Lakers Players Who Should Be Shopped at 2021 NBA Trade Deadline

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2021

Lakers Players Who Should Be Shopped at 2021 NBA Trade Deadline

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Lakers could stand pat between now and the March 25 NBA trade deadline, and it would do nothing to dislodge them from the league's short list of heavyweight contenders.

    But the defending champs might see opportunities to improve their roster, and while they could wait to see what the buyout market has to offer, they'd have less control over those situations than if they traded for a player in the near future.

    Selective buying is probably the right mindset, since there's no data to suggest major changes are needed. If there is a chance to expand their playoff rotation, though, the following three players are worth shopping around to gauge their return.

Montrezl Harrell

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Montrezl Harell is doing everything the Lakers signed him to do.

    He paces their reserve unit with 13.3 points per game and has been absolutely crushing his individual battles. As per usual, he's shooting an astronomic rate from the field (64.6 percent) and dazzling in per-36-minutes production: 19.5 points and 9.2 rebounds.

    But his role could shrink come playoff time—as it did last season with the Los Angeles Clippers—which might make him more of a luxury than a necessity. He's not a ball-mover, rim-protector or floor-spacer, so his ability to help his team may not extend beyond his box-score contributions.

    Perhaps the Lakers will be cautious with their depth at center for as long as Anthony Davis is down, but if L.A. is optimistic about the Brow's long-term outlook, then it's worth exploring Harrell's market. If a center-needy club thinks he could handle a bigger role than he's held in Hollywood, the Lakers might find something more valuable than an offense-only reserve.

Talen Horton-Tucker

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    If this article creates a stir in Laker Land, this will probably be the reason why.

    As the roster is currently constructed, Talen Horton-Tucker is the future of this franchise. He's the only rotation regular under the age of 25, and his game is already blossoming in wildly intriguing ways.

    The 20-year-old is a creative finisher, a natural scorer, a solid secondary playmaker and, thanks to his remarkably long limbs, a disruptive defender.

    But his best basketball is likely several years ahead of him, and the Lakers are very much in win-now mode. L.A. also isn't guaranteed to see his full potential come to fruition. He'll be a restricted free agent at season's end, and a robust group of suitors could price him out of the Lakers' budget.

    Finally, Horton-Tucker's youth and upside arguably make him the best trade chip in L.A.'s collection, since the club can't trade any first-round picks. If the Lakers pursue even a mid-tier target, Horton-Tucker might have to be included to get the deal done.

Kyle Kuzma

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Kyle Kuzma is playing arguably the most complete basketball of his career—and is matching the fewest minutes he's ever played (25.0).

    It all comes down to his curious fit with this core.

    He's doing a better job than before of adjusting to his new position on the team's hierarchy. He is growing by leaps and bounds defensively, and his three-ball is falling much more regularly than it had the past two seasons (36.1 percent).

    But he isn't a playmaker or a premier stopper, and even his growth as a perimeter shooter only puts him at roughly league-average. That calls into question his ability to coexist as a complementary piece for the Lakers' best players. He might be the third-most talented player on the roster, but he doesn't feel like a lock when it comes to the club's late-game closing unit in critical postseason contests.

    Kuzma deserves credit for molding his game as best as he can, and the Lakers shouldn't be in a hurry to let him go. Saying that, it would make sense to sniff around the trade market to see whether he could bring back a player who could more cleanly fit alongside Davis and LeBron James.

                   

    All stats courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.

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