Los Angeles Lakers: Was standing pat at the trade deadline the right move?

(Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images) /

With the trade deadline behind us, many Los Angeles Lakers fans are surprised, and/or flat out upset at the lack of activity from the team.

The only tangible piece of information that points to any kind of activity at the deadline from Rob Pelinka and the Los Angeles Lakers, was a tweet from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that said the team was looking to acquire New York Knicks forward Marcus Morris.

However, the asking price of Kyle KuzmaDanny Green, and draft compensation was deemed — and perhaps rightly so — too high for the Lakers, and the team ended talks right there. The crosstown rival Los Angeles Clippers then stepped in and traded for Morris in a three-team trade with the Washington Wizards.

So after a lot of speculation, it appears that there won’t be any major shake-ups for this Los Angeles Lakers team, and now we have to ask the question of was this the right move?

The first thing that needs to be mentioned regarding the Lakers’ lack of moves at the trade deadline is that they didn’t have much in the way of tradeable assets, to begin with. The Anthony Davis trade eliminated the team’s ability to trade any future first-round picks for the foreseeable future, in addition to almost all of the team’s young talent.

In addition, the current salary cap sheet of the Lakers has also made it incredibly difficult to find matching salary for any potential deal, as the players the team would be most willing to part with, also happen to be the ones making the least amount of money.

Kyle Kuzma was widely regarded as the team’s most ‘tradeable’ asset, and according to a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania, was asked about by multiple teams. The problem is that Kuzma is still on his rookie-scale contract, making a mere $2 million in salary.

For the Lakers to include Kuzma in any kind of package, they would also have to part with players making larger salary amounts, such as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, or Danny Green.

A two for one or even three for one deal is simply not a realistic path to success for the Lakers at this moment. The above-mentioned players have all been integral parts to the team’s success, and it just doesn’t make sense to sacrifice that kind of depth for a player like Marcus Morris or Robert Covington.

The bottom line is that the Lakers undoubtedly wanted to make a trade, it’s just that the path to making one that would actually move the needle simply wasn’t there. It should also be said that making a trade just for the sake of making a trade, isn’t always fruitful.

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We saw that last season when the front office (albeit led by former President of Basketball Ops Magic Johnson), traded away two solid young pieces in Ivica Zubac and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk for three-month rentals of Reggie Bullock and Mike Muscala.

Another aspect to consider is that the team’s chemistry is at an all-time high, and even though a trade might look good paper, breaking up a close-knit team such as this can sometimes be detrimental to their overall success.

At this point in time, the Lakers best chance to add an impact player will be on the buyout market, and even though their white whale in Andre Iguodala was recently traded for and extended by the Miami Heat, there should be a number of other players that will be available on the buyout market.

In addition, with the news that former Pacers point guard Darren Collison is considering coming out of retirement, with the Lakers being pegged as heavy favorites to sign him according to Marc Stein of the New York Times, it makes even more sense that the team stuck to its guns at the deadline. If the team can make improvements on the margins without giving up its best assets, you do that ten times out of ten.

*update after submission, Darren Collison has informed the Lakers he will remain retired*

So even though we’re all disappointed that the Lakers didn’t make the splash at the trade deadline that we wanted them to, there is at least a good reason as to why that was the case. A combination of not having the right type of contracts, coupled with a lack of draft capital, played a huge role in restricting their ability to make an impact move.

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However, given the fact that the team has been at the top of the Western Conference standings since the start of the season, and is fielding a top-five ranked offense and defense, it makes sense that they don’t want to mess up something that is clearly working.