The Los Angeles Lakers have stumbled through the first two months of the season, creating serious doubt they can compete for an NBA title. It’s led star forward LeBron James to openly question whether the roster can vie for a championship. These factors have also pushed the Lakers heavily into the trade market, eyeing two particular players.
Lakers continue to tumble toward disappointment
The Lakers’ roller-coaster season continues as the team is heading in a downward direction again after a three-game skid.
Los Angeles is coming off a disappointing loss to the Phoenix Suns, demonstrating how far they stand from title contention. Their shorthanded roster without Anthony Davis combined with COVID-19 issues has put them in a rough position.
Those factors have pushed the Lakers into the trade market specifically eyeing two players.
Lakers are serving themselves a reality check by pursuing a major trade for Ben Simmons or Jerami Grant
The Lakers are nowhere near where they expected to be 32 games into the season, sitting at a .500 mark hovering in the backend of the Western Conference playoff picture.
Injuries and COVID-19 issues may have heavily impacted Los Angeles’ struggles, but it hasn’t stopped general manager Rob Pelinka from exploring the trade market. During an interview on the Pat McAfee Show on Wednesday, Sham Charania of The Athletic voiced that the Lakers have their eyes on acquiring either Ben Simmons or Jerami Grant.
“This team doesn’t look like it has the young legs that they need to have, and that’s why I’ve heard that they have been active in the trade market,” Charania said. “When you look at a guy like Ben Simmons, they’d love to get their hands on a guy like him. Jerami Grant, those are the types of guys that they need on this team.”
Simmons and Grant have long been linked to the Lakers, but the logistics of any trade are murky. Outside of the star power, Talen Horton-Tucker is the next up with a $9 million salary, followed by Kendrick Nunn at $5 million.
Beyond that, the rest of the roster is under veteran minimum deals, making the financial aspect a puzzling part of the equation. With the Lakers up against the salary cap, they must match the incoming money in any trade. Simmons is in the second year of his five-year, $177.2 million deal with a $33 million salary. Meanwhile, Grant is making $20 million this season in the second year of his three-year, $60 million contract.
All that suggests the Lakers would need to go the route of bringing in a third team to make the financials line up accordingly. Nonetheless, it’s clear that Los Angeles wants to shake things up to provide them a much-needed lift.
Lakers needs to take the pressure off LeBron James’ shoulders
The Lakers sit in a tough spot as the pressure is on their 36-year-old star in his 19th season to lead them through the tough stretch ahead.
Davis’ absence adds to the mess as it forces James to take on an increased offensive workload despite Russell Westbrook’s presence. The star point guard will certainly help lessen that responsibility, but it’s on the four-time league MVP’s shoulders to lead them behind his play.
Any trade is focused on getting the most out of James’ time as he’s still performing at an elite level. He’s also only under contract through next season, further ramping up the necessity to have a championship-caliber roster around him.
Regardless of the Lakers’ moves, James will play a significant factor in determining his team’s fate.
Contract figures courtesy Spotrac.