Lakers' Biggest Needs at 2022 NBA Trade Deadline

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2022

Lakers' Biggest Needs at 2022 NBA Trade Deadline

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    The first half of the 2021-22 NBA season hasn't gone according to plan for the Los Angeles Lakers, which means...well, maybe less than you think.

    It doesn't preclude this club from reaching even its greatest ambitions. There are flaws to correct, of course, but there's a trade season and multiple months of the actual campaign still to get all their ducks in a row.

    Oh, yeah, and they also still have both LeBron James and Anthony Davis, which is as good a reason as any to keep hope alive.

    The front office clearly needs to upgrade this roster, though, and the following three areas loom as obvious focal points.

Perimeter Stoppers

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    The Lakers are just a single season removed from leading the entire league in defensive efficiency. It just feels longer, because L.A. has fallen so far from the elite ranks.

    Entering Wednesday, the team has tumbled all the way to 17th in the category. The Lakers have already allowed more opponents to score 120-plus points (11) than they did all of last season (nine). For context, scoring is down nearly four points per game across the league (from an average of 112.1 points per game to 108.3).

    The Lakers have suffered defensive breakdowns at every level, but perimeter defense in particular has been a problem. That maybe shouldn't be surprising, since the team cut ties with Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma last offseason and never made much of an effort to replace them. Kent Bazemore, presumably a non-insignificant part of the replacement plan, didn't even last a month in the rotation.

    L.A. doesn't have enough reliable defenders, and there's probably a point of diminishing returns with 30-somethings Avery Bradley and Trevor Ariza.

Stretch Big

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    Catch the Lakers' 21st-ranked offense at its worst moments and it can feel like the walls are closing in on you.

    There are too many non-shooters logging minutes alongside one another. Even when L.A. ditches its traditional centers and runs Davis at the 5, it gets no spacing from him (17.9 percent from three), erratic-at-best shooting out of Russell Westbrook (29.8) and a barrage of bricks from Talen Horton-Tucker (24.4).

    The Lakers need more room to breathe. Spacing is a concern for any modern offense, but it should be a top priority for one with downhill threats like James and Westbrook.

    While shooters of all sizes are worth having, a big who could step away from the basket and present some level of threat would help balance the floor.

Combo Guards

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    This might be more than the Lakers can afford, but a shot-creator who can play on or off the ball would be the perfect piece to add to this team.

    Someone who dominates the ball can only log so many minutes, since most possessions will run through James and Westbrook. Similarly, someone who can't create for himself will only offer as much value as those stars can generate for him.

    Derrick White of the San Antonio Spurs would be a dream get, since he can handle either guard spot at both ends of the floor. Norman Powell of the Portland Trail Blazers wouldn't be a bad option either, provided the Lakers aren't scared off by his contract.

    The question is whether L.A. has enough trade chips to afford them. That will ultimately hinge on how much value other clubs place on Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn and a first-round pick that won't change hands for nearly a decade.