Woj Explains Lakers' Plan for Trade Deadline, Andre Drummond After LeBron InjuryMarch 22, 2021
The Los Angeles Lakers will reportedly head into Thursday's 2021 NBA trade deadline with a "long-term" outlook despite the high-ankle sprain suffered by LeBron James in Saturday's loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday on Get Up the Lakers likely aren't going to alter their deadline plans with James joining Anthony Davis on the sideline because both players should be back from their respective injuries before the playoffs.
Instead, L.A. could be a more minor player at the deadline with an eye on the buyout market afterward, including a possible pursuit of Cleveland Cavaliers center Andre Drummond, per Woj:
"I don't know that [James and Davis' injuries] impacts it because they know they're going to get both guys back and they have to build the team and make moves that are designed for the long-term, not for a short stretch of time here. Listen, the Lakers have been active in the trade market, but I think for them the buyout market after the trade deadline is where they can really impact because then you're adding players without having to lose anyone in a trade or have to trade out assets. Certainly, Andre Drummond remains a real big target for the Lakers if he's bought out."
Wojnarowski also mentioned on Get Up that James could be out for three-to-four weeks with the ankle injury, while Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes reported Davis may remain sidelined until early April and "possibly beyond" with his Achilles and calf injuries. He last played Feb. 14.
Being without their superstar duo raised questions about whether the Lakers would become more aggressive in the days leading up to the deadline, but it doesn't sound like that will be the case.
Instead, L.A. will wait to see which players are bought out following the deadline to see whether it can make a marquee addition and otherwise hope it doesn't lose too much ground in the highly competitive Western Conference while waiting on James and Davis to return.
The Lakers are third in the standings at 28-15, but there is little separation as they only hold a four-game lead over the seventh-placed San Antonio Spurs. At minimum, they want to remain somewhere in the top six to avoid the play-in tournament before the playoffs.
Based on Haynes' timeline, the earliest Davis could return is around April 6 against the Toronto Raptors. That means the Lakers have to prepare for at least seven more games without their top two players, so there's a lot of pressure on the likes of Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Kuzma to hold down the fort.
Meanwhile, given the heavy speculation Los Angeles will be a major player for Drummond if he hits the free-agent market with a buyout, it will be interesting to see whether a fellow contender decides to make a more significant push to land him via trade over the next few days.
The two-time All-Star's contract carries a $28.8 million cap hit for the 2020-21 season, which creates some logistical issues for a deal, but trading for him could upgrade a team's frontcourt and also keep him away from a fellow championship hopeful in the Lakers.
That said, as long as James and Davis are healthy and prepared to log major minutes in the playoffs, the reigning champions will be the team to beat heading into the postseason.