Report Makes Strong Projection on Lakers’ Trade-Deadline Plans

Kyle Kuzma, left, of the Lakers

Getty Kyle Kuzma, left, of the Lakers

Could this be the year in which the Lakers, finally, get through an entire season without any major drama ahead of the NBA trade deadline? It just might be.

That’s the projection from a Bleacher Report article looking ahead to the league’s March 25 trade deadline, which suggests that the Lakers, left with, “few draft picks and young talent left to part with, however, this trade deadline should be far quieter.”

Certainly, there is logic behind that line of thinking. The Lakers, despite having won the 2019-20 championship, proceeded with a roster overhaul, sending away Danny Green and JaVale McGee via trade and losing Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley to free agency. They brought in Dennis Schroder, Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell, Wes Matthews and Alfonzo McKinnie to replace those players.

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It would not make much sense for the Lakers to undergo a major roster shakeup only to then trade another player within the first few months of putting together the new group.

As Bleacher Report noted, “Already with a loaded roster, expect the Lakers to monitor the buyout market instead. LeBron James and Co. remain one of the premier destinations in all of basketball, a beautiful blend of winning, geography and star power.”

Lakers Dominated Deadline Speculation Last Two Seasons

This would be significantly different from years past, when the Lakers frequently made headlines around the trade deadline.

Last season, speculation ran high that the Lakers were engaged in talks about trading away forward Kyle Kuzma, with names like Detroit’s Derrick Rose and Sacramento’s Bogdan Bogdanovic (now in Atlanta) making the rounds. There was also talk of a possible trade for Knicks forward Marcus Morris and an un-retirement signing of point guard Darren Collison.

Instead, the Lakers wound up making no trades, but signed Dion Waiters and Markieff Morris (Marcus Morris’ twin) in the post-deadline buyout market.

The previous year, of course, the entire league was in the thrall of the Lakers’ trade deadline machinations, with the team trying, but initially failing, to construct a trade for Pelicans star Anthony Davis. It was not until the Pelicans turned over their front office in the offseason that the Lakers were able to pull off a deal for Davis.

Kyle Kuzma Likely to Stay Put — For Now

Now, it is still possible that the Lakers will look to trade Kuzma at some point, even after he signed a three-year extension worth $40 million. He was set to hit restricted free agency next summer and was, therefore, considered a prime target for a trade before news of an extension came down.

But any deal for Kuzma is almost certain to wait until the offseason. That is because when a player on a rookie contract, as Kuzma is this year, signs an extension (which will kick in next year), NBA salary rules make it very difficult to trade the player until the extension kicks in. Expect to see Kuzma in Lakers purple-and-gold throughout the year, then.

Certainly, if some sort of blockbuster deal does become available, the Lakers would pounce. They have tradeable contracts in those of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (three years, $39 million, final year not fully guaranteed), Schroder (one year, $15 million) and Harrell (two years, $19 million, with a player option).

They do not, however, have much in the cupboard as far as draft picks go—the Lakers can’t trade a first-rounder until 2024, and even then it would be conditional because the Pelicans have the right to take the Lakers’ pick that year.

The Lakers do have an open roster spot and most likely, that spot will wait until after the deadline to be filled.

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