Carmelo Anthony’s Untimely Injury Forces the Lakers to Reconsider Their Trade Deadline Approach

Another day, another member of the Los Angeles Lakers catching the injury bug. The latest victim is Carmelo Anthony, who suffered a right hamstring strain in LA’s one-point loss to the crosstown Clippers on Thursday. Not only are the Lakers even more shorthanded, but they must now re-evaluate their plans for what is sure to be an eventful trade deadline.

Carmelo Anthony suffered a hamstring strain

The Lakers were already taking on the Clippers without superstar LeBron James, who missed his fifth straight game due to swelling in his left knee. But in the second quarter, the team lost Anthony as well.

With less than two minutes to go in the first half, Anthony pulled up for a 13-foot jump shot and winced on his way down. Seconds later, he signaled for head coach Frank Vogel to call a timeout and replace him. He would miss the rest of the game, which ended in a 111-110 loss.

Anthony, who is set to be re-evaluated on Friday, has been one of the Purple and Gold’s rare pillars of health. The 37-year-old has played in 50 of LA’s 53 contests, averaging 13.4 points on 43.7% shooting. Only Russell Westbrook has played in more games (53) than the 19-year veteran.

Melo has been one of LA’s go-to scorers off the bench, scoring 20 or more points nine times. A big reason why is his 39.2% three-point rate, second on the team to Malik Monk. Best of all, he’s playing on a veteran’s minimum salary, giving the cash-strapped Lakers steady production for little cost.

Anthony’s injury complicates the Lakers’ trade deadline plans

Less than a week before the trade deadline, the Lakers are just 25-28. Needless to say, the 17-time champions are desperate for change.

But Anthony’s injury will only make deadline decisions more difficult.

Let’s say the 37-year-old Anthony will miss considerable time. Do the Lakers want to part with multiple pieces of their bench (Talen Horton-Tucker, Wayne Ellington, etc. ) in order to grab a big name? Doing so will make the starting five better, but it will also further damage LA’s thin depth in a year where no one can stay healthy.

On the flipside, Carmelo’s absence could simply force LA to look toward upgrading the bench. Rather than reeling in a big fish, the Lakers could look for cheap help that can attempt to replace Anthony and give LA some post-injury options. The downside to this, however, is striking a deal that might ultimately make little impact on LA at the end of the day.

Anthony is one of the few players the Lakers couldn’t afford to lose this season. Especially at a critical juncture like this.

The Lakers should focus on acquiring depth

The Lakers can either go star-shopping or bargain-hunting at the deadline. In light of Anthony’s hamstring, they should opt for the latter.

As tempting as it might be to sell all possible assets for someone like Jerami Grant, LA’s lack of depth has been a major killer. While some teams can survive injuries to key starters, the 38 combined games missed by James and Anthony Davis have gutted the Purple and Gold. Behind every great starting lineup in Golden State, Phoenix, and Memphis, there’s a quality bench able to keep them afloat in times of trouble.

Anthony was one of LA’s most valuable depth pieces and certainly the most available. The Lakers must now try to fill his role with alternatives that won’t cost an arm and a leg.

One outside-the-box solution may be to reconsider a Westbrook deal. Although LA wouldn’t be receiving a player of Russ’ caliber, finding a way to add 2-3 quality vets can be a sufficient way to replace Anthony and adjust a lackluster bench.

The Lakers are a superstar-obsessed team. But if Carmelo is out for a while, they need to shift their trade deadline focus to buffing up the supporting cast.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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