Separating Smoke From Fire Among Lakers Trade Rumors

Rob Pelinka, Lakers

Getty EL SEGUNDO, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Rob Pelinka discusses the upcoming Los Angeles Lakers' season at UCLA Health Training Center on September 20, 2018 in El Segundo, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

It has been a busy week on the NBA’s trade rumor mill and the Lakers have found themselves with links to a few prominent names. A link does not mean a trade or a signing is imminent, of course, but it does mean there is some smoke around a certain player or transaction, and before you get the fire of an actual deal, you need the smoke that comes with a rumor.

So what have we seen emerge recently? News and speculation around one ex-Laker role player, three former All-Stars and an intriguing young prospect surfaced, all of which is worth digging into to parse out what’s legit and what’s likely to remain smoke.

Victor Oladipo, Rockets

The smoke: Oladipo has long been linked as a Lakers possibility, though after he was dealt from the Pacers to the Rockets, the sense around the NBA was that he would stick around in Houston to see whether the team could make a run at the postseason. A seven-game losing streak from Houston has put a dent in that plan, though, and the Rockets are expected to seek another deal for Oladipo.

The fire? The Lakers’ interest in Oladipo waned once the team committed to contracts for Kyle Kuzma and Kenatvious Caldwell-Pope in the offseason. A deal could probably get done for Oladipo but it might prove to be too costly to the Lakers’ depth–they would have to send Dennis Schroder out with either Alex Caruso or Talen Horton-Tucker, plus Alfonso McKinnie, to make the finances work.

Trevor Ariza, Thunder

The smoke: Ariza is a 16-year veteran who has played with nine teams in the NBA, and was a member of the 2009 Lakers team that won the NBA championship. He is currently a member of the Thunder, though he is not with the team as he awaits a trade or a buyout. The Lakers have had interest in him going back to the offseason, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski pointed out this week on his podcast. “[Thunder GM] Sam Presti traditionally does not do contract buyouts,” Wojnarowski said. “He’s usually been able to find trades for guys, so maybe Ariza gets a trade somewhere and then gets bought out if the Lakers can’t trade for him, but that’s another player who I think will be in great demand among the contenders.”

The fire? The Lakers would very much like to bring in Ariza, whose experience level makes him a good fit on a bench that could use another veteran. The Lakers are holding out hope that Ariza will get a buyout and want to come home to L.A. to try for another title.

Blake Griffin, Pistons

The smoke: Griffin and the Pistons announced that they had mutually agreed that he would sit out in the coming weeks until the team could either find a trade partner or work out a buyout deal. Griffin is slated to make $75 million between this year and next, so a trade is highly unlikely. If Griffin, who achieved stardom as a member of the Clippers, is willing to give back some money to secure a buyout, the Lakers would have their chance to bring him back to L.A.

The fire? Griffin, at his best, is an ultra-athletic power forward who is an all-time great dunker and can be a decent perimeter shooter and passer. He has been none of those things this season, as years of knee woes have clearly taken their toll. He is shooting 31.5% from the 3-point line and has zero—yes, zero—dunks this year. Hard pass by the Lakers here.

Andre Drummond, Cavaliers

The smoke: Like Griffin, Drummond will not be playing for the Cavaliers anymore, as the team seeks to find a new home for him. It could come down to a buyout with Drummond, too, but a desperate team—Miami or Dallas, for example—could put together a deal to bring in Drummond, who is in the final year of his contract. The Lakers don’t have the assets to trade for Drummond.

The fire?  If Drummond is bought out, it is possible the Lakers would consider him. He was averaging 17.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in Cleveland before he was shut down, after all, so he can still produce. Jason Lloyd of The Athletic did speculate that Drummond “makes sense” for the Lakers, but getting him to L.A. would be difficult.  The Lakers already have Marc Gasol on board and have very limited funds to spend on an in-season free agent.

Mo Bamba, Magic

The smoke: This one is a little out-of-left-field. Bamba, the No. 6 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, has fallen out of favor in Orlando and there is a chance the Magic could put him on the trading block. Zack Buckley of Bleacher Report suggested that, if that is the case, “the Lakers should make the phone call.” For a team low on future draft picks and young players, a gamble on a reclamation project makes sense.

The fire? It would be very surprising if the Magic were willing to put Bamba on the trade block. They passed on several talented players—Michael Porter Jr., Collin Sexton, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander—for Bamba, and there is little to gain by giving up on him.

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