The Los Angeles Lakers have a roster flush with new faces, as well as returnees who have established strong relationships with the fanbase and greater Los Angeles community. For some like Austin Reaves, this place has truly grown into a place that feels like home. Regardless of his personal connection to the Purple and Gold, there is no doubt that the front office would be quick to replace him if the right opportunity presented itself. That is the harsh reality that every NBA player must learn to accept.
For the time being, there would not appear to be any type of imminent changes coming to this roster. Most of the team’s most appealing trade assets will not even be eligible to be traded until December 15th. However, if the team gets off to a rocky start such as last season’s abominable front end of the schedule, the trade whispers will quickly sprout into screams.
The Los Angeles fanbase has long been unforgiving, and that fact will not change anytime soon. If the team is not living up to its championship expectations, Rob Pelinka will have no choice but to make a change.
Last year, his decision to pull the trigger on necessary changes more than likely salvaged his position in the front office. And while those decisions are always hard to make, front offices do seem to do their best to put those players in the best possible situations that they can given the circumstances. So, if those trying times present themselves once again in 2023-2024, here are the healthiest situations for each current Laker if they are in fact sold off at their own personal expense.
Finding a midseason trade partner for each Lakers player:
D’Angelo Russell: Miami Heat
D’Angelo Russell has never been recognized for his defensive efforts, but he is reportedly focused on changing that narrative. If he stays true to his word and improves defensively, he could actually blossom into one of the top point guards in the league. If he does not take the step that he (and everyone really) is looking for, there is one clear-cut destination that should only serve to shape him up.
Heat Culture is no fairy tale or myth, it is a very real thing. Pat Riley and the entire organization in Miami have encapsulated the ability to transcend players into better versions of themselves. Not only could D’Lo use the extra push from his peers, but the Heat could also use his abilities on offense after missing out on the Damian Lillard sweepstakes.
Austin Reaves: San Antonio Spurs
Why the Spurs did not offer Reaves a significant contract this offseason remains a mystery. Even if it were for the sole purpose of messing with the Lakers, one of their biggest Western Conference foes throwing big bucks at one of the league’s best up-and-comers almost seemed like a foregone conclusion.
But a more realistic rationale for putting together a contract package to attain Reaves’ services is the simple fact that he would have been a pretty seamless fit with what they have. Tre Jones is a really smooth floor general, but at this stage of his career would probably be best served as a backup. In the offseason thus far, Greg Popovich has experimented with Jeremy Sochan at the 1.
While we are firmly in the midst of “positionless basketball” and Sochan certainly illustrated a ton of versatility in year 1 of his career, tasking him with starting point guard duties may be asking a bit too much of him in year 2.
Insert Reaves into that point guard slot in San Antonio, and an imaginative starting 5 consisting of Reaves-Devin Vassell (a lowkey Most-Improved Player candidate)-Keldon Johnson-Sochan-Wemby could be sneaky good. Reaves would elevate the ceiling of this roster RIGHT NOW.
Taurean Prince: Sacramento Kings
Harrison Barnes and Keegan Murray are a fine tandem of starting forwards. However, there is little to no depth on the wing outside of those two. Kessler Edwards is really the only other combo forward on this roster, and the concept of positional versatility has become more and more crucial in the modern NBA.
Prince might prove too valuable for the Lakers to part with (he most certainly has so far), but in terms of putting him in a position to succeed Sacramento smells like the right move. Although, a player with Taurean’s skillset could realistically fit on any roster.
LeBron James: Golden State Warriors
LeBron is not going anywhere, at least not this season. However, he has spoken very highly of Stephen Curry and the possibility of taking his talents to The Bay. For all intents and purposes, that is not going to happen. It is fun to think about, though.
Anthony Davis: Oklahoma City Thunder
With an almost everlasting collection of draft picks and an abundance of interesting young talent, do not be stunned when OKC makes a move of epic proportions in the near future. This is a team that reached the play-in a season ago, and with unicorn Chet Holmgren now in the mix they should be fixated on earning an outright playoff birth in 2023-2024.
After signing a contract extension this offseason with LA, AD is almost surely not going anywhere anytime soon. However, if things turn sour this season and the front office begins looking towards the future, a package in the shape of Josh Giddey, Lu Dort and multiple draft picks would be a truly great starting point in trade negotiations from the Thunder’s side of the table. SGA, Jalen Williams, AD and Chet would form a tantalizing quartet that could lead the Thunder to steady postseason births for years to come.
Gabe Vincent: Milwaukee Bucks
Prior to recently picking up Cameron Payne, Milwaukee was hurting deeply for depth at the point guard position behind Damian Lillard. While Payne is definitely an upgrade over what they were previously working with, it still feels as though they need more guard depth to support Dame.
Gabe Vincent would not only bring a quality substitute option to Lillard, but he has the size and IQ to play right alongside him. The two could actually flourish together, given Lillard’s killer instincts on offense and Vincent’s strong track record as a defender. After multiple playoff runs with Miami and then a transition to the Lakers in free agency this summer, it is evident of his intentions to remain on a title contender. The Bucks are nothing shy of that.
