Embed from Getty Images
The Lakers have a problem, albeit a good problem, that is becoming increasingly evident as the preseason goes on.
Kyle Kuzma needs to see the floor.
Whether the hot start is a mirage – and to some degree it is – Kuzma brings a skillset to the Lakers’ frontcourt that none of their big men currently have.
The bigger problem, though, is the Lakers’ gluttony of options in the frontcourt. Even prior to signing Andrew Bogut and before Kuzma proved that he deserved minutes, the Lakers had too many bodies for too few positions.
Brook Lopez is obviously going to see minutes. It’s very unlikely Bogut was brought in for training camp mentorship. Ivica Zubac is still enough of a project that the team won’t give up on him.
The team would love to trade Luol Deng, but that’s going to take a couple sweeteners and he isn’t an easily moveable contract. Julius Randle, polarizing as he’s become, is still a very talented player and arguably the Lakers’ best player this preseason given injuries to Lopez, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball.
That leaves Larry Nance, Jr. Even prior to this season, there were some concerns about Nance’s development or lack thereof. The preseason has shown that Nance is still the same player he was as a rookie, which is still a good player. Nance has a role on any team in the league, but given the Lakers’ desire for pace and space, Nance is becoming more of a square peg in a round hole.
Where does that leave the Lakers? The team has some holes that could be addressed via trade and Nance is a name they should start dangling around. He’s still on an incredibly team-friendly rookie deal for the next two seasons and teams would be lining up for him.
What type of deals should the Lakers be looking for? Here’s a handful to consider.
1. Dallas Mavericks
Tyler Ennis has been decent this preseason and I think has earned a spot on the roster, but there’s still plenty of reason to not trust him going forward because, well, he’s Tyler Ennis.
Dallas, meanwhile, has a backcourt problem with Dennis Smith, Jr., J.J. Barea and Devin Harris all on the roster along with Yogi Ferrell. Even Seth Curry can play as a point guard at times.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks frontcourt consists of Josh McRoberts, Dwight Powell and Jeff Withey (among other names I’m not sure are real). Nerlens Noel and Dirk Nowitzki are also going to see major minutes, but one of those guys is 47 years old and the other is already disliked by the coach.
Therefore, alleviate some problems for both teams. Dallas gets a forward that would be GREAT in their pick-and-roll offense with Smith while the Lakers add a point guard that is a great shooter and an incredibly smart player.
2. Memphis Grizzlies
– Memphis includes 2018 2nd round pick
Bare with me a second. I know this trade doesn’t seem great on the surface. Admittedly, this deal has a lot to do with me being high on Dillon Brooks during the build-up to the draft, but this trade has merits on multiple levels.
The Grizzlies are a team stuck somewhere between rebuilding and going for it with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. The problem is that the team is stuck with a bunch of second-round talents trying to play up a level around their duo.
Nance would step in and be a great role player off the bench for Memphis, shoring up some issues they have in the frontcourt. He could play next to basically any big man on Memphis’ roster.
For the Lakers, Dillon Brooks is a player who can play on the wing and knock down threes, both areas of need. He was a standout at Oregon and while there are concerns about his frame, he hit 35 percent of his threes in Summer League. More so, the added second-round pick for the Lakers is a crucial piece given the Lakers’ recent track record of finding diamonds in the rough.
– Orlando includes Lakers’ 2019 second round pick
It me, the last person left on Mario Hezonja Island. I still believe in the swaggerific guard who throws bounce-pass alley-oops and is still only 22 years old. He’s shown little to make fans still believe in him, but dammit I want the kid who came in with such promise to be something.
The Magic do have to give something of note back, though, and in this situation, it’s allowing the Lakers to keep their own second-round pick. But in return they get two building blocks going forward.
I mean, imagine a small-ball lineup with both Aaron Gordon and Nance? Everyone would be getting dunked on.
And most importantly, we include Zubac to keep a father and son together.
Any trade with the Pacers comes with the caveat that we didn’t tamper with the player we are receiving. There are a couple trades that could make sense for the Lakers, but this is the one they could make right now.
Attaching Nance to Jordan Clarkson remains another possible solution to the crowded frontcourt. Clarkson is still a solid guard off the bench who is a bit overpaid. Adding Nance as a sweetener would be more than enough to move his deal.
The return is the important part. In this deal, they’d be taking on a capable backup point guard, but one that could take up $7.9 million in cap next year if he picks up his player option. If they wanted to wait until Dec. 15, they could trade for either Darren Collison or Bojan Bogdanovich’s deals which are non-guaranteed for 2018-19, helping free up cap space.
– Philly include’s Houston’s 2018 2nd round pick
This one could be a bit of a stretch as it appears the Sixers are interested in maximizing next summer’s cap space, too. But it also appears the Sixers are going to be Actually Good this year and could use some more depth.
Justin Anderson isn’t much more than a flier here that the Lakers can get minutes out of before having to make a decision about him this off-season as a restricted free agent. The important part is that the Sixers would be absorbing Clarkson’s contract alongside Nance.
The Sixers do have a logjam at power forward themselves, but Amir Johnson is a one-year rental and Ben Simmons is being treated as point guard and not a forward. Clarkson provides a scoring punch off the bench the Sixers don’t have, either.