The NBA trading deadline is on February 20th which leaves the Los Angeles Lakers roughly 3 weeks to decide which players on the current roster are worth keeping till the end of the season and which ones should be moved to acquire valuable assets, such as draft picks and young, cost controlled players, to aid in what they hope will be a quick rebuilding process.
Outside of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre, every player’s contract on the Lakers’ roster is expiring at the end of the season. Nick Young has a player option for 1.2 million which he will likely not pick up and Kendall Marshall’s 2nd year is not guaranteed.
After last night’s loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Lakers dropped to 16-30, next to last place in the Western Conference and 10 games behind the last playoff spot with only 36 games to play in this season. I think it is safe to say at this point that the Lakers season has slipped away and their chances of making the playoffs are beyond slim. Taylor Swift slim. Taylor Swift would actually look morbidly obese if she stood next to the Lakers current playoff chances. It’s time to look towards next season and beyond.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports wrote an article detailing the value of the Phoenix Suns’ Emeka Okafor’s expiring contract and managements interest in moving it and possibly some of their multitude of draft picks for veteran talent that wouldn’t hamper their future cap flexibility.
The Suns are an amazing position, both presently with the current success of their team, and in the future with numerous talented young players still on their rookie deals, such as Eric Bledsoe, the Morris twins and Miles Plumlee. The Suns also will have a ton of cap space next season and will be major players in the free agent market.
Despite the Suns being without the immensely talented Bledsoe’s since 12/30 due to a knee injury, they’ve maintained their playoff position. However, holding on to that playoff spot will be difficult. Suns are currently in the 7th spot in the West, only 2 games ahead of 9th place Memphis Grizzlies who are starting to come on strong. The Suns’ task of staying in the playoff picture will be exacerbate by not having the services of their starting point guard, Bledsoe, who isn’t expected back from knee surgery until mid to late February.
As per Wojnarowski’s article referenced above, the Suns are open to trading their draft picks in the pursuit of winning now and acquiring veteran talent to do it. The only caveat is that the Suns’ not acquire contracts that would hamper their anticipated cap flexibility following this season.
The Suns current set of circumstances and abundance of assets makes them an exceptionally attractive trade partner for the Lakers.
Reportedly, the Lakers were pursuing a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the partially non-guaranteed contract of Andrew Bynum and either draft picks or young talent, such as Dion Waiters, in exchange for Pau Gasol. A trade with the Cavs was never completed due to the Cavs reluctance to include 1st round picks or any of their young talent.
If the Lakers were ready to move Pau for picks or young talent then, with the season in complete disarray, they most certainly are ready to move him now.
The Suns must appear like a pot of gold to the Lakers with the assets they possess. Here are some of their shiny pieces of gold:
Phoenix Suns’ Assets:
- Expiring contract that pays him 14.5 million in this last season. Okafor has not played this season due to a neck injury and is unlikely to return. As mentioned in the Wojnarowski piece, the insurance company would cover 80 percent of Okafor’s remaining contract providing additional monetary incentive. Okafor’s 14.5 million dollar contract fits perfectly within the CBA parameters to trade straight up for Gasol’s 19.2 million dollar contract. The Lakers of course would want more than just exchanging expiring deals and the saving provided by the partial insurance payout.
Minnesota Wolves’ 2014 1st Round Pick (Protected)
- Phoenix acquired Minnesota’s 2014 1st round pick; however it is protected through the top 13 picks. The Wolves would currently pick 12th; therefore, they would be able to keep their pick this year if they remain no higher than 13th. The pick is top 12 protected in 2015 and 2016. If the 1st round pick is not relinquished by 2016, it becomes a 2nd round pick in 2016 and 2017.
Indiana Pacers’ 2014 1st Round Pick (Protected)
- Pacers pick is top 14 protected through 2019. The Pacers currently own the best record in the NBA and stand to stay atop the NBA for the foreseeable future. The pick will most certainly be available in 2014 but likely the last pick in the 1st round.
Washington Wizards’ 2014 1st Round Pick (Protected)
- As part of the Marcin Gortat trade with the Wizards, the Suns acquired their 1st round pick for 2014. The pick is top 12 protected in 2014 and top 10 protected from 2015 to 2019. The pick is unprotected in 2020. The Wizards are currently in the 6th spot in the Eastern Conference and are in good shape to make the playoffs which will keep them well out of the top 12 picks making the 2014 1st round pick available.
Phoenix Suns 2014 1st Round Pick
- The Suns would pick 22nd if the draft was to be held today. In a reportedly deep draft the 22nd pick could potentially land an important rotation player.
Phoenix Suns 2014 2nd Round Pick
- The Suns would pick 52nd in the 2nd round of the 2014 NBA draft if the season ended today.
Phoenix Suns 2015 Draft Picks
- Suns owns the rights of the Lakers 1st round draft pick as part of the Nash trade. The pick is top 5 protected in 2015, top 3 in 2016 and 2017, and unprotected in 2018.
- Suns have their own 2015 1st round pick available.
Lakers’ Assets that would interest Phoenix Suns:
- Pau would be the most attractive trade piece to offer to the Suns. The Suns lack interior scoring and Pau’s superior post skills would be invaluable come playoff time when the game usually slows down. Pau’s trade value has increased slightly due to his recent much improved play. Since 12/31, Pau is averaging 20.9 points per game, shooting 49.8 percent from the field and pulling down 11.7 rebounds per game. Pau would also offer playoff and championship experience that is sorely missing from the Suns roster. Pau definitely has increased his trade value enough to get a first round pick in return; possibly even 2 first round picks and a modest young talent.
- Will certainly not net as much in return as Pau, but Kamen is a more than serviceable big man that could provide low post offense, rebounding and veteran leadership. Kamen has an inexpensive contract that is easy to move and is expiring. You can expect to receive a 2nd round or two for Kamen, but not much more.
- Hil’sl tireless motor, energy and knack for pulling down rebounds would be a valuable piece to any team. The Suns already have a player that is similar to Hill in Miles Plumlee who is fully entrenched in the Suns rotation. Hill would still be a good back up and insurance in the event that Plumlee falls to injury. A 2nd round pick could easily be obtained in trade for Hill; if the Suns did succumb to injury to their front court and were in a desperate position of need, a 1st round pick could be had by the Lakers, such as the Pacers’ 2014 pick that the Suns own. Hill is on the last year of his deal that is paying him 3.5 million.
If the Lakers are ready to throw in the towel on the season (which they should) and do not have plans to bring back or commit to any of the players on expiring deals in order to keep their flexibility in the free agent market this off-season, it would behoove them to be active and very aggressive players on the trade market with these pieces in order to acquire assets in return, versus just letting them walk at the end of the season for nothing. The Suns have numerous draft picks, a large expiring deal and a need for veteran front court talent to assist them in securing a playoff spot. The juxtaposition of the Lakers and Suns’ contrasting situations bring to light how the two are ideal trade partners who possess exactly what each side needs.
The Lakers have 22 days till the trade deadline to make something happen. What they do or don’t do now could be the difference between a quick return to respectability and an indefinite period of suffering in irrelevance. Here’s hoping for the former. Here’s hoping for anything other than what we have right now.
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