Max Christie: Charlotte Hornets
With such a team-friendly pact in place, the odds of the Lakers moving Christie this season are slim. However, weirder things have transpired. Regardless of the competency that Rob Pelinka and the front office have displayed in recent memory, if they did inevitably choose to move on from Max (for whatever invalid reason), Charlotte would be a great fit for the youngster.
Still only 20 years old until February, Christie would join LaMelo Ball in what could be a super solid starting backcourt for the next decade. What LaMelo lacks on defense (an area of his game that he is quietly growing in), Christie could offset with his fundamentals on that side of the ball. And while he has shown a good amount of growth as an offensive threat, suiting up alongside Ball would alleviate a lot of pressure for him to produce too much offensively.
Jarred Vanderbilt: Nobody!
Vanderbilt cannot be traded until six months have passed since the start of his new contract extension. That six-month deadline lands in March, which is after the 2023 trade deadline.
Rui Hachimura: Minnesota Timberwolves
Given his continued strides on both ends since arriving in LA, nobody in their right mind wants to see Rui in anything aside from a Lakers uniform. However, his level of talent combined with his offseason contract make him one of the Lakers’ most attractive (if not most attractive) trade assets.
The Minnesota Timberwolves failed twin tower experiment a season ago means that one of the skyscrapers is almost definitely gone by the February 2024 trade deadline. Rudy Gobert is a talented big man, but no team in their right mind is taking on his albatross contract after witnessing the Wolves’ folly in 2022. That would seem to indicate that an end to Karl Anthony-Towns’s time as a Timberwolf could be looming, and vultures are already circling the skies above the Twin Cities.
Hachimura would be a much cleaner fit next to Gobert and is not too much older than Anthony Edwards. Those two combined with Jaden McDaniels (granted he would not be a part of the Hachimura trade package) would keep the future lights shining brightly in Minnesota.
Christian Wood: Memphis Grizzlies
Wood comprehends how to put the circle in the cup, but he has not always been the most function-able force on defense. Memphis’s grit-and-grind culture has always prioritized stops over scores. With the two reigning Defensive Player of the Years on their roster in Jaren Jackson Jr and the newly-acquired Marcus Smart, they should be among the league’s most stout defenses once again.
But with Ja Morant serving his suspension for the first 25 games of the season, the offense could take some time to come around. Even when he returns, though, this is still a roster short on serious scoring threats. Morant, Desmond Bane, and Triple J are probably the only guys who can legitimately be counted on to go get a bucket. Wood could not only open up a lot of space for those 3 to attack the paint but could also serve as a temporary offensive focal point when they sit.
Jalen Hood-Schifino: Toronto Raptors
Believe it or not, JHS is probably already a serious Lakers trade candidate this season. Not only can his contract be included in a trade right now, but he is not necessarily viewed as a major part of the 2023-2024 rotation. Given the fact that the team’s sights are set on a championship in the present, they could sacrifice the future potential of their incoming rookie point guard if it meant bringing in some veteran help more ready to contribute this season.
The moment that the Raptors lost Fred VanVleet in free agency, the void at point guard expanded even further than what it already was. The team has been lacking point guard depth for some time now, and Dennis Schroder is not solving all of their problems in that department. Looking to the future, JHS would be an intriguing prospect for Toronto to monitor if they pivot towards a (likely) rebuild.
Maxwell Lewis: Dallas Mavericks
Given Jason Kidd’s unforeseen desire to surround his two superstars with young, athletic defenders, Lewis would make sense as a lanky wing with a lot of lockdown potential. He exuded massive abilities as a scorer throughout college and has surprised many in the preseason thus far with his confidence. He would also seem to fit the future picture of the Laker franchise, but could also quickly find himself as a victim of championship circumstances.
Cam Reddish: Denver Nuggets
Reddish has already looked a bit lost with the Lakers in the preseason. That is a small sample size, for sure. Nonetheless, he is not going to have a ton of chances to prove his worth to this team. If he continues his lousy play when given minutes, he will quickly become a trade candidate. Given his minimum salary, he could also simply be waived in order to free up a roster spot. That all seems harsh, but it all goes back to the harsh realities that arise when signing an NBA contract.
All that being said, there is still so much potential hidden underneath Cam Reddish’s disappointing surface. He may find himself in a logjam of a wing rotation with the Lakers, but the reigning NBA champions are actually pretty devoid of depth on the perimeter.
Outside of Christian Braun (a genuine breakout candidate this year), the Nuggets perimeter options off the pine as of today are Justin Holiday, rookie Julian Strawther, and Peyton Watson. Reddish would probably not be a home run acquisition for Denver, but there are far worse options for a team that could use all of the wing depth it can get.
Jaxson Hayes: Boston Celtics
After losing Robert Williams III this summer, the Celtics could definitely use some more rim protection to shore up its backline. Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford are no slouches in the department of paint protection, but neither of them are exceedingly intimidating. Neither is Luke Kornet, who is primarily regarded for his ability to stretch the floor.
Enter Jaxson Hayes, who may not bring much to the scoring side of the sport but has the springs and size to produce fear inside the minds of those who enter his territory. His springs would also offer a quality lob threat to the many Celtics playmakers, something that they do not currently have.