Try and think back to a long time ago (I guess only four months), when the Los Angeles Lakers were trying to improve their team as much as possible through the trade deadline, trying to position themselves for a deep playoff run. Kyle Kuzma was considered in many trades, the Clippers seemingly stole one Morris brothers from the Lakers before the Lakers signed the other one through waivers, ultimately resulting in the Lakers making no trades at the deadline. This is not typical for the Lakers in recent years, as they’ve tried to build themselves back up following the worst stretch in the franchise’s history. They may not have got the “big fish” at this year’s trade deadline back in February, but apparently they may have tried for one “fish”, and that was Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards.
Shams Charania of The Athletic recently had this to say on Complex’s Load Management podcast (h/t Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen & Roll for the transcription):
“At the end of the day it’s going to be up to Bradley Beal. Because they’re ultimately going to offer him the supermax contract that they can offer, and he’s going to have to make a decision on whether the Wizards are the right fit moving forward. There are several teams, you can say that about all 29 teams, you know ‘we’re interested.’ You can literally… New Orleans was a team that I’d heard last year had looked into it. All 29 teams across the league, if you’re trying to win games — The Lakers, at different points, they’ve had interest in Beal — if you’re trying to win basketball games, you’re going to have interest in Bradley Beal. But everything he’s said so far (is) he wants to stay a Wizard. The Wizards have said they want to keep him. I don’t expect something on him until we see John Wall and Bradley Beal play again. And so depending on how that goes, could Bradley Beal look at it if John Wall returned to peak performance and say ‘you know what? I like where we’re headed here, I want to commit.’ For sure. But could he also look at it like ‘we’re not looking like a team that’s going anywhere, even with John back, I want to see what else is out there.’ I could see both scenarios.”
“I mean, [the Nets] have the pieces theoretically to make a competitive trade. So if Bradley Beal were to become available, I could see that. But again, there are other teams out there too… The Heat were a team as well that had interest. The Heat, the Lakers, New Orleans, those were the teams that I’ve heard.”
Shams Charania reports that the Lakers were “interested”, but who knows how far that interests goes. Did the Lakers make a formal offer for Beal? More than likely, they didn’t or it would have been reported. So what does “interest” mean?
The Lakers have been trying to get someone who could be their “third guy” behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis ever since the 2019 offseason when they were aggressively pursuing Kawhi Leonard before he signed to the Los Angeles Clippers. At that time and still in the present, they are encountering a salary cap problem as they try and fit acquired players in their cap while not having tradeable contracts of their own. Kyle Kuzma is the most likely trade piece for the Lakers, and he’s still making his rookie salary, making it nearly impossible to trade him for anything useful due to the need for matching salaries.
Bradley Beal will be in the final year of his contract next season with the Wizards, being set to get paid $28.7M in his base salary (per Spotrac.com). Theoretically, the Lakers would have to trade Kuzma, as well as Danny Green as the base of a deal that could acquire Beal. They’d still have to shed other players’ contracts, but those would be the first two pieces for the Lakers to acquire Beal or anyone else of his talent and salary level.
Don’t expect trade rumors for the Lakers to really return and heat up until the conclusion of this wild, pandemic-delayed season. But definitely be on the lookout for them as they come, as the number one seeded Lakers might still want to improve.