At this point in the season, there's nothing more for the Los Angeles Lakers to do but to lose, lose and lose some more.
Just 3-16 since the calendar turned to 2015, the Lakers are destined for the lottery in the 2015 NBA draft. Of course, their first-round selection will be given to the Phoenix Suns if it falls out of the top five picks. That gives the team a little extra incentive to tank now and beef up its chances of keeping that pick. It would be the first time the Lakers had first-round picks in consecutive years since the 2002 and 2003 drafts.
It's time for general manager Mitch Kupchak to completely prepare for the future to the best of his ability. That means trading some assets away in a week's time at the NBA trade deadline. While this Lakers team clearly lacks supreme talent, there are a handful of players who could entice opposing GMs.
Without Kobe Bryant for the rest of the season, now is the perfect time to begin a mini rebuild. Below, you'll find the most recent team rumors.
Jeremy Lin has been just so-so this season, though nothing more should have been expected of the 26-year-old point guard. He's a borderline NBA starter at the position given his inconsistencies on offense and struggles on defense.
"He [Lin] would make a good backup point guard," Deveney writes, "and the Lakers would move him if they could get an asset in return, but the market for Lin has been weak."
It's not surprising to hear that interest is weak in Lin, who has had a bad season to this point. Playing in a career-low 25.7 minutes per game (excluding his rookie campaign), Lin has averaged just 10.4 points and 4.7 rebounds. He's also converting on just 42.8 percent of his attempts from the floor.
Those aren't the numbers that teams look for when identifying a candidate for their backup point guard positions.
The numbers aren't the only issue in moving Lin, as ESPN.com's Nick Borges explains:
Lin is on the salary cap this season for $8.37 million, but he's actually making close to $15 million as part of the offer sheet he signed with the Houston Rockets in July of 2012. Lin is currently still owed $6.05 million this season. For that reason and his lack of production, the Lakers can only deal Lin if they are willing to take back an equally bad contract.
Lin can hustle all he wants on the court, but there aren't many teams in the league that will pay nearly $6 million for a bench player with less than half the season to go.
Chances are he won't be traded within the next week.
Conversely, Jordan Hill is perhaps the most likely player in the organization to be dealt. Deveney reports that, despite an injury, Hill should be a hot commodity on the trade market:
Early in the year, interested teams were told that Hill would not be available. That has not stopped the interest in Hill, who is averaging 12.3 points and 8.0 rebounds, and can potentially be a free agent next summer because he has a team option in his contract. Hill is out with a quad injury and may not play until the deadline hits, but interest in him will remain high.
Head coach Byron Scott updated Serena Winters of LakersNation.com about the injury in question:
Hill has started all 48 games that he has played this season. He has been both effective and efficient, converting 47.6 percent of his shots—many of which come from the paint. His free-throw percentage is also phenomenal this season (76 percent), considering his previous high was 70.6 percent.
He has embraced an increased role under Scott, though it's hardly the role set out for him entering the season. Julius Randle was expected to get significant minutes as a rookie, but his injury opened the door for the likes of Hill, Robert Sacre, Ed Davis and others.
Now that Hill has established himself as a capable starter in the frontcourt, it's likely that teams will court him until the waning seconds of the trade deadline.
Trading him now is best for Kupchak, as Hill is likely at his highest point in terms of value.
Taj Gibson is playing the second-most minutes of his career this season, but it's clear that offseason additions Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic have impacted the role he has on the team. He's taking nearly two fewer shots per game than he did last season (his career-best campaign), resulting in a scoring drop of 2.1 points per game (13.0 to 10.9).
In terms of rebounding, assists, steals and blocks, Gibson is right on par with last season's marks. It's only scoring that has decreased.
Given the Chicago Bulls' depth in the frontcourt (and adding in this slight drop in production), the team could look to move the big man. Deveney writes that his market is both wide and unclear at the same time: "Gibson has been connected to much of the league the past few months, from Los Angeles to Toronto to Phoenix to Detroit to Portland."
Los Angeles doesn't appear to be a good fit for the Lakers for multiple reasons. First, the team already has several capable big men, even if Hill moves elsewhere. Second, the last thing the Lakers should be doing at the deadline is adding talent. It's time to subtract. Oh yeah, and third: Gibson has two years and $17.4 million remaining on his contact after this season, via Spotrac.com.
Gibson is a high-energy player who can bump bodies down low and make plays consistently when called upon, but he's not a good fit for this current Lakers team. The roster is weak and mostly talentless, yet the frontcourt can be considered a relative strength.
He may not finish this season with the Bulls, especially because the Bulls have depth at the position and they have holes to fill elsewhere. Don't expect him to wear purple and gold, however.
Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @kennydejohn