Lakers' Updated Trade Targets with 2021 NBA Deadline Approaching
Change is in the air.
The NBA's 2021 trade deadline is rapidly approaching, as March 25 will be here before you know it.
Executives, of course, are well aware of that fact and have surely been logging absurd hours contemplating the optimal way to juice their rosters. Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka is assuredly doing the same.
While he might save his splashes for the buyout market, there are a few names he could pursue beforehand in trades. We'll spotlight the top three trade targets who could realistically fit in the Lakers' exchange budget.
Devonte' Graham, Charlotte Hornets
It's possible the Lakers' true needs don't extend beyond a healthy Anthony Davis. But if you wanted to nit-pick the roster—which is essentially how decision-makers should be spending this month—it could use more shooting and shot-creation.
Devonte' Graham would help on both fronts. He has regressed in most areas from last season, which isn't totally shocking as defenses started to figure out his impact diminishes when he's run off of the three-point arc. Lacking both size and explosiveness, he's a sub-40 percent two-point shooter for his career.
But the Lakers don't need inside-the-arc scoring. They need more three-point splashes, and the 6'1" guard has averaged 3.3 long-range makes at a 36.6 percent clip since the start of 2019-20.
They also need some non-LeBron James options in the half-court, and Graham aces the tightrope walk of creating shots (7.0 assists per game over that stretch) while taking control of the basketball (2.5).
Graham might be available, too. That's solely speculation, but with LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward in Buzz City, Charlotte has (understandably) limited the 26-year-old's opportunities, and that trend seems destined to continue going forward.
George Hill, Oklahoma City Thunder
If the Lakers make even a semi-impactful addition between now and the deadline, they need that player to hit the ground running.
George Hill might land in Hollywood in a dead sprint. He has shared the floor with James before, so he knows exactly what to expect there. He also has 127 games of playoff experience, so not even the brightest postseason lights would faze him.
On the court, the 34-year-old's game is more malleable than most, so he could blend his talents to fit wherever the roster needed him.
Hill can handle either guard post at both ends of the floor. He can lead an offense in spurts, but he's best off the ball as a catch-and-launch sniper (career 38.4 percent from range), which is exactly where the Lakers would need him given how much their offense runs through James and Davis.
He would theoretically be a dream get on the buyout market, but he isn't getting there. Before this season even started, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported Hill had suitors "around the league."
P.J. Tucker, Houston Rockets
Frontcourt flexibility should be a focus of this franchise, and a trade for P.J. Tucker would be one way to get it.
The 6'5", 245-pounder is equally comfortable hounding wings on the perimeter and banging with bigs on the low block. That means he'd fit with most any lineup Lakers coach Frank Vogel put together, especially if his three-point percentage ticked up closer to his career rate (32.1 percent now, 35.9 for his career).
The Lakers have interest in Tucker, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski (via Silver Screen and Roll's Harrison Faigen), and Houston's reported interest in getting players instead of picks for the 35-year-old should be music to L.A.'s ears.
The Lakers don't have a first-round pick to trade, so this could make Tucker more obtainable than a trade target on a more future-focused rebuilder.
L.A. isn't getting enough out of Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol, and both could see their roles decreased come playoff time. That wouldn't have to be the case with Tucker, again particularly if his perimeter shots are falling. His willingness (and ability) to defend opposing bigs might free the Lakers to deploy Davis at center without exposing him to the wear-and-tear of interior defensive duties.