There’s no matchup that will more poignantly display the critical weakness on the Lakers’ roster than the one they’ll have on Thursday against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. Antetokounmpo, of course, is the defending MVP and with averages of 31.7 points and a career-high of 32.1 percent shooting on 3-pointers, is in line to win the award again this year.
The Lakers have LeBron James and Anthony Davis, both excellent defenders, but neither is the ideal matchup against a long, athletic star like Antetokounmpo. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Danny Green are the Lakers’ best options but both give up around a half-foot to Antetokounmpo and don’t have the combination of muscle and IQ to handle him.
It’s players like Antetokounmpo who make the Lakers so covetous of Memphis guard Andre Iguodala, who has yet to play this season as he waits for the Grizzlies to find a new home for him. Iguodala wants to play for a contender and the Grizzlies want a first-round pick for him. That asking price, and the $17 million on Iguodala’s contract, has made a trade for him difficult to find, however.
The Lakers can’t trade for him. The only sensible package would have to start with Caldwell-Pope, who has a no-trade clause and wouldn’t be dealt by L.A. anyway. KCP has played well lately and is represented by Rich Paul, the agent for James and Davis, who wants him to stay in Los Angeles. The Lakers can’t offer a first-round pick until 2026.
Thus the Lakers are hopeful that there will be no deal, Iguodala will be bought out and he’ll be free to sign with L.A. in time for the stretch run.
Grizzlies Still Expecting a First-Round Pick for Iguodala
The chances of that are getting sketchy, though. Two months into the season, the Grizzlies have not budged on their demand for Iguodala, an indication that they feel they’ll be able to make a worthwhile deal ahead of the February 7 trade deadline.
“They haven’t budged,” one league executive told Heavy.com. “Maybe they will as the date gets closer, but they’ve made clear, they’re not interested in a buyout with Andre and they’re looking for a first-rounder. Teams have been trying. They haven’t let go of that. But that tells you they know they’ll be able to get something and won’t have to buy him out.”
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported this week that Houston was among the teams that tried to put together packages to bring in Iguodala, including multi-team deals. But no deal met the Grizzlies’ requirements and Iguodala remains in limbo.
One team that could enter the Iggy sweepstakes is Antetokounmpo’s team itself, the Bucks. Milwaukee is most concerned about point guard depth, but Iguodala can be a playmaker and could fit in an offense dominated by Antetokounmpo, who handles the ball the bulk of the time for the Bucks.
Milwaukee is eager to earn a spot in the Finals this year, with Antetokounmpo looking at free agency in 2021. The Bucks have Indiana’s first-round pick this year but would struggle to make a deal work without giving up too many productive pieces, like Ersan Ilyasova and George Hill.
The Mavericks have also had conversations with the Grizzlies about Iguodala, though Dallas’ offer would be built around Courtney Lee and second-round picks, including the Warriors’ increasingly valuable second-rounder this year. But second-rounders are not first-rounders and the Grizzlies are not yet biting.
The Nuggets have interest in Iguodala, who was briefly in Denver before leaving for the Warriors in free agency. Utah is said to be a longshot but a possibility for Iguodala—they’d have to give up on Dante Exum to get a deal done, as well as a pick in 2022 or 23. That’s a steep price for a few months of Iguodala.
That’s the case for most teams. Memphis is keeping the price for Iguodala stiff and while that has kept a deal from going down here before Christmas, it is only decreasing the chances of a buyout.
That puts the Lakers increasingly out of the mix for Iguodala, whom they were hoping would be a prized signee.