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Predicting Which Los Angeles Lakers Will Be Traded Before the 2015 NBA Deadline

Howard Ruben@howardrubenContributor IFebruary 8, 2015

Jordan Hill has value that other teams may covet.
Jordan Hill has value that other teams may covet.Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

As the Los Angeles Lakers continue their long, slow slide into basketball abyss, the players have shifted their focus from winning games to competing among themselves for a job next season.

General manager Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers brass certainly have been seeking to trade some of that talent as a way to upgrade the roster immediately or gain draft picks to build on an ever-changing foundation for the future.

The Lakers have few legitimate assets as the trade deadline looms on February 19, but they nonetheless should explore all options to move players who may bring them coveted draft picks or younger, athletic talent with potential.

Outside of the untouchables (Kobe Bryant, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson), no other player is a safe bet to be back with the team next season. Still, only a few may attract enough interest for someone to make a trade before this month's deadline.

In a season that has gone from bad to worse, the Lakers seem to be acknowledging their need to look to the future and basically forget about postseason action for a while.

It could easily be two to three years, maybe longer, before this franchise is able to seriously contend for a championship.

Mired at the bottom of the Western Conference's Pacific Division at 13-37, the Lakers appear to be in the market for young, athletic players. And they would make a trade to get them, if only they could find a deal worth making.

Jordan Hill: Interest is high, but what can the Lakers expect in return?

The most obvious player the Lakers could move before the trade deadline is center Jordan Hill, though it could be the most painful loss to swallow. The 6'10", 235-pound South Carolina native is having a career year for the Lakers during the first of his two-year, $18 million contract.

His numbers of 12.3 points, eight rebounds, 1.4 assists, one block and 28 minutes are all career bests for the former first-round draft pick out of Arizona.

He's presently on the sidelines due to a hip injury suffered against the New York Knicks last week.

Mark Medina @MarkG_Medina

Lakers diagnose Jordan Hill with a grade 1 hip flexor strain. He is out vs Bucks & considered doubtful for rest of trip

It should be noted that Hill missed half a season in 2013, also due to a hip injury, so that could factor into his value to another team who might question if this is a recurring issue.

Hill is making $9 million this season, with a team option of $9 million for next year. Would a new team be willing to part with a late first-round draft pick and other assets if it didn't think he was worth that much money next season?

It's a risk, but if that club feels Hill can help get it deep into the playoffs, it might just pull the trigger. And, since he could become a free agent this summer, his new team could always negotiate a new deal with him after the season.

The Lakers know the time may be now to see what they can get for Hill. As recently as December, rumors surfaced that the Lakers were talking to the Boston Celtics about moving Hill and a first-round draft pick in exchange for point guard Rajon Rondo and small forward Jeff Green, according to Sam Amick of USA Today.

The Celtics declined the offer, instead sending Green to the Memphis Grizzlies and Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks in separate deals.

Moving Hill would not be an easy decision for Kupchak and the Buss family. Still, the Lakers must decide if they want to keep the hardworking big man, who has a vastly improved mid-range shot to go along with his tenacious defense and rebounding skills.

Despite Hill's recent hip injury that will sideline him a couple of weeks, most feel he will continue to generate interest and could be moved before February 20.

Chance of moving Hill before the deadline: 15 percent

Robert Sacre: Lakers would take a second-round pick for the big center

Are the Lakers ready to move on and rebuild around draft picks, younger players and veteran free agents they hope to sign over the next couple of years?

The fact that coach Byron Scott has been giving more playing time to rookie guard Jordan Clarkson, forward Tarik Black and center Robert Sacre would seem to indicate the Lakers are placing their emphasis on player experience rather than winning.

Robert Sacre is a positive, high-energy player who could fill a role off the bench.
Robert Sacre is a positive, high-energy player who could fill a role off the bench.Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press/Associated Press

Sacre had been spending most games on the bench but has been on the floor to start since Hill went down with injury last week.

