Sleeper trade targets for the Los Angeles Lakers to pursue

Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers
Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

By now we have all heard the old sad song about the need for a major trade in Los Angeles. Any conversation centered around the Lakers is bound to steer into the trade rumor mill lane.

More specifically, these discussions are almost always going to feature a segment on the great Dejounte Murray versus Zach LaVine debate. Those two have been the most prominent names tied to LA, and are more than likely the biggest remaining fish available in the pond looking ahead to the 2024 NBA trade deadline.

There has certainly been a fair share of trade chatter circulating around the Lakers, and not all of it has included the star duo noted above. Guys like Bruce Brown, Tyus Jones, Gary Trent Jr. and Collin Sexton (among multiple others) have each seen their names in reports regarding the purple and gold. Those guys are all very talented basketball players in their own rights, but with all due respect to mainstream buzz, we enjoy exploring the unknown realms of the NBA trade universe.

On our latest exploration through the ever-mysterious world of professional basketball trades, we came across some highly intriguing beings who could feasibly elevate the ceiling of the Lakers up into space. Here are 5 subliminal sleeper targets for Rob Pelinka and the Los Angeles Lakers to consider chasing with their trade assets at the rapidly-approaching deadline.

Unsurprising yet unexpected Lakers trade targets:

Jerami Grant, Portland Trail Blazers

Perhaps there have been some mumbled murmurs connecting the Lakers to Grant in the past, but nothing that has ever been taken seriously among league circles. Whatever the case may be, it would be understandable for Los Angeles to have interest in the 6'8", 210-pound combo forward.

The 10-year vet has truly broken out of his offensive shell since ditching his defensive-stopper role with the Nuggets at the conclusion of the 2019-2020 campaign. His current employer in Portland may be riding the struggle bus once again in 2023-2024, but Grant has once again been solid. In his 42 games of action, the product of Syracuse is averaging 33.5 MPG, 21.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.8 BPG and 0.7 SPG. Possibly even more impressive has been his scoring efficiency, as he is currently riding cumulative shooting splits of 46/40.5/80.6 on the year.

His bloated contract is the only real eyebrow raiser in this scenario. The Blazers, who definitely regretted their decision to do so almost immediately after doing so, re-signed Grant to a 5-year, $160 million fully guaranteed contract this past offseason.

After the 2023-2024 season, he will still be owed roughly $96 million across the next 3 years before almost undoubtedly electing to exercise his $36.4 million player option for 2027-2028 (his age-34 season). The finances might be a bit funky, but Grant could plausibly slot in as a big-time third option next to LeBron and AD. Plus, he is a year younger than Davis which bodes well for the idea of keeping him around in the future.

Tim Hardaway Jr., Dallas Mavericks

If you look up the slang term "microwave scorer" in the English dictionary, you are bound to find a photograph from one of THJ's bucket-getting benders. Go ahead and take a look for yourself, we will wait...

Did you look? Hopefully not, because "microwave scorer" is jargon, silly. You would not find that combination of words condensed into one on any page of a Webster's Dictionary. It is not a genuine word.

Hardaway Jr. is, however, a genuine flamethrower. His hot streaks may come and go, but when he is hot we are talking scalding. You can darn near see steam resonating from his skin when he is in the middle of one of his heaters. He is the type of volume shooter who demands the attention and respect of perimeter defenders, which would leave Bron and AD licking their chops in the paint/on the attack.

We did get a taste of what life with Hardaway Jr. could look like in the form of the failed Malik Beasley experiment a season ago. THJ is a better all-around basketball player than his doppelgänger, but the two gentlemen are clearly cut from the same cloth when it comes to their strengths on the basketball court. Fans may be hesitant to nod in agreement with this potential trade target due to the trauma that Beasley inflicted via his abundant brick-laying, but Hardaway's success playing next to Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving bodes well for his compatibility with the Laker superstars.

Unexpected and unrealistic Lakers trade targets

Cameron Johnson, Brooklyn Nets

The Nets are once again toiling in the dreaded middle-of-the-pack tier of NBA teams, which could mean that some potential personnel changes are looming. If you are an NBA franchise, you are either trying to win a championship or you are trying to lose games for a high draft pick. When you get stuck somewhere in the middle, changes are more or less mandatory in the modern NBA.

