The Los Angeles Lakers are stuck in a season-long rut, and it’s unlikely the trade deadline changes that. Even factoring in the few games both LeBron James and Anthony Davis have been healthy, the Lakers have failed to stay above .500 for long, if at all.
Although they are limited in what they can pull off at the deadline, the Lakers are still attempting to move on from a number of specific veterans. If they’re successful in doing so, both LeBron and AD will be forced to step up in semi-unfamiliar roles.
The Los Angeles Lakers are shopping multiple veterans, including both of their centers
Beyond LA’s problems with health and inconsistency, its overall roster has been a major disappointment.
General manager Rob Pelinka formed this team around the high-priced James, Davis, and Russell Westbrook. Which meant flaking them with multiple past-their-prime veterans on minimum salaries. Aside from guys like Malik Monk and Carmelo Anthony, the majority of the bench has failed to support the stars.
Now, with less than a week until the trade deadline, Pelinka is hoping to ship out a few of his bigger mistakes.
Earlier this week, Bleacher Report’s Jake Fisher appeared on The NBA Chats podcast to talk deadline. While Fischer confirmed previous rumors about the Lakers shopping De’Andre Jordan and Kent Bazemore, he also threw out another name — eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard.
“Listen, the Lakers are obviously not in a great spot right now. And they’re looking. They’re trying,” Fischer explained. “From DeAndre Jordan, to Dwight Howard, to the Kent Bazemores of the world, to trying to see what this Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, and first-round pick package can get.”
While it’s the first time Howard has been explicitly mentioned, it’s not surprising. The 36-year-old has been in and out of the rotation, especially over the last two months. The future Hall of Famer is averaging just 5.2 points and 5.4 rebounds in 14.5 minutes per game.
Even though Howard’s playing time has declined, he’s still seeing more action than the other two vets Fisher mentioned. Bazemore is a marginal wing who’s a coin flip to take the court each night, while Jordan has played in three games since Dec. 23.
Trading Howard and Jordan would place added pressure on LeBron James and Anthony Davis
Dumping reserves will intensify the pressure on James and Davis, the two stars expected to carry LA into the playoffs. Even if the reserves are as sparingly-used as Bazemore, Jordan, and Howard of late. But by trading Jordan and Howard, the two true centers on the roster, the Purple and Gold will be counting on LeBron and AD more than ever.
LA has committed to more small-ball lineups for the last several weeks. The change initially started with James at the 5 almost two weeks after AD’s MCL sprain in December. After juggling a few different lineups since then, Davis started at center once LeBron started receiving treatment for his swollen knee.
From Dec. 28, the day of LeBron’s first start at center, up until Davis’ return on Jan. 25, the Lakers went 6-2 on nights they deployed a small-ball starting lineup. Though they are just 1-3 since when James is out and Davis at the 5.
The Lakers are a better basketball team when LeBron, AD, and Stanley Johnson are serving as the primary bigs. But if Jordan and Howard are gone, LA will officially be committing those three to handle the physicality of playing in the post, particularly on the defensive end. Not to mention, should Davis go down, there would be nobody equipped to handle larger-sized opponents.
James and Davis are both talented enough to handle more center demands if need be. How it affects their bodies, on the other hand, will determine how much LA’s risk would pay off.
The Lakers could still attack the buyout market for big men
Although the Purple and Gold appear ready to move on from Howard and Jordan, they might not be completely ready to move on from big men altogether.
Fischer once again came down with a scoop regarding LA’s interest in Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Millsap. The four-time All-Star could be a target if the Nets buy out the remainder of his contract after the deadline.
Just as they did last season with Andre Drummond, the Lakers could add someone like Millsap to provide more competent frontcourt depth. Even if he is strictly a reserve, the 36-year-old would be a sizable upgrade over LA’s current centers.
That being said, there’s no guarantee the Lakers would convince Millsap or any other buyout candidate to join their middling team. And it’s not as if trading Howard, Jordan, or Bazemore will secure the services of anyone relevant. So if the Lakers do pull off a deal involving one or both of their centers, LeBron and AD must be ready for the new challenge.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.