The Lakers were willing to give up their top offseason pickup, Dennis Schroder, in a deal to add Raptors star point guard Kyle Lowry at the trade deadline on Thursday. But Toronto, who played hardball all day in Lowry negotiations, insisted that the Lakers include second-year wing Talen Horton-Tucker.
That was a hill neither side could get over.
When L.A. would not budge on Horton-Tucker, the Raptors decided to hold on to the 35-year-old Lowry for the season, while the Lakers got to keep their promising 20-year-old in the fold. Thus, a dramatic trade deadline day for the Lakers passed with no actual deals getting done, and all the players loosely connected to the Lakers either landed elsewhere or stayed put.
That is something of a surprise given how poorly the Lakers have played lately, losing three straight games with LeBron James injured because of a high ankle sprain. He could be out for up to six weeks, according to a report from Stadium, as star forward Anthony Davis still recovers from a calf injury.
The absence of those two players appeared to put some pressure on the Lakers front office to bring in more help, and adding Lowry—averaging 17.4 points, 7.5 assists and 5.6 rebounds while shooting 39.5% from the 3-point line—was a move that made sense, both for while James and Davis are out and as a third option when they return.
ALL the latest Los Angeles Lakers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Lakers newsletter here!
Raptors Asked High Price From Lakers, Others
But the Raptors, even as they face losing Lowry with nothing in return in free agency this summer, were insistent on getting a budding young player in return for Lowry.
They asked for 21-year-old budding star Tyler Herro from the Heat, who were also in the mix for Lowry. Miami would not agree and instead made a deal for another former Lakers target, Victor Oladipo.
They asked for two young players from the Sixers, rookie Tyrese Maxey and key defensive wing Matisse Thybulle. Philadelphia, reading (correctly) that Toronto would not budge, withdrew from the Lowry sweepstakes well ahead of the deadline on Thursday.
And they asked for Horton-Tucker, who has gained popularity among the Lakers faithful for his flashes of brilliance. Horton-Tucker is averaging 8.0 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists and making a measly 25.3% of his 3-pointers, but any good Lakers fan will immediately turn a THT skeptic to his 18-point, 10-assist performance against the Warriors 10 days ago, his 17 points (on eight shots) and four steals against the Rockets in January and his outstanding performance (20.5 points in four games) in the preseason.
Horton-Tucker is also a restricted free agent next summer, though, and questions remain about whether the Lakers can sign him if another team comes in with a hefty offer. That is why there was some speculation as to whether the Lakers would be willing to part with their lone true young asset.
Buyout Market Next for Lakers
The Lakers will stay put with their roster—for now. L.A. has two roster spots available and intends to fill them in the post-deadline buyout market. The resources to do so, though, are limited. The Lakers have about $1.5 million under the luxury tax “apron,” which means they can sign players for just about the league minimum for the remainder of the season. Other teams can offer more.
L.A. will be in the conversation on two players who received buyouts on Thursday, Andre Drummond and LaMarcus Aldridge. That should be able to solve their need in the middle.
They’re also on the hunt for a shooter, which is probably a bigger need for a team struggling badly to hit from the perimeter, as the Lakers are making just 32.8% of their 3s over the past 28 games. One of their targets—New Orleans guard J.J. Redick—was traded to Dallas and is no longer a buyout candidate. Another, Wayne Ellington, was not moved by Detroit and is also not likely to be bought out.
Some other candidates have emerged, though, like former Lakers guard Avery Bradley, traded (to Orlando) Bulls forward Otto Porter and Rockets guard Ben McLemore. That, though, is dependent on those players agreeing to a buyout and even then, there will competition to sign them on the buyout market.
The Lakers are defending champs and, all along, the hope has been that they can sell themselves as a sure NBA Finals team. With the way things have gone lately, though, that does not look so sure. Doing nothing at the trade deadline might have an impact on the team’s options in the buyout market.