That could eventually translate to veteran guys like Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Royce O'Neale (the 3 most commonly mentioned names for the Nets in trade reports) relocating to new locker rooms before the end of next week. It would make sense for Brooklyn to offload them in effort to build a quality young core around Mikal Bridges.

It would also make sense for Los Angeles to at least sniff around the availability of the soon-to-be 28-year-old Cameron Johnson. The Nets acquired CJ in the blockbuster Kevin Durant trade prior to last season's deadline, so their reluctance to lose him would be justifiable. Nonetheless, the lanky 6'8" sharpshooter (40.4% from 3 on over 6 attempts-per-game in 2023-2024) has seemingly regressed a bit in basically every statistical category outside of shooting when comparing this season to last. Maybe Sean Marks and his colleagues are having second thoughts about him?

Slippage aside, Johnson embodies the prototypical 3&D wing in today's NBA: tall, long arms, sweet shooting stroke, capable defense. Since coming over from Phoenix, he has even slowly shown signs of progression as a potential 3&D+ guy. He would not need to worry much about setting the table for his teammates were the Lakers to acquire him, he would simply need to set his sights on hitting shots and getting stops.

Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers

Assuredly this is the part where you are starting to ponder our sanity, right? Look, there is almost a zero percent chance that Joe Cronin coughs up his treasured Damian Lillard-pupil. However, have we not witnessed stranger events unfold at the NBA trade deadline?

Simons, who will turn 25 in June, has ever so quietly risen in the ranks of the league's most underrated players. Being that he plays on a small market team, the 6'3" Dame prodigy has largely flown under the radar throughout his career. His first four NBA seasons yielded heavy minutes as the second fiddle within Portland's point guard rotation behind the man with the wristwatch. Clearly, that time serving as Lillard's understudy was time well spent.

While he has missed some time with injury issues, Anfernee Simons has roughly duplicated his per-night statistical output from a season ago albeit with a slight uptick in assists. In the 25 games which he has taken the floor for Rip City in 2023-2024, he has put together per-game averages of 22.8 PPG (team leader), 3.5 RPG and 5.2 APG in his 33.4 MPG.

It is almost criminal just how silent the noise surrounding Simons name is, and it is about time that the young hooper receives the recognition he deserves. The 2021 AT&T Slam Dunk champion has all of the offensive tools you look for in a perimeter scoring threat, and it would be interesting to see how well he could fit with James and Davis.

Perhaps even more intriguing would be sitting back and watching him learn under the tutelage of LeBron stinking James. If you go from developing underneath the wing of Damian Lillard to being mentored by LeBron James, you are on the right track toward an extremely bright future.

Lauri Markkanen, Utah Jazz

Initial claims that the Jazz were open to moving Markkanen have tapered off recently, with many insiders viewing a possible trade as impossible. Well, in the wise words of Kevin Garnett: ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!

The 7-foot unicorn, fresh off of his first All-Star appearance in 2022-2023, has picked up right where he left off a season ago. The Finnish freak is once again scoring at a high level (23.5 PPG), providing strong contributions on the glass (8.7 RPG), knocking down shots efficiently (39.6% from downtown on 8 attempts-per-game), and just overall sprouting into the type of player that everyone was wishing he would evolve into.

All of those things being stated, Markkanen will turn 27 in May and hits unrestricted free agency after next season. With the Jazz floundering around the aforementioned black hole of mediocrity in the NBA, Danny Ainge pivoting from the team's present focal point may not be as appalling as you would think.

Utah has a few nice young pieces around Lauri (Collin Sexton, Walker Kessler, Keyonte George, etc.), but envisioning this team graduating into the class of contenders within the next few seasons seems wishful. The organization already initiated a semi-rebuild following the Rudy Gobert + Donovan Mitchell blockbusters, now it could be time for them to rip off the bandaid and prioritize rebuilding around the younger guys and their stacked compilation of draft capital.