Let's say the Los Angeles Lakers' mediocre start to the season prolongs another month (and hope that it does not). In this scenario, the front office would feel much more inclined to get more aggressive in its pursuit of serious help for LeBron and AD. There are certainly options for Rob Pelinka to contemplate upon canvassing the association for viable needle movers.
Malcolm Brogdon is all but guaranteed to be flipped by the Portland Trail Blazers prior to February's trade deadline. He would theoretically be a perfect complementary piece to play alongside the stars. Buddy Hield is another guy who will almost certainly be traded this season, and his ability to swish shots would make him another logical fit with the Lakers. Less heralded guys like Alec Burks, Gary Harris, and Landry Shamet should also be available given their current situations.
While each of those guys would undoubtedly help, none of them seem to be the type of player who would truly push this team over the top. The team may need someone with a bit more juice than those guys, a player with the ability to not only complement the stars but supplement their performance when they are out. As of this moment, Zach LaVine seems to be the logical target when considering these criteria.
Sacrificing a few guys currently in the rotation (D'Angelo Russell and Rui Hachimura) plus a younger prospect (Jalen Hood-Schifino or Max Christie) would be painful from a depth perspective. However, the team would still run 10-11 deep even without adding any free agents to fill out the new roster. And there are some solid options currently swimming in the free agency pool that could come in and contribute.
Here is a stencil of what the rotation could look like when the hypothetical dust settled:
Projected Lakers rotation after a Zach LaVine trade:
- PG | LeBron James: 32 MPG
- SG | Zach LaVine: 34 MPG
- SF | Cam Reddish: 22 MPG
- PF | Jarred Vanderbilt: 20 MPG
- C | Anthony Davis: 32 MPG
During the Lakers run to the 2019-20 championship, LeBron James was running point and leading the league in assists. Within that starting unit, he was playing next to Avery Bradley, Danny Green, Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee. The team's third-leading scorer was Kyle Kuzma at just under 13 points a night. Despite a clear lack of secondary scoring, LeBron was still setting the table for one of the league's most lethal attacks that year.
If a LaVine transaction were to transpire, returning Bron to this spot could be big time. The King may have had a little less tread on his tires during the 2019-20 season, but he has once again shown no signs of a significant slowdown thus far into the 2023-2024 season. Between he, AD, and LaVine there would already be enough offensive firepower, which would explain Austin Reaves not joining the starting crew.
Given time, Cam Reddish and Jarred Vanderbilt could prove to be one of the NBA's more underrated duos in terms of wing defense. The two of them could be trusted to expend most of their energy on defense, with Reddish also being responsible for remaining respected by opposing defenders with his outside jump shot.
This starting 5 would offer a scary combination of offensive potential plus the ability to switch all over the floor on defense.
- PG | Gabe Vincent: 17 MPG
- SG | Austin Reaves: 25 MPG
- SF | Max Christie: 12 MPG
- PF | Taurean Prince: 18 MPG
- C | Christian Wood: 19 MPG
Surely Austin Reaves was expecting to be a fixture in the starting lineup upon signing off on his contract extension this summer. Through the first month of the season, he has struggled to regain the form of a rising star that he exuded throughout the prior 8 months. Those struggles were quickly met with action, as he was replaced by Cam Reddish in the starting lineup following the team's ugly drubbing at the hands of the (up-and-coming) Houston Rockets on November 6th.
The move was made in large part to segregate Reaves' minutes with D'Angelo Russell's minutes, as the two ball-dominant guards just were not working together. Splitting them up would ideally provide them each with more opportunities to create with the ball in their hands, and the move has predominantly been positive.
Russell and LaVine are not the exact type of player, but Darvin Ham would be wise to primarily separate the two's floor time in a similar manner. In this scenario, Reaves would be the unquestioned quarterback for the bench mob.
Gabe Vincent would seem to be a nice fit with Reaves in the backcourt, being that he is more of a defensive player and does not require the ball in his hands much on the other end. He, Christie, and Taurean Prince would (hopefully) combine to offer a formidable trio of solid 3&D sparks off the pine.
Christian Wood would theoretically receive more offensive responsibility off the bench with the loss of Rui Hachimura. He and Reaves could blossom into a nasty pick-and-roll/pop tag team, providing a substitute dimension of offensive firepower for the coaching staff to look to beyond the starters.