Grade the trade pitch: Lakers part with fan favorite to add Lauri Markkanen

The Los Angeles Lakers have been linked to Lauri Markkanen in trade speculation. A recent pitch suggests it could require a mountain of assets to get it done.
Los Angeles Lakers v Utah Jazz
Los Angeles Lakers v Utah Jazz / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages

With the big-name free agents off the market and sign-and-trade options diminishing, the Los Angeles Lakers are back at the drawing board. Building around two superstars who continue to play at an All-NBA level is an enviable task, but finding the right pieces for an appropriate cost is easier said than done.

One of the names that consistently surfaces as an ideal addition alongside Anthony Davis and LeBron James is Lauri Markkanen—and ideas are aplenty for how a deal could get done.

Markkanen, 27, is one of the most sought-after players on the open market. He won the Most Improved Player award in 2022-23, also earning All-Star recognition, and has a truly unique combination of size, skill, and three-level scoring prowess as a 7'0" offensive dynamo.

This past season, Markkanen averaged 23.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 offensive boards, 2.0 assists, and 3.2 three-point field goals made on .480/.399/.899 shooting.

In saying that, Markkanen has also missed at least 20 games due to injury in five of his seven NBA seasons. Being skilled and productive on a 31-win team, however, is a great way to get teams to overlook those concerns and consider what you could bring to their winning equation.

In a recent trade proposal by Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report, the Lakers go all-in on adding Markkanen, hoping that his injury woes will subside.

It's an ambitious move that would certainly help the Lakers improve when everyone is healthy, but casts a shadow of doubt that such would even be possible.

The Trade

The proposal that Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report has set forth would see the Los Angeles Lakers part with a significant number of assets. The focal point for most Lakers fans will likely be the potential loss of fan favorite Austin Reaves.

Reaves, 26, has emerged as one of the best players on the Lakers, and is coming off of a season in which he set career-best marks in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and three-point field goals made per game.

Overall, the trade shapes up as follows:

Markkanen to Lakers

In addition to losing Reaves, Los Angeles would be giving up Jalen Hood-Schifino, who was selected at No. 17 overall at the 2023 NBA Draft, and promising second-round selection Maxwell Lewis. Throw in three first-round draft picks, including a swap in 2030, and the future would be put on hold for the present.

It's a steep price to pay, but as is the cost of doing business when All-Star players are at the heart of potential discussions.

Mikal Bridges, an All-Defense honoree, was recently traded to the New York Knicks for six first-round draft picks. Dejounte Murray, an All-Star and All-Defense selectee, was dealt to the New Orleans Pelicans for 2022 top-10 pick Dyson Daniels and two future first-round selections.

The price for Markkanen will likely be somewhere in that range, making Buckley's trade proposal ambitious, but grounded in some degree of reality.

The question, of course, is simple: Would it be worth it?

The Grade

A trade for an All-Star in their prime will require a team to give up significant draft compensation and, more often than not, at least one high-level player. It's the name of the game in the modern NBA, and it's hard to fault teams for asking for the ceiling when they're giving up their basement.

For the Los Angeles Lakers, trading the proposed package for Lauri Markkanen provides the team with an B-plus on the court—but a C-plus when factoring in the context.

. . Lauri Markkanen to Lakers for Austin Reaves. Markkanen to Lakers. C+

Losing Austin Reaves is a tough pill to swallow considering his importance to the Lakers on offense. In addition to being an effective three-point shooter, he's also an isolation playmaker who can break a defense down with his handle and finish in traffic.

As LeBron James prepares to enter his age-40 season and Anthony Davis gets deeper into his 30s, losing one of the few penetrating playmakers on the roster would be a difficult blow to withstand.

Adding a scorer the caliber of Markkanen would even things out and even serve as an objective upgrade over Reaves at this stage of their respective development. The context that tears the deal apart, however, is that Markkanen has an extensive history of injuries.

Los Angeles would have an undeniably elite core with Davis, Rui Hachimura, James, Dalton Knecht, Markkanen, and D'Angelo Russell, but the three best players on the team would all have serious injury concerns.

Markkanen has missed at least 20 games in five of his seven NBA seasons, while James has been absent from at least 25 outings in four of the past six campaigns. Davis, meanwhile, has missed at least 26 games in three of the past four years of his career.

Going all-in on another injury-plagued player, as well as losing Reaves and future first-round draft picks that could balance an aging core, would simply be too risky to grade any higher than C-plus.