surfing the market for real, actual wings—or any player over 6'4"—is the way to go. And while impact wings don't typically come cheap, someone like Josh Richardson should be fairly gettable. He is in the final year of his deal and not worth a first-rounder, yet he can defend up and down the positional spectrum and provides more of an offensive punch than many of the Lakers' other supporting cast members.
San Antonio doesn't currently have a second-round pick in this year's draft—which gives Los Angeles' selection unique value—and isn't tasked with taking on any long-term money here. The Spurs are basically taking on $1.4 million in salary to get what should be a higher-end second.
Perhaps the Lakers balk at sending out what could be the No. 39 pick. But they have Chicago's second-rounder to fall back on and, because Jeanie Buss cares about these things, stand to save nearly $6 million total by subbing out Beverley for Richardson—just over $4.5 million in luxury taxes and nearly $1.4 million player salary.
Stand Pat: Lakers Shouldn't Trade Anything
It's difficult to say so with LeBron James' remaining prime perhaps best measured in months these days, but the timing just isn't right for the Lakers to give up any assets of consequence.
For starters, there doesn't appear to be a trade out there that will lift L.A. to the heights necessary to justify surrendering what little it has to offer. Los Angeles is short on powder, but what little it has should be kept dry.
Even if Anthony Davis returns at full strength and James sustains his recent level of excellence, the Lakers are more than "Buddy Hield and Myles Turner" away from being serious title threats. This team needs multiple rotation upgrades, actual wings, plus more shooting and playmaking.
That long-discussed Pacers deal may be dead anyway, and similar ones haven't exactly cropped up to replace it. The decision to flatten lottery odds a few years ago and this season's uncommon parity are combining to produce one of the bleaker buyer's markets we've seen in a while.
The Lakers' best bet is to wait for Russell Westbrook's contract to expire, sign Kyrie Irving over the summer and hope the supply of available difference-makers grows.