In a February 7 column called “Fresh Trade Ideas from Latest NBA Rumors,” Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes proposed that the Los Angeles Lakers make a blockbuster trade with the Toronto Raptors.
Hughes wrote that the Lakers should trade Russell Westbrook, Max Christie, a 2027 first-round pick and a 2029 first-round pick to the Raptors for Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr. and Malachi Flynn.
“For our purposes, the Lakers’ willingness to part with just about all of their assets for only a two-year trial run with (Kyrie) Irving indicates the team is comfortable with a limited level of risk as it relates to contract status,” Hughes wrote. “Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. can both hit free agency this summer via player options, and you’d assume both will want as many years and dollars as possible, which would put the Lakers to a similar decision. Except, what if FVV and Trent could be retained on the two-year timeline Los Angeles prefers? Myles Turner renegotiated and extended with the Indiana Pacers, timing up his next free agency for 2025, when the league’s new TV deal kicks in, bringing a likely cap spike with it. Perhaps VanVleet and Trent would be amenable to contracts of similar length and the relatively quick re-entry into free agency Turner will enjoy. Even if they do indicate four-year deals are the expectation, it’s possible the Lakers would be more open to longer commitments with guys who haven’t made unreliability a career-long habit.
“Is a brand-new backcourt enough to justify vaporizing 2023 cap space and cashing the only picks L.A. can spend? Could the Raptors do better by trading VanVleet and Trent in separate deals? Or might they even prefer to retain both on new contracts this summer? Uncertainties abound ahead of the deadline, but we know the Lakers are willing to put their picks in play, and we know the Raptors have to consider the possibility of losing both guards for nothing in free agency if they don’t move them this week. That much urgency on both sides could spur some action.”
The Lakers are interested in acquiring VanVleet and Trent Jr., league sources told Heavy Sports. VanVleet can become an unrestricted free agent this summer if he declines his 2023-24 player option worth $22.8 million. The same goes for Trent Jr., who has a player option for next season worth $18.6 million.
What Would Gary Trent Jr. & Fred VanVleet Bring to the Lakers?
VanVleet is averaging 19.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists this season. He’s a career 37.6% shooter from beyond the arc, making him an ideal guard to pair next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis since the Lakers need more shooters.
“Either the Raptors and VanVleet will extend their marriage, or the team will look to get value for him in a trade before the deadline,” Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus wrote on January 25. “If it’s the latter, several playoff contenders (at least teams that consider themselves playoff contenders) would have interest, such as the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards.”
Speaking of shooting, Trent Jr. has made 128 3s this season. The Duke product is averaging 18.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists while shooting 37.3% from deep. Trent Jr. is represented by Klutch Sports Group, the same agency James and Davis are with.
“I have been told that Trent is at least on the Lakers’ radar,” Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports said on the January 28 episode of his podcast. “I don’t know if they have actually called Toronto and had active conversations about it, things that actually move the needle, but I’ve been told and believe from credible folks maybe it’s not a lusting desire for Gary Trent, but he at least seems to be someone they’re monitoring. But maybe that’s also just someone from a certain agency suggesting that. Maybe that’s all it is. But we shall see.”
The Lakers Must Trade Russell Westbrook
Westbrook has appeared in 51 games this season. He’s shooting 28.6% from 3-point land and has the third-most turnovers in the NBA.
The one-time MVP has never been a good fit next to James and Davis since he’s not a good jump shooter.
Westbrook knows the Lakers tried to trade him to the Brooklyn Nets for Kyrie Irving, league sources told Heavy Sports. It makes sense for Westbrook and the Lakers to part ways at the trade deadline.