The Los Angeles Lakers are playing far from the lofty championship expectations. Instead, the Lakers are floundering in the backend of the playoff picture, positioned to participate in the play-in tournament.
On top of that, Los Angeles faces the troubling reality that the team won’t bring additional help aboard before Thursday’s trade deadline. The Lakers could attribute some of those difficulties involving Talen Horton-Tucker to Ben Simmons‘ unresolved dilemma with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Ben Simmons sits waffling in uncertainty in Philadelphia
Since last offseason, Ben Simmons has remained away from the 76ers as he waits for a fresh start elsewhere.
Philadelphia’s decision not to budge from the high asking price of acquiring an All-Star talent has stifled trade talks. The franchise recently spoke to nine teams, but that hasn’t led to any substantial discussions.
Meanwhile, the 76ers don’t appear to hold any urgency to move Simmons ahead of the Feb. 10 trade deadline. The 25-year-old is in the second year of his five-year, $177.2 million deal that runs through the 2024-25 campaign without any player or team options.
Both sides want to move in a new direction, but there remains little optimism the matter will resolve before next summer. Beyond that, Simmons’ lingering dilemma may be inadvertently causing more significant issues for the