And though he's getting more playing time, it would still stand to reason that the Lakers are shopping him for assets.

The Lakers reportedly offered Sacre to the Cleveland Cavaliers a month ago before the Cavs worked a deal with the Denver Nuggets for Timofey Mozgov, according to ESPN Insider Nick Borges.

The Lakers may be able to move Sacre more easily than Hill because the stakes are lower, and therefore the team wouldn't expect as much in return.

A second-round pick and/or young asset would do the trick, as Sacre doesn't appear to have a future in a Lakers uniform. He could help a playoff contender that is looking to beef up its front line.

Chance of moving Sacre before the deadline: 20 percent

Jeremy Lin doesn't seem to be a favorite of coach Byron Scott.
Jeremy Lin doesn't seem to be a favorite of coach Byron Scott.Morry Gash/Associated Press/Associated Press

Jeremy Lin: He doesn't figure in long-range plans

Jeremy Lin is most likely on the hot seat as well.

The Lakers really wanted the Houston Rockets' first-round draft pick last summer and took on Lin and his overblown contract just to get it.

Lin has been inconsistent all season, even after Kobe Bryant was lost to injury. His averages of 10 points and 42 percent shooting are his worst since his brief, 29-game rookie stay with the Golden State Warriors in 2010.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan, coach Byron Scott has called Lin's toughness into question and seems to have lost faith in him as a starter. He has been relegated to the second unit.

The Lakers would likely move Lin if they could find a partner who is willing to take on his expiring, $14.9 million contract.

Sean Deveney of the Sporting News wrote, "He (Lin) would make a good backup point guard, and the Lakers would move him if they could get an asset in return, but the market for Lin has been weak."

If some team really wants to bring Lin on board, it may just wait until the summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Chance of moving Lin before the deadline: 5 percent

Ed Davis: He could be odd man out

Forward Ed Davis plays like Pac-Man on the glass, gobbling up rebounds with his aggressive, high-energy play. He ate up 20 rebounds in 33 minutes this past Wednesday in the loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

On offense, Davis is Mr. Reliable, converting 58 percent of his attempts. In 24 minutes per game, he is putting up eight points and collecting seven rebounds.

Some playoff-bound team would love to add this talented 6'10", 240-pound big man to its mix, but the Lakers might want to consider him part of their future plans instead.

Davis told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News that he will test the free-agent waters this summer when he has a player option for next season at just $1.1 million. "I'm hoping for a long-term deal," he said. "I'd love to return here. I know this will turn around eventually."

Rather than lose him, the Lakers may explore the market now to see what assets they might receive for the former first-round draft pick (Toronto Raptors) from North Carolina.

With power forwards Julius Randle and Tarik Black seen as long-term solutions, the Lakers may decide that Davis is expendable. He's become a proven, dependable, high-energy defender who could help a lot of playoff teams this spring.

Ed Davis should figure into the long-term plans of the Lakers.
Ed Davis should figure into the long-term plans of the Lakers.Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press/Associated Press

This one is a toss-up for the Lakers, but if they dangle Davis, they are likely to get a handful of offers. Depending on the offer, the Lakers may choose to move on it.

Chance of moving Davis before the deadline: 5 percent

In truth, the Lakers do not have a lot to offer. A trade before the deadline is possible, though not entirely probable.

Only Bryant, Randle, Davis, Nick Young and Ryan Kelly have guaranteed contracts next season, which means as many as 10 or 11 roster spots may be up for grabs. With his player option, Davis will either sign elsewhere or get a new deal in L.A.

So, the Lakers will likely continue to kick tires right up until the trade deadline and make a deal if they find a willing partner.

If it trades Hill, the team would lose its most consistent scorer in exchange for the promise of a brighter future down the road.

It's a hard pill to swallow for fans who expect nothing less than championships every year. But it's the right medicine to take for a franchise that seems ready to finally hit the refresh button.

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