Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers suffered what’s likely their worst loss of the season. On Thursday, they did absolutely nothing to remedy it.
The Lakers exited the trade deadline with the exact same roster they entered it with. Considering they’re 26-30, it’s hard to imagine they wanted it that way. Especially with LeBron James in Rob Pelinka’s ear pushing for any way to make an improvement.
It’s not like the deadline was quiet. Far from it, actually. But LA’s lack of activity is proof the rest of the league looks at this disappointing Lakers squad and sees no value whatsoever.
The Lakers were unable to make a move at the trade deadline
Every day for the last several weeks, the Lakers were involved in some type of trade rumor. In no particular order, LA was linked to bigger names like John Wall and Jerami Grant, as well as role players like Cam Reddish and Alec Burks. Though at the end of the day, none of the prospective players will be donning Purple and Gold.
That’s not to say they weren’t trying to make a move. It’s been well-reported LA attempted to find a taker for Russell Westbrook. However, his poor play and $47 million salary next season made him a hard sell. Additionally, LA was using Talen Horton-Tucker and Kendrick Nunn as its primary trade chips to land an impact player.
The 2021-22 campaign hasn’t gone how LeBron and company expected. The King played a major role in reshaping the roster, mostly due to the Westbrook trade with the Washington Wizards. But this shaky roster is the reason LA began the day ninth in the Western Conference.
LA’s supporting cast has proven to be worthless
If there’s one overarching message to take away from this deadline, it’s that LA’s assets possess very little value. In case you needed the proof, just ask the 29 other teams.
The Lakers have spent weeks trying to offer Horton-Tucker and/or Nunn in a deal. Both players have youth on their side, as well as contracts LA could move in order to take on a larger deal. But neither have done themselves any favors to increase their trade value. THT has taken a step back in his once-promising development, while Nunn has missed the entire season to a bone bruise in his knee.
Then, there’s Westbrook. The only teams even capable of taking on the former MVP are bottom-feeders like the Houston Rockets. But even they require some level of incentive, namely draft picks. And the Lakers barely have those to offer, as a 2027 first-round pick doesn’t mean a whole lot to most clubs.
As for the rest of the roster, you’re looking at a bunch of veterans playing below their minimum price tags. Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington, DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard, and Avery Bradley present negative value to any team they’re on.
In hindsight, it’s obvious the Lakers wouldn’t be able to make a move. Their two featured assets are either underperforming or unavailable. The majority of their bench consists of old, washed-up vets. And they don’t possess enough draft capital to sucker a team into acquiring the overpaid Westbrook.
No wonder LeBron just wants to go home and drink wine after a loss.
Hope might not be lost yet for LeBron James and the Lakers
Sure, Feb. 10 represented the final day to trade. But it’s not the last day teams can make a move in general.
Expect the Lakers to prepare for the buyout market. Much as they’ve done in season’s past with Markieff Morris and Andre Drummond, look for Pelinka (and LeBron) to try to convince a number of vets to join LA. Goran Dragic and Tristan Thompson are two such options; each of whom is expected to be bought out after moving to non-contenders.
The Lakers could also benefit from Nunn’s return. Although the goalposts for his return have been pushed back into next month, the former Rookie of the Year finalist can add a much-needed spark to an otherwise-dull team.
Transactions aside, the Lakers still have LeBron and AD. Although the team hasn’t been great when healthy, it wouldn’t be 26-30 if the two superstars didn’t miss a combined 38 games.
There’s no doubt LA has done very little to inspire confidence. And after a quiet deadline, the road to redemption will be that much tougher.