Back at the NBA trading deadline, it was no secret that the Lakers had an interest in bringing in some bench help, particularly in the backcourt. While not trade came to pass, there were talks that involved Pistons guard Derrick Rose, who was briefly a teammate of LeBron James in Cleveland.
Now, with the Lakers in a much different position, coming off a championship and measuring what it will take to remain a contender as other teams around the league improve, Rose is again a focal point. And with some pressure to act, both the Lakers and the Pistons might be pushed into finding common ground on a trade.
“I think both sides were reluctant when they went into in January, February,” one general manager told Heavy.com. “I don’t think the Lakers wanted to make a major move because they thought they could do something on the buyout market. And I don’t think the Pistons wanted to make a major move because Derrick was happy there. You know, the Lakers wanted to be involved in case the Clippers got involved or someone else, the Bucks or the Nuggets, whoever. So there was interest but not too serious. Now, everything has shifted a little. Now, they’re both in a position to where a deal is much more likely now.”
ALL the latest Los Angeles Lakers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Lakers newsletter here!
Indeed, the Lakers did wind up signing two guards heading into the NBA’s bubble restart in Orlando—Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith. Neither proved to be much of a help in the fall, however.
Pistons Are Looking For a Rebuild & Derrick Rose Will be a Trade Chip
But the front-office executive is right in that things have shifted for both the Lakers and Pistons.
Detroit is looking to completely commit to a rebuilding project. After trading Andre Drummond and dumping Reggie Jackson (who went to the Clippers) and Markieff Morris (to the Lakers) as buyouts, Detroit wats to add young players. They were reluctant to give up Rose last year because of his connection to Pistons’ front office exec Arn Tellem, who was Rose’s agent.
Rose averaged 18.1 points and 5.6 assists off the bench for the Pistons last year. After a series of injuries on the floor and some scandal off it, Rose has rebuilt his image and raised his trade value.
The Lakers considered dealing him for Alex Caruso and a draft pick last year, but those talks never really got off the ground.
The Pistons wanted Kyle Kuzma and, even if the Lakers had offered that, Detroit would have remained reluctant to give up Rose. Not only did Rose want to stay put, but the Pistons knew he would add to his value as a trade chip around the draft by playing out the season and getting him back on the trade market in the offseason.
Lakers Need Derrick Rose as Backcourt Gets Depleted
The Lakers, meanwhile, are in more serious need of guard help now that the guard combo of Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has opted out of their contracts and will hit free agency. The Lakers could bring back one or both of those players, or they could look to upgrade in the backcourt.
It is possible that Rondo comes back, if he can accept a one-year deal. Caldwell-Pope is a trickier proposition because he warrants a longer contract and the Lakers would be reluctant to give him one.
Kuzma could be the answer. With Kuzma slated to hit restricted free agency next offseason, the Lakers will be more willing to move him. L.A. is hopeful of keeping its cap space clear for the 2021 free-agent market and signing Kuzma to a deal beyond his rookie contract would eat into that space and hurt L.A.’s chance of landing a free agent like Giannis Antetokounmpo or Bradley Beal.
There is more motivation, then, for both the Pistons and Lakers to pursue a Rose trade. And there’s plenty of time to make it happen.