One thing about ESPN analyst Brian Windhorst: He has closely covered LeBron James longer than anyone, well before his days with the Lakers, so when it comes to gauging what James’ teams are going to do year-to-year in NBA free agency, he is pretty plugged into how the people running James’ teams think. But his latest view on what might happen as the Lakers seek to improve the roster raised more than a few eyebrows.
Speaking on the Hoops Collective podcast, Windhorst was discussing the possibility of the Lakers making a trade for Pacers guard Victor Oladipo, a two-time All-Star who played only 19 regular-season games this year as he fought to come back from a ruptured quadriceps injury.
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When it was suggested by ESPN’s Tim Bontemps that the Lakers could ship out Danny Green and Kyle Kuzma, with a first-round pick, for Oladipo, Windhorst was surprisingly skeptical.
“That’s too much,” Windhorst said. “Too much. I mean, I don’t think I want to give up Green and Kuzma.”
Lakers Would Be Taking a Risk on Oladipo Trade
Indeed, the possibility of a trade involving Oladipo would be a risk for whichever team takes him on this offseason, assuming he is dealt. There appeared to be some tension between Oladipo and the Pacers during the season, especially when he did his rehab away from the team, though Pacers officials sold that as not being problematic.
There was also Oladipo’s initial reaction to playing during the NBA restart, which he initially said he would not do. But once it was clear that option out would cost him more than $5 million, Oladipo backtracked and said he would play.
That all adds up to an uncertain relationship between player and team, which almost always cuts back on a players’ potential trade value.
But probably the biggest knock on Oladipo now is just how healthy he is. He averaged 14.5 points on 39.4% shooting, making only 31.7% of his 3s this year. He is 28 years old, so the presumption is that he can get back to his old form, but that is no guarantee. More uncertainty means more of a hit to his trade value.
Green, Kuzma Deal for Oladipo a Risk Worth Taking?
A deal that would send out Green and Kuzma—who both struggled in the playoffs—plus the 20th pick in this year’s draft does not sound like a bad deal for the Lakers, if they’re willing to take the risk on Oladipo’s health.
Also an important factor: Oladipo is heading into the final year of his contract. He is owed $21 million for next year and is the kind of low-risk, high-reward gamble the Lakers can afford to take. If Oladipo is healthy and goes back to All-Star form (he averaged 21.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists for the Pacers in the previous two seasons), the Lakers have themselves a major backcourt improvement.
If he is not fully healthy, the Lakers will not have given up too much to get him and will have their cap space available for 2021. That is the franchise’s main focus—keep the cap space available to chase the likes of Bradley Beal and Giannis Antetokounmpo next year.
That, Windhorst agreed, could make him an acceptable risk. “It’s a one-year commitment,” he said, “and it upgrades the Lakers on the perimeter and it doesn’t hurt your flexibility.”