Roundtable: Who Should the Lakers Target Before the NBA Trade Deadline?

Mar 22, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball (2) misses on a shot over New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) during the fourth quarter at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Lakers 128-125. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA trade deadline is roughly two months away, but that won’t stop teams from trying to make deals right now. The Lakers attempted to swing a trade that would bring Trevor Ariza back to Los Angeles but were unsuccessful, as the Phoenix Suns would rather do business with teams that reportedly tried to sell them one Brooks, even though they wanted another one.

With Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans in town to take on the Lakers, Kyle Hartwick (@kylemarx13), Stefan Smith (@laker72289) and myself (@garykester) answer questions about potential trades and Brandon Ingram’s immediate future with the team.

Q: Now that Ariza is off the board, who should the Lakers target before the trade deadline?

Kyle: Maybe Wayne Ellington? Miami received bad news on Wednesday that Goran Dragic would be sidelined for a couple months. That will likely take them out of the playoff “race” in the East and make them sellers at the deadline. Ellington formerly played on the Lakers and is an effective three-point shooter, shooting 38 percent for his career. However, I think that the Lakers should be patient on the trade market. They have a good rotation of players playing well, and should instead look at potential buyout candidates. Ellington might also fit that bill if Miami just wishes to cut ties entirely.

Stefan: I think the Lakers should stand pat and go with what they have, especially being fourth in the west currently.

Gary: The premise to any Lakers trade is that they acquire a player on an expiring contract to preserve their max cap space in 2019, probably from a team looking to acquire picks. Since the Lakers are unwilling to trade their young talent for just anyone (justifiably so), they might have to make a subtle deal that isn’t splashy. 

I was also going to say Ellington, as his perimeter and free throw shooting would be a very welcome addition to this squad. But for the sake of answering differently, I’ll say Justin Holiday from Chicago. The Bulls are clearly tanking for a top draft pick as they try to rebuild the program. Rebuilding teams are usually sellers at the deadline, as they attempt to acquire draft picks. Holiday is a solid defender on the wing and is shooting 37.7 percent from three this year. The Lakers could use another wing that can defend and knock down shots from deep. 

Q: Would you trade the entire young core if it means acquiring Anthony Davis before the trade deadline (if he becomes available)?

Kyle: Without question. Davis moves the needle more for the Lakers than all of the young core combined. Lonzo Ball would be missed, but he could be replaced by an average player. Davis is just too good that if you can get the Pelicans to agree to an offer, you have to take it.

Stefan: Give the pelicans all the pieces (players and draft picks) that they want for Davis. But in the same note, Davis hasn’t demanded anything, and we all know the Pelicans won’t be shopping him around.

Gary: Call me crazy, but right now, I would say no. Would I be upset about it? Most certainly not. But say the Lakers traded Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Rajon Rondo/Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (one would be needed to make the money work), Ingram AND Ball. While Davis and LeBron James would be a lethal duo, what else would the Lakers have around them? Additionally, acquiring Davis complicates adding more help via free agency because of his contract being on the books along with James’ max deal.

The perfect scenario for the Lakers would be to use their cap space to acquire a max free agent in July of 2019, then swing a trade for Davis. Maybe I am crazy (very possible), but superstar trades hardly net a return that appears favorable to the team shipping one out. There is also the concern about how often Davis gets hurt, even though most are fairly minor injuries. I would completely understand the Lakers selling the farm for Davis and wouldn’t blame them at all if they did, but I think they are looking at the bigger picture, which requires trading for Davis next summer.   

Q: Who is the one member of the young core that the Lakers should be least willing to include in any trade?

Kyle: Ball, but I think that all options should remain open. Ball has had great defense this year, unless you’re a sour member of the national media just looking for something to hate. Brandon Ingram should be the one that the Lakers are most willing to trade. Hart and Kuzma are nice pieces of the rotation and they would be missed if they were gone, but it’s not going to make or break the team. None of the rest of the core plays enough to be considered. Ball would be the most missed young guy if he were traded.

Stefan: Ingram should be least likely to be dealt. We are talking potential here, so any big trade (like for Davis) would be giving every young asset possible. But with his length at both ends of the floor, plus his slashing potential and the shooting ability that I think is there, since he showed it in college and we occasionally see it now, he has too much upside. Kuzma hasn’t shown enough potential at the defensive end for him to be untouchable. As great as Ball is defensively already and with his vision and passing ability, I don’t see his shooting and scoring ability as making him untouchable.

Gary: Either Ingram or Ball. If I had to choose one right now, I would say Ball. The shooting/scoring struggles with Ball are well documented, and there is some concern there. But the thing with him is that he is already good at seemingly everything as a player except for putting the ball in the basket (which, yes, is a big deal). He has shown he can pass the ball, rebound and defend at a high level already and he has only played 83 games so far in his career. If his three-point shooting becomes even average or slightly above average and he learns how to use his athletic ability and body better to finish around the basket, his game could take an astronomical leap. Plus, his unselfish playing style is one guys typically rally around. You would be hard-pressed to find players that Ball won’t fit alongside. 

Q: Should the Lakers explore trading Brandon Ingram if the fit alongside LeBron James doesn’t improve before the trade deadline?

Kyle: Yes, and I believe that process should start now if it hasn’t already happened. Ingram hasn’t been great this year, and the Lakers should try to get the most out of him in a potential deal. The more he plays, the less appealing he becomes to other teams.

Stefan: No, why give up on it that quickly outside of a trade for a superstar? We see it can work in flashes, I’m sure the coaches and players will figure out how to best utilize those two together.

Gary: No. Think about the circumstances he has had each season. Rookie year, he comes into a team that is awful, his body isn’t ready for the NBA yet and he’s still a teenager. Second season, he gets handed a fairly substantial share of the offensive load at age 20, and handles it pretty well. Now, he is 20 games into his new role of playing alongside a superstar for the first time in his career. Ingram seems to be the type of player that starts the year a bit slow, but gets better as the season progresses. I think we will see that as he adjusts playing next to James. 

He won’t turn 22 until next September and he is on a team-friendly rookie contract. That alone has value. Factor in his improvements on the defensive end that we have seen, and I think you have to give the kid time. He may not end up becoming a superstar, but I think his floor is still a good NBA player that is a bonafide starter. Typically, you win with excellent wing players in the NBA, and I think at some point, Ingram will fit that mold.

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