Lakers wise to keep key starters out of potential trade discussions

The Los Angeles Lakers are taking a more responsible approach to improving the roster in 2024. That could ultimately keep a key starter or two in purple and gold.
Los Angeles Lakers v Brooklyn Nets
Los Angeles Lakers v Brooklyn Nets / Mike Stobe/GettyImages

With the 2024 NBA Finals soon to begin, the Los Angeles Lakers are preparing for an offseason that will hopefully allow them to catch up to the bitter rival Boston Celtics. Much like the Celtics, the Lakers are starting that process with two stars in tow: Anthony Davis and LeBron James.

As the Celtics reap the benefits of the years spent building a deep and balanced roster around Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the Lakers are embarking on a journey to do the same with Davis and James.

The Lakers intend to be aggressive in pursuing trades that will help create a deeper and more balanced team. One manner in which the front office intends to accomplish that goal is by limiting the number of starters it trades in the pursuit of improvement.

According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, the Lakers will attempt to keep starting shooting guard Austin Reaves out of any potential trade discussions.

"The Lakers would also prefer to keep Austin Reaves, according to team and league sources. They refrained from including him in trade talks for Murray at the 2024 trade deadline and Kyrie Irving at the 2023 trade deadline."

Reaves is widely regarded as one of the Lakers' best players after Davis and James, which makes this a decision that few should dispute.

Austin Reaves is a building block for the Lakers

Reaves, 26, is coming off of a season in which he appeared in all 82 games for the Lakers, averaging 32.1 minutes per outing. During that time, he produced 15.9 points, 5.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.9 three-point field goals made on .486/.367/.853 shooting.

This comes one season after Reaves started all 16 of the Lakers' playoff games en route to an appearance in the 2023 Western Conference Finals.

As for this past season, Reaves was fourth on the Lakers in scoring and third in both assists and three-point field goals made per game. One of the players ahead of him in those areas was D'Angelo Russell, who has a player option for the 2024-25 season.

Running the risk of losing Russell for nothing in free agency, it makes even more sense for the Lakers to prioritize the continued development of their other starting guard.

It's also worth noting that any player whom the Lakers trade for should have an easy time fitting in next to Reaves. He's an unselfish playmaker, a committed defender, and a strong floor-spacer who shot 36.7 percent or better on both catch-and-shoot and pull-up threes.

Postseason-caliber starting guards are tough to come by. Reaves already checks that box after just three seasons in the rotation—and he may still improve.

What about Rui Hachimura?

With Reaves suddenly safer to return to the Lakers in 2024-25, clarification has come down on the status of another starter: Forward Rui Hachimura. 2023-24 was a tough season for Hachimura, as injuries and a disappointing postseason disrupted the momentum he built in 2022-23.

With the offseason nearing, Hachimura has been commonly listed as a Laker who's likely to be traded—but perhaps not for a reason that's related to his performance.

Per Buha, Hachimura is another player who the Lakers are not actively shopping in trade discussions. That's understandable, as the Lakers went 40-28 when Hachimura played this past season and just 7-7 when he didn't—a difference in win percentage of 8.8 percentage.

The Lakers were also 4.1 points per 100 possessions better when Hachimura was on the court than when he wasn't.

At $17 million due in 2024-25, however, his contract is among the most tradeable that Los Angeles has if it needs to match a higher salary. As such, Hachimura is likely to be offloaded this offseason if the right starting-caliber player—or even multiple players—hits the market.

Even the slightest form of hesitation to unload a quality player on a team-friendly deal, however, is a sign of progress. The Lakers need to be aggressive in improving the roster, but that doesn't always necessitate selling the farm.

Instead, a methodical approach is what will give the Lakers the best chance at contending again. Thus far, the front office appears to agree.