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Los Angeles Lakers Most Likely to Be Traded Before the Deadline

David Murphy@@davem234Featured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2016

The Grizzlies Matt Barns, center, guards the Los Angeles Lakers Nick Young, right, in the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Memphis, Tenn. At left is Lakers center Roy Hibbert. (AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht)
Karen Pulfer Focht/Associated Press

There haven't been many substantial Los Angeles Lakers trade rumors yet leading up to the February 18 midseason deadline.

However, one of the most attention-grabbing theories floated recently has actually concerned the offseason rather than the present, with Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports Radio’s The Herd speculating that L.A. would be willing to swap its young core for established stars.

“The Lakers would trade three of them,” Herd offered. “They’d like to keep Julius Randle. They’d move the other three, to rebuild it with multiple free agents, and Randle’s the only one they really truly believe is ready very quickly to be on a really good NBA team.”

Next summer is still quite a ways off. But the notion of the front office giving up on D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. seems quite a stretch nonetheless.

Although currently trailing the Western Conference with a record of 8-27, this rebuilding squad has actually shown signs life as of late, riding a three-game winning streak after blowing out the Phoenix Suns Sunday night.

Arash Markazi @ArashMarkazi

FINAL: Lakers 97, Suns 77. The Lakers have won three straight games for the first time this season and are still undefeated in 2016.

Management may be content to develop its young players for now, while also hoping for a top-three protected draft pick in the spring.

There certainly are some expendable pieces to barter with in the interim, however. And identifying underperformers or those whose skill sets unnecessarily overlap with teammates is the first step of any potential upgrade.

Roy Hibbert

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 15:  Head Coach Byron Scott of the Los Angeles Lakers and Roy Hibbert #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks on December 15, 2015 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

The Lakers’ biggest plausible trade chip, bar none, is Roy Hibbert. The Lakers acquired the massive 7’2” center from the Indiana Pacers this summer, in return for a future second-round pick and the absorption of his $15,514,031 salary for the year. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in June.

This expensive test drive was an attempt to solve L.A.’s defensive woes. That experiment hasn’t worked for more reasons than just Hibbert. But it’s also telling that his overall game seems to be in a state of decline. The eight-year veteran averaged just 5.7 points and 5.4 rebounds in December.

That said, Big Roy had a throwback game Sunday with 13 points, six boards, three assists, three steals and a massive throw-down jam. Trade value on the rise?

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Roy Hibbert with the Dunk n’ Dab! https://t.co/MCGXYWx9Wh

Specific games aside, Hibbert’s half-court style doesn’t translate well to the open-floor strengths of his younger teammates. And if he’s not a part of any ultimate solution, then why not deal him for an asset that is?

There are often teams who look to bulk up heading into the playoffs, and Hibbert can still be an effective low-post intimidator in the right system. His expiring contract can also benefit teams looking to shed salary for future cap space.

Nick Young

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 28: Nick Young #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the game against the Charlotte Hornets on December 28, 2015 at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Nick Young seems to have regained his shooting touch this season. He also seems to have found a better understanding of Scott’s system of curls, cuts and off-ball movement. Nonetheless, his minutes and scoring opportunities have dropped to near career lows.

A large part of that has to do with Young playing as a backup small forward to Kobe Bryant during the superstar’s farewell tour. But Swaggy P’s role has also diminished due to the presence of Lou Williams—a shot-happy combo guard who has been on a tear since moving into the starting lineup in early December.

Young and Williams have similar motivations when it comes to basketball—putting the biscuit in the bucket with little emphasis on the defensive end. Having both of them on the same roster is an unnecessary luxury for a team with such a dismal record.

As for contracts, Young is owed two more years after this one, with an annual salary of around $5.5 million.  He’s got decent size for a wing at 6’7” and could help a team with a need for more firepower. If trade talk heats up before the deadline, Young’s name will likely be in the mix.

Robert Sacre

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 15:  Robert Sacre #50 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Nick Young #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers box out Miles Plumlee #18 of the Milwaukee Bucks during a game at Staples Center on December 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

At 7’0” and 270 pounds, Robert Sacre is big and durable without being particularly athletic. Selected by the Lakers as the last overall draft pick in 2012, the affable center has served his team as a sideline cheerleader ever since, as well as contributing spot garbage minutes in the post.

Lakers Nation @LakersNation

"White flag has officially been raised" - Bill Macdonald as Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly check in for first time.

But while he’s not much of a rebounder or shot-blocker, he does have some value when it comes to defensive positioning, as pointed out by Forum Blue and Gold’s Darius Soriano:

He slides well when coming up as the hedge man in the P&R. He’s able to identify his help responsibilities early in a possession and move to his spot accordingly. He will not beat many players in a sprint, but his short area quickness is good enough for him to effectively patrol the paint as a viable last line of defense.

Is this, along with a passable baby jumper, enough to entice another team to take Sacre off L.A.’s hands? Possibly, but it’s his expiring contract of just $981,348 that would be of the most value, as filler in a multiplayer deal.

Ryan Kelly

AUBURN HILLS, MI - DECEMBER 6: Ryan Kelly #4 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots the ball during the game against the Detroit Pistons on December 6, 2015 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and a
Allen Einstein/Getty Images

The Lakers signed Ryan Kelly to a two-year, $3.37 million deal after his rookie campaign ended in 2014. The front office obviously believed the Duke sharpshooter held some value. You wouldn’t know that now, however. Kelly has only appeared in 10 games for the Lakers this season, along with multiple D-League assignments.

The stretch 4 isn’t without talent. He’s got excellent court vision, decent mobility for his 6’11” size and a smooth, high release on his jumper. He has obviously fallen out of favor with Scott, however. Kelly will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer, and the Lakers could try to get something out of their modest investment.

On the other hand, the former NCAA champion’s future in Los Angeles could also hinge on a potentially fluid coaching situation. If the front office decides to part ways with Scott, it may decide to give a floor-spacer like Kelly another shot.

Looking Ahead

There’s more than a month to go before the last frantic flurry of deadline deals occurs. Ergo, it’s safe to say that the paucity of Lakers trade rumors will not remain as such.

But it’s also true that the assets L.A. would be most comfortable parting with are not exactly in high demand. And any playoff team with a passing interest in a veteran like Hibbert or Young, would not be likely to offer anything in the way of real value back.

It may well be that the front office stays pat for now, allowing the sizable contracts of Bryant and Hibbert to reach their expiration date. Thus, there would be an exciting nucleus of young talent, plus plenty of cash with which to entice meaningful players during free agency.

Statistics and salary information courtesy of ESPN, Basketball-Reference.com and Spotrac. Stats are current as of the start of games, January 4. 

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