It would be hard to blame Los Angeles Lakers General Manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations Rob Pelinka if he decided to stand pat at tomorrow’s trade deadline. His team currently has the best record in the Western Conference, and chemistry is a huge part of that. Superstar LeBron James even stated recently that Los Angeles has everything it needs to compete for a championship. Considering his propensity for getting involved in front office decisions, his confidence in the group shouldn’t be taken lightly. And the tragic loss of the legendary Kobe Bryant has also brought this Los Angeles team closer than ever.
However, it’s hard to look at the Lakers as a finished product right now. While LeBron and Co. are currently 38-11 on the season, the team is just 14-9 when facing opponents that are .500 or better. That’s not to say the team isn’t good enough to beat talented opponents, but there is definitely some room for improvement. Especially for a team that is chasing a championship. With that being said, here’s a look at three deals that could help the Purple and Gold at the deadline.
Lakers Swing Deal for Dennis Schroder With Thunder
- Lakers get: Dennis Schroder
- Thunder get: Kyle Kuzma, Avery Bradley, DeMarcus Cousins, Talen Horton-Tucker
If there’s something the Lakers desperately need, it’s a secondary ball-handler. LeBron is shouldering too much of the load, and Los Angeles is going to need a guard that can take some pressure off him. Schröder can do just that. The Thunder guard is currently enjoying a career season, averaging 19.1 points per game and 4.1 assists per game on a ridiculous 47.2% shooting from the floor and 38.8% from the outside (all stats from Basketball-Reference.com). The improved accuracy from three is a huge plus, as the 26-year-old has always had the speed to get downhill. He now has more in his bag for opponents to have to deal with, and it has made him a much more efficient player.
One of Schröder’s weaknesses is on the defensive end, where he has been inconsistent throughout the course of his career. But he has made more of an effort to be a stopper in recent years, and the Lakers would actually help him a great deal. While letting your man go by is never a good thing, it helps to have guys like LeBron, Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard behind you.
One issue with Schröder is that Oklahoma City might be reluctant to make any trades. The team is currently looking at the seventh seed in the Western Conference, but General Manager Sam Presti could still opt to cash in on his players for expiring contracts and young assets. The Lakers don’t have much of the latter, but teams could be interested in taking a chance on Kyle Kuzma. The forward isn’t nearly as good as the media makes him out to be, but he is still young and might be worth getting into the Thunder system. Los Angeles also doesn’t have many picks to trade in the near future. So Oklahoma City would have to be willing to take one way down the road, which could be a small problem.
Derrick Rose Heads to Lakers With Trade Deadline Deal
- Lakers get: Derrick Rose and Markieff Morris
- Pistons get: Kyle Kuzma, DeMarcus Cousins and Quinn Cook
Rose should be a much more affordable alternative at the point guard position, and there has already been discussions about Los Angeles being interested in the Pistons guard. And while Rose has looked like a borderline All-Star this season, Detroit should be willing to deal him. With star Blake Griffin showing an inability to stay on the floor and Andre Drummond in a position to walk this summer, turning Rose into a young forward like Kuzma isn’t a bad option. Rookie forward Sekou Doumbouya has shown some promise this season, but bad teams should take as many swings as they can on talent.
Rose’s fit with the Lakers isn’t exactly perfect, as he is shooting just 31.5% from the outside. But few guards in the league are as effective when driving to the rim, and Los Angeles doesn’t have many players with his ability to make plays. Rose also happens to thrive in isolation, which is something the Lakers could use in the postseason.
As for Morris, the Lakers have shown interest in his twin brother, Marcus. Markieff isn’t nearly as good, but he would fill a need for Los Angeles. He’s a forward that can give them some productive minutes on the cheap.
Lakers & Knicks Strike Kyle Kuzma Trade
- Lakers get: Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina and Damyean Dotson
- Knicks get: Kyle Kuzma, DeMarcus Cousins and Quinn Cook
While Marcus Morris is the name that keeps coming up for Los Angeles, the Knicks could actually offer the Lakers a nice group of young players that aren’t being utilized correctly. And New York is the type of team that would actually make a lot of sense for Kuzma. While he’d be competing for minutes with Julius Randle, Kuzma would at least be playing next to a rim-protecting center in Mitchell Robinson. In order for the 24-year-old to be a good player in this league, he’s going to need to be playing next to a big that has his back defensively. And with Kuzma in the mix, the Knicks can still flip Morris for more assets.
As for the return, LeBron has actually spoken highly of Smith Jr. in the past. The 22-year-old has been a massive disappointment since being traded to the Knicks, but he has some skills that you simply can’t teach. And playing for a team that has a good culture could bring out the best in him. He also wouldn’t need to do too much for a team that already has multiple superstars.
And if the Lakers can pry away guys like Ntilikina and Dotson, that could be huge. Both players have gone through spurts where they’ve fallen out of favor in New York, but they each take pride in playing hard on both ends of the floor and would be much more useful for a winning team than they are for a perennial loser. Dotson’s ability to hit three makes him a nice fit alongside LeBron and Davis.
Would the Knicks trade three young players all for Kuzma? And would the Lakers trade Kuzma for three names that might not sound all too great to fans? It’s hard to say. But Kuzma is an exciting player that fits the profile of what the New York front office tends to look for. And the trio of Knicks might not seem like what the Lakers need, but they could inject some life into a rotation that lacks depth.