If the Los Angeles Lakers want to get aggressive in the trade market, it may cost the team fan-favorites like Alex Caruso or Talen Horton-Tucker. During a recent episode of ESPN’s The Jump, Ramona Shelburne noted the Lakers could use these two players as trade chips if they do not want to simply wait until there is a buyout market where they have to compete with other teams.
“If the Lakers want to upgrade at that five spot, and they face competition for a couple of centers that might be available,” Shelburne explained. “If you don’t want to wait and see who’s available on the buyout market then you could get creative. Maybe they have a couple of young players that people like, Talen Horton-Tucker, Alex Caruso. I know Lakers fans will freak out if I even say those names because everybody loves them.”
Before L.A. fans start to worry, Shelburne added that she believes the Lakers along with the Clippers will exercise patience. This would make it unlikely that Caruso or Horton-Tucker are going anywhere.
“I think the L.A. teams probably end up just getting the guys on the buyout market because the Lakers had pretty good success last year doing that with Markieff Morris,” she said.
Here is a look at the full clip of Shelburne discussing the upcoming trade deadline.
Vogel on Caruso: ‘He’s Certainly One of Our Best Players’
Caruso is a challenging player to trade not because he has little value but because his $2.75 million salary makes it difficult for the Lakers to get something suitable in return given the cap constraints. Horton-Tucker is even more problematic to get fair value in a deal with a $1.5 million salary.
Caruso is expected to receive a pay raise as he hits free agency this offseason. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel recently labeled Caruso as “one of our best players.” Caruso is averaging 5.3 points, 2.3 assists and 2.5 rebounds in just over 19 minutes per game this season.
“He’s certainly one of our best players,” Vogel explained, per Screen and Roll. “That’s the simplest way to put it. He typically moves the needle in a positive direction and you see that with the plus-minus, not just in these two games, but throughout all of last year. We do want to make sure that we’re using our depth so we’re not overplaying too many guys, but Alex is just one of those guys that impacts both ends of the floor.
LeBron on Horton-Tucker: ‘This Kid Is Flat Out Special’
Horton-Tucker has also received a great deal of praise within the Lakers organization, especially from LeBron James. The Lakers star took to Twitter in December 2020 to back the L.A. second-year player.
“Telling you right now!” James tweeted. “This kid is flat out SPECIAL! Mark my words.”
The ideal scenario would be for the Lakers to make moves before the trade deadline without having to move either Caruso or Horton-Tucker. Heavy recently detailed some of the potential fits for the Lakers including a trade for P.J. Tucker and signing JJ Redick if he receives a buyout from the Pelicans. The Lakers are going to continue to be linked to players as the team looks to repeat, but fans will be hoping Los Angeles can hang on to their young core.