Lakers trade rumors: Front office would prefer deals that favor long-term success over quick fix

lebron davis g

lebron davis g

The Los Angeles Lakers continue to do everything in their power to prove to their front office that this team is worthy of a sizable trade. After starting the season 2-10, they’ve gone 17-12 since despite injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. In a wide-open Western Conference, there’s every reason to believe that this team could seriously compete for the championship with the right deal.

But according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the team isn’t thinking exclusively about this season. On an episode of The OD, his YouTube show with Ohm Youngmisuk, he reported that the Lakers are looking for a deal that would present multi-year upside. “If the right deal emerges that will make them — in their eyes — a better team over the next, like, three years, that’s their priority,” McMenamin said. “They want the team to get to the best level it can get while LeBron James is still on the roster. But if that means not making that deal in February and playing out the rest of this season with the group that they have and knowing that they feel like there’s gonna be a better deal in July in the offseason, they’ll do that.”

In theory, this isn’t necessarily the worst idea. Obviously, a multi-year window is better than one single shot, so adding players that are still in their prime or approaching their prime could present upside beyond this season. Where the plan starts to go sideways is in the idea of waiting for a deal.

Obviously, there is no guarantee that James and Davis will be as good next season as they are right now. James is 38. He is going to decline eventually. But even if he doesn’t, there’s a financial incentive for the Lakers to make a move right now. 

Between Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn, they have over $60 million in expiring salaries that would be easy to trade right now. Add in their minimum-salary contracts and that figure goes above $70 million. With that much expiring money at their disposal, they could easily match salary on virtually any realistic player or combination of players on the trade market. They would have to include draft picks to get anyone worthwhile, of course, but they wouldn’t need to worry about making a legal trade from a salary perspective.

Things change this offseason, when those contracts expire and the Lakers are projected to have roughly $34 million in cap space. That cap space would allow the Lakers to sign free agents from other teams, but it would severely limit their ability to trade for big salaries on other teams simply because $34 million in space is substantially smaller than $70 million in expiring salary. Of course, waiting and operating with cap space would make it far easier for the Lakers to reset their luxury tax clock and avoid the repeater tax next season, which could also motivate a decision to wait. 

By making a trade now and bringing in players with longer-term deals or contracts the team would expect to renew in the offseason, the Lakers would be positioning themselves to pay that repeater tax. If they did choose to sign free agents instead of improve through the trade market, they could also hold onto their first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 rather than dealing them. They could theoretically move those picks later, but with less matching salary at their disposal, their ability to make a legal trade for an expensive player or set of players would be more complicated.

At this point, no deal appears imminent. Plenty can change between now and the deadline, but all signs continue to point towards the Lakers not making a major move at the deadline. Unless a no-brainer move with multi-year upside presents itself, the Lakers appear content to ride out a disappointing season.

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Publish Date:2023-01-13 09:33:31

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