With the trade deadline fast approaching on February 23rd, today we will take a look at what moves the Los Angeles Lakers could have in store. We will break down some players the Lakers could be looking to move and what they could receive in return.
It is worth noting that I think the Lakers knew they were in for a rebuilding season and therefore are not going to move on from any of their young talents. They are very much committed to building the team around D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr., and Jordan Clarkson.
Let us take a look at some players the Lakers may want to move before the trade deadline.
Lou Williams - SG
Lou Williams is 30 years old and a professional scorer. He averages 2.0 three-pointers made and 18.3 points per game through 51 games this season. He is shooting 44.0% from the field, 38.7% from three-point land, and 87.8% from the foul line this season.
Williams is truly an exciting player with the ball in his hands because he can sink a shot from almost anywhere. He is also very adept at drawing contact. I love to watch him work on the perimeter and draw a four-point play opportunity.
Lou Williams is a great sixth man and number one option off the bench. Never afraid to create his own shot or hit the clutch bucket to win the game, Williams is valuable to any contending team looking for some extra scoring punch off their bench.
Williams also has a very favorable contract. Under control for the remainder of this season and next season at a salary of $7 million annually, Williams is underpaid in the current cap climate.
Moving Williams would allow the Lakers to give more minutes to the young guards and allow the Lakers to accumulate more young assets. The hope for the Lakers is that D’Angelo Russell is their next great point guard and Jordan Clarkson is the “Lou Williams” on their contending club. Why not groom Clarkson for the role now and remove Williams from the equation. The Lakers would probably be asking for future picks or recently drafted players in any trade that moves Williams from LA.
Potential Landing Spots
The team that immediately jumped out to me that might be willing to overpay for Lou Williams is the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs had a rough month of January and you see the constant headlines that they are in search of a playmaker. Insert Lou Williams off the bench to handle the ball, do some playmaking, and space the floor when LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love are occupying it.
The problem is the Cavs do only hold two first-round picks (2018 and 2020) in the next four years and they do not have a second-round pick until 2019. They are also light on young talent as most teams featuring LeBron James have been throughout his career. That is the biggest potential snag, but I could still see the deal being made.
Other teams, I could see having interest are the Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, and Oklahoma City Thunder. Each team could use a guard off the bench who can handle the ball and create some offense out of that sixth man role.
Nick Young - SG/SF
It has been quite the comeback of a year for Nick Young. If you remember back to the offseason, most people thought Young would be traded or waived after last season’s poor play and off the court issues with D’Angelo Russell. Fast forward to today and Nick Young is the Lakers starting shooting guard playing 26.6 minutes a night nailing 2.9 three-pointers a game and scoring 13.9 points through 44 games played by Young.
It has been an impressive comeback for the 31-year-old Young, but now the window seems to be wide open for the Lakers to sell high.
This is a tough one to gauge for me. There were many reports that when the Lakers called around after last season no team showed any interest in trading for Nick Young.
This is a veteran player who is shooting 42.4% from three-point land this season (and is a career 37.7% from that distance) and by all accounts including advanced metrics has improved his defense.
Young always has been a bit of a chucker, but he can efficiently make threes. He is not unlike J.R. Smith who the Cavs traded for in 2015 right before their back-to-back NBA finals run.
Below is a highlight video of Nick Young’s 32 point game against the Cleveland Cavaliers from December 17, 2016, to give you a glimpse at what Swaggy P looks like when he is on.
Young has a valuable contract in the current cap climate as well. He is on the books for the remainder of this season and next. Next year’s salary is roughly $5.7 million, a bargain for a rotation player capable of playing big minutes.
Potential Landing Spots
Again, only contending teams are going to be looking at Nick Young and willing to part with what the Lakers would desire. Young would have to be willing to accept a bench role.
Teams that I could see being interested in Nick Young are Washington Wizards, Chicago Bulls, and Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Chicago Bulls are a great fit for Young. The Bulls are in desperate need of three-point production and could give Young 25 minutes a night if they would just commit to playing Dwyane Wade or Jimmy Butler as the de facto point guard. Young could potentially thrive spacing the floor for those two great scorers and both are good defenders making up for Young’s slight deficiency in that area.
Luol Deng - SF/PF
The Lakers signed Luol Deng to a hefty contract this offseason. Deng is known for being able to handle huge minutes and play stellar defense got a contract of 4 years and $72 million.
The Lakers may already be regretting it. Deng a good locker room presence for the young players by all accounts has seen his production slip this season. His percentages have slipped tremendously down to 39.4% from the field and 68.5% from the free throw line. The production has tailed off to 8.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.4 blocks per game in just 27.3 minutes a night.
Luol Deng is 31 years old and is probably best suited to play power forward at this point in his career. The Lakers do not have power forward minutes open and the contract is probably a detriment given his production so the Lakers are not going to get a hefty return for Deng.
The value would lie in a contending team looking for a stretch four who can play solid defense, is a good locker room presence, and is not going to command the ball.
Potential Landing Spots
The market for Deng is clouded by the contract mostly. A team over the cap would basically have to send equal salaries back in order to trade for Deng and $18 million players do not exactly grow on trees.
If you eliminate that out of the equation, I could see the Toronto Raptors making a play for Deng. With just Jared Sullinger, Patrick Patterson, and Pascal Saikam on the squad, I could see Deng playing an important role in their contending chances.
Another team and perhaps the most likely scenario is the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls could swap Rondo and a lesser contract or two for Deng. The Lakers would probably cut Rondo as they have no interest in a point guard, so the Bulls would need to make it worth the Lakers while with young players or picks included in the deal.
Timofey Mozgov - C
Timofey Mozgov is in a similar boat to Luol Deng. He signed a contract of 4 years and $64 million this offseason with the Lakers. This was viewed as the worst contract of the offseason by many experts.
Mozzy has not brought a ton of production to the Lakers this season. Playing just 20.9 minutes a night, Mozgov is averaging 7.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.3 steals, and 0.6 blocks per game. His percentages are good, but he has limited range and has attempted 1 three-pointer all season.
The contract is a very limiting factor coupled with the fact that most teams are moving away from playing a traditional five and the market is limited. If he made a little less money, I could see a team swooping in on him as a match-up big similar to how the Cavaliers used him last season in their title run.
By all accounts, he is a good teammate who can protect the rim. The advanced metric defensive win shares have rated Mozgov at 1.9, 2.2, and 1.9 the last three seasons. Meaning, he has produced an estimated 2 wins for each of his teams on defense in each of the last three seasons.
Potential Landing Spots
If you take the contract out of the equation, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the obvious landing spot. Timofey Mozgov has admitted to missing playing for the Cavaliers and the team could use another big man behind Tristan Thompson. He was a great fit on their championship team last season and the roster has not changed much so it would stand to reason he would be a great fit there again.
Another team that could be interested is the Washington Wizards. They signed Ian Mahinmi in the offseason to backup Marcin Gortat, but injuries have limited Mahinmi to playing just one game this season. His return does not appear imminent and the Wizards could be looking for a backup five and Mozgov would fill that role nicely.
There you have it, a look at the players the Lakers are most likely to move before the trade deadline.
It is worth mentioning that the Lakers could easily stand pat and look to remake their roster in the offseason. The contracts of Deng and Mozgov will be difficult to move during the season and Williams and Young have played so well they are providing great surplus value to the team right now.
I think the Lakers should go out and move Williams and Young especially if they can get a contending to get desperate and overpay. That will only speed up the Lakers rebuild and hopefully, get them on the fast track to being a contender again.
Let’s face it, the NBA is always better when the big market teams are contenders love them or hate them.