Lakers' Complete Guide to 2021 NBA Trade Deadline

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 11, 2021

Lakers' Complete Guide to 2021 NBA Trade Deadline

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Lakers are the defending NBA champs.

    They arguably have the Association's best two-man tandem in LeBron James and, when healthy, Anthony Davis.

    If anyone could afford to stand pat between now and the March 25 trade deadline, surely this is the squad, right?

    Well, not exactly.

    The Lakers stumbled into the All-Star break with just three wins to show for their last 10 outings. While some of this can be explained by Davis' absence—he last suited up on Feb. 14 because of a calf strain—their 17th-ranked offense points to some greater issues with this roster.

    That could mean the Purple and Gold have a relatively busy swap season. In which case, it makes perfect sense to put together a thorough deadline guide for the reigning champs.


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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    In the modern NBA, there's no such thing as too much shooting. Even if there was, the Lakers would be nowhere near that threshold.

    L.A. sits just 27th in three-point makes (10.8 per game) and 24th in perimeter accuracy (35.1 three-point percentage). It hasn't gotten nearly enough spacing out of Dennis Schroder (31.7 percent) or Wesley Matthews (33.7).

    Beyond snipers, the Lakers could consider adding another shot-creator, especially if they're unconvinced that Schroder or Montrezl Harrell can be a legitimate third option over a playoff run. An elite point-producer might be out of their price range (more on that later), but a ball-moving or iso-scoring specialist might be a sneaky-good way to boost this offense.

    Finally, the Lakers are on the hunt for "frontcourt depth," per The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor. Maybe that gets filled via free agency or the buyout market—O'Connor listed DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Drummond as possible targets—but L.A. might feel a bigger sense of urgency to get something done through trades.

    Between Davis' injury issues, Harrell's awkward fit and Marc Gasol's non-existent scoring (4.8 points in 20.1 minutes per game), L.A. could covet more size and versatility up front.


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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Lakers, along with many win-now buyers, are severely limited when it comes to trading draft picks. They can't trade a first-rounder until 2027, and they've already sent away their second-round selections for 2021, 2022 and 2026.

    That might force L.A. to move players from its active roster, with sophomore scoring guard Talen Horton-Tucker serving as arguably the top movable trade chip. The 20-year-old has already proved to be a tough shot-maker and plucky defender, and despite getting barely any run as a rookie, he's handling a regular rotation spot for a championship hopeful as a sophomore.

    Horton-Tucker will be a restricted free agent this summer and is expected to have a robust market of suitors, per's Sean Deveney. If the Lakers see a significant upgrade within their grasp, that might be reason enough to let go of THT.

    L.A. doesn't have much in the way of money-matching expiring contracts beyond those held by rotation regulars Schroder ($16 million), Matthews ($3.6 million) and Alex Caruso ($2.8 million). Alfonzo McKinnie's three-year contract is only guaranteed for this season, though.

Potential Targets

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    If the Lakers add a player between now and the deadline, they'll surely be on the hunt for plug-and-play veterans. They don't have time to carefully work someone into the rotation, so they need to add players who can pick things up on the fly.

    A battle-tested veteran like P.J. Tucker might make a ton of sense. He doesn't address the need for more size, although he plays bigger than his 6'5" height. He can capably defend up to four different positions—the Lakers might be comfortable throwing him (or at least switching him) on to everyone but point guards—and history suggests he's a better floor-spacer than he's shown so far (31.4 percent this season, 35.9 for his career).

    George Hill, who previously played alongside James, would help scratch itches for shot-creation and outside shooting. Trevor Ariza, who won a ring with the 2008-09 Lakers, would help increase the shooting and address a potential need for a big-wing defender.

    If L.A. wants to fill the above-the-rim voids created by the free-agency departures of JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard, that's where Drummond could fit. Given his colossal $28.8 million salary, though, he's probably not an option without being bought out by the Cleveland Cavaliers.


    Statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference and Salary information obtained via Basketball Insiders.