The Los Angeles Lakers should be busy this week as the NBA trade deadline is on Thursday and the team needs to improve. Los Angeles already tried trading for Kyrie Irving (and failed for ridiculous reasons) so there is at least some activity by the front office.
Ownership and the front office is going to have to decide which direction the team wants to go in this season. Are they going to go all-in towards making a run by trading Russell Westbrook or picks? Will they make marginal moves to improve the roster? Or will they sell the few assets they have?
Selling assets is the least palatable for Lakers fans as they want to see their team win basketball games. That being said, there is a very good opportunity for the Lakers to make a trade with the Boston Celtics.
According to Celtics writer Kevin Smith, Boston is determined to use its $5.89 million trade exception before the deadline to bring in a low-salary player who can play in the rotation. Boston is reportedly willing to offer a protected first-round pick, or multiple second-round picks.
With that intel in mind, the Los Angeles Lakers should get on the phone and offer this trade package to the Boston Celtics ASAP:
Lonnie Walker IV makes slightly more than the Celtics have available on the TPE ($6.4 million salary this season), which is why Justin Jackson would be going back to the Lakers as filler. That would get the Celtics back under the TPE to make this trade possible.
We already know what you are thinking: why would Los Angeles ever make this trade when Walker has been a surprising asset? Let’s break it down.
Why the Los Angeles Lakers could say yes to this trade:
While Lonnie Walker IV has had great individual numbers, he has not offered much in terms of team success. In fact, Los Angeles has actually been better without him on the court as his defensive negatives do not outweigh his offensive positives.
Los Angeles has a net rating of +2.4 when Walker is off the court and -6.4 when he is on the court. That is a net rating difference of -8.5, which is the worst on the entire roster with at least 500 minutes played!
Just to put that into perspective, a net rating difference of 8.5 is bigger than the difference between the no. 1 team in the league in net rating (Celtics) and the 25th team in the league (Indiana Pacers). That is only a difference of 8.2.
Los Angeles is 11-7 this season when Walker does not play or he plays less than 15 minutes. They are 14-23 when he plays 15 or more minutes. If the team is not going to include him in a bigger deal packaged with someone like Patrick Beverley then they need to get whatever assets they can.
Why the Boston Celtics could say yes to this trade:
While Walker has not had a positive impact on the Los Angeles Lakers it does not take away the impact that he could have on the Boston Celtics. Every team is different and Boston has the talent and infrastructure around Walker that could make up for his defensive deficiencies.
Boston could really use a bench scorer as the team makes its run at another NBA Finals appearance. While Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown shoulder most of the load, they do not have that bench scorer who can be a heat-check guy that can swing an entire quarter. Walker has that potential.
Walker is exactly the kind of guy you want on the bench to come in for the last four minutes of the first quarter when Tatum gets in early foul trouble. He is shooting 37.3% from three this season and is averaging 13.7 points in 27.9 minutes per game.
LeBron James just broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time scoring record and several NBA legends made sure to shower him with praise afterward.
Walker may not fit the Lakers’ puzzle but he would be a valuable piece of the Celtics’ puzzle. If the Lakers can get two second-round picks for a guy who they are better off without then that would be a massive home run for the long-term vision of the team.