The Lakers have their new coach—Darvin Ham—and, possibly, a new outlook for point guard Russell Westbrook. But they still have a need for some major roster reconstruction if they are to be considered serious contenders in the NBA‘s Western Conference next season.
To that end, executives around the league say the team could shop the same package it offered up around the NBA last season, to little avail: a combination of young guard Talen Horton-Tucker and combo guard Kendrick Nunn, who is coming off a knee injury that cost him all of last year.
One potential target: Timberwolves guard Malik Beasley. “I think he is someone they could look at,” one NBA executive told Heavy.com. “He is damaged goods. But getting with a veteran team, it might help him.”
Beasley, of course, might welcome a change of scenery. He is spending part of his offseason serving a 120-day jail sentence after he pleaded guilty to, according to the Associated Press, “a felony charge of threats of violence for pointing a rifle at a family outside his home last fall.”
According to TMZ.com, Beasley began serving his sentence in Minnesota on June 1. He is expected to be out ahead of the start of next season.
Lakers Might Need to Seek Out ‘Damaged Goods’
While that rap sheet might not make a player the ideal trade target, if Beasley is ready to put the past behind him, he is a useful player, one the Wolves would be willing to move. Given the Lakers’ limitation in terms of tradeable assets, it would serve them well to hunt for players with major red flags attached.
The jail time is one concern but remember, too, that new Minnesota team president Tim Connelly had already traded Beasley (in February 2020) when he was running the Nuggets, after Beasley turned down Denver’s three-year, $30 million contract extension offer in 2019.
Beasley is slated to make $15.5 million next season, which matches up with the total for Nunn and THT ($15.9 million).
Beasley is a very good floor-stretcher who averaged 12.1 points and shot 37.7% from the 3-point line last year, though those numbers were clearly affected by his legal woes. Before the All-Star break, he struggled with his perimeter shot, making 35.3% of his 3s, a number that spiked to 45.2% after the break, when he pleaded guilty.
What to Do With Horton-Tucker?
While the Lakers were disappointed in Horton-Tucker’s performance last year (10.0 points, 41.6% shooting, 26.9% 3-point shooting), there is some debate about whether the Lakers are willing to give up on him yet. He is entering his fourth season but still is only 21 years old.
“I think, with Talen, obviously he did not get to where everyone wanted him to be that quickly,” one Western Conference coach told Heavy.com. “But he is 21 years old. He is playing for the Lakers and development is not the biggest thing there. Every season he has been in the league, there has been COVID and the bubble and something that has gotten in the way of him making steps. But I think most of us would take him on our team in a minute. He is big (6-foot-4) and long, he can handle the ball, he can initiate the offense, he will be a good defender even if he is not there yet. He has value.”
Horton-Tucker is signed for two more years, at $21.3 million, with the second year being a player option. Nunn must officially opt into his deal for 2022-23, but has already said he would do so.
Beyond next season, Beasley is signed for $16.5 million the following year, but that is a team option. If they made a deal for him but he does not work out, the Lakers could let him walk.