As the NBA offseason has trudged forward, the only changes from last year’s 33-49 Lakers disaster have thus far been new coach Darvin Ham and an overhaul in role players. With due respect to Thomas Bryant and Juan Toscano-Anderson, the new roster is not striking fear in the hearts of opponents.
For the Lakers to vault back into contention, they need more. One way to get it is to target realistic second-tier stars, especially those who can fill some of the Lakers’ biggest needs–like perimeter scoring.
Indiana’s Buddy Hield, a long-rumored Lakers target, is an excellent shooter, but such a turnstile defensively that even the Kings had a hard time keeping him on the floor. Myles Turner, the Pacers’ shot-blocking big man, is similarly excellent defensively but not so much on offense. The Lakers have considered the Nets’ Kyrie Irving, too, as well as Hornets forward Gordon Hayward and dozen or so others.
But one spot in which decent value can be had is Dallas, where the Mavs could be looking to create some cap space and would need to move off of Tim Hardaway Jr.–son of Hall of Fame point guard Tim Hardaway–to do so.
The key for the Mavericks would be for the Lakers to send back players on one-year deals, preferably guys who could still help the team stay in short-term contention. One NBA source speculated (just speculation, to be clear, no such deal has been concretely discussed) that a deal for Hardaway is out there, and the Lakers would be a sensible fit.
“Teams like him. You know what you’re getting. OK defender, streaky shooter, high basketball IQ, a veteran guy,” the source said of Hardaway. “The Lakers are looking for upgrades across the board, a veteran guy like Hardaway, there is something that could get done there if there was another team involved and a draft pick. He makes sense there.”
Hardaway Is Signed for 3 Years
Hardaway just signed a four-year, $75 million extension last summer, and it’s not a bad deal for the team—a descending contract that goes from $19.6 million this year to $17.9 million next year and $16.2 million in the final year of the contract, 2024-25. That’s probably a longer commitment than the Lakers want to make, but with the team’s short title-contention window closing, he’s a risk worth taking.
Hardaway is coming off a poor season, averaging just 14.2 points on 39.4% shooting and 33.6% 3-point shooting, and things got worse when he suffered a fractured foot that ended his 2021-22 campaign in January and limited him to 42 games. That was an aberration, though, as Hardaway shot 39.4% from the 3-point line over the past two seasons in Dallas before last year’s struggle.
The Lakers could eye him with the Talen Horton-Tucker/Kendrick Nunn package they’ve been peddling, though they’d have to add Wenyen Gabriel to make the numbers work. Bringing in a rebuilding team like Utah could grease the wheels on a Lakers-Mavericks Hardaway deal, which would look something like this:
Mavericks get: Patrick Beverley (Jazz), Kendrick Nunn (Lakers)
Jazz get: Talen Horton-Tucker (Lakers), Wenyen Gabriel (Lakers), Lakers first-round 2027 pick
Lakers get: Tim Hardaway Jr., 2023 least-favorable first-rounder from Houston, Brooklyn or Philadelphia (Jazz)
All Sides Gain in the Deal
How does it all shake out?
Beverley, who was pursued by Dallas before, would land with the Mavs, and Nunn is a talented guard who missed all of last season with a stubborn ankle/knee injury, but is worth a flier for the Mavericks.
The Jazz give up Beverley and park Horton-Tucker’s salary, perhaps giving Horton-Tucker a chance to play big minutes and boost his own trade value. They get what could be a hugely valuable 2027 pick from the Lakers—an upgrade on the pick they’d send out.
The Lakers get a much-needed wing who can provide some offensive pop on the perimeter. Sending out the 2027 first-rounder would be too high a price for THJ, so the Lakers would also get the 2023 pick the Nets sent to Utah for Royce O’Neale. That will likely be Philly’s pick and fall deep in the 20s, making it far less valuable than the 2027 pick, but it’s still a first-rounder that the Lakers can use as another trade chip.
That’s important. A starting five built around Westbrook, Hardaway, James, Davis and, most likely, Thomas Bryant, is not bad but L.A. would still be on the lookout for another piece. And bringing in a 2023 draft pick gives them some flexibility to find that piece.