ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported Tuesday on The Hoop Collective podcast there's been "some chatter" around the Lakers in the days before the deadline.
"The piece that they have that they may be willing to move is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope," Windhorst said. "The piece that teams want is Talen Horton-Tucker, who's a restricted free agent at the end of the year."
Los Angeles is in a difficult spot heading into the deadline because of the injuries to superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, which has added a significant hurdle to the team's playoff pursuit after it looked like they'd be on cruise control for most of the season's second half.
It's put more pressure on the team's depth to at least try to maintain a .500 record while James and Davis are on the mend. It doesn't want to fall below the No. 6 seed and find itself in the play-in tournament before the playoffs even get underway. Los Angeles is third in the Western Conference and 4.5 games ahead of the seventh-placed San Antonio Spurs.
So players like Caldwell-Pope and Horton-Tucker, who may have been available for the right offer at the deadline, are now crucial pieces of the rotation for the coming weeks.
Here's how the guards are performing so far during the 2020-21 campaign:
- Caldwell-Pope: 8.4 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.4 APG in 26.1 MPG (39 games)
- Horton-Tucker: 8.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2.3 APG in 18.3 MPG (39 games)
Not counting the absent James and Davis, they rank fourth and fifth respectively in scoring among active members of the Lakers roster.
It's no surprise Horton-Tucker is generating interest. The 2019 second-round pick didn't make a significant impact during his rookie campaign, but he showed signs of a breakout year during the preseason, highlighted by a 33-point effort against the Los Angeles Clippers.
His role has been more sporadic during the regular season, but he's averaging 12.9 points across eight March appearances in his most expansive playing time to date.
Given his increasing importance to the Lakers, his noticeable jump over his first two NBA seasons and the front office's ability to give him a modest $1.9 million qualifying offer, which would give L.A. the right to match any offer sheet he receives as a free agent, it's hard to imagine him being traded.
Ultimately, Los Angeles figures to become more active in the buyout market after the deadline rather than making any high-profile moves over the next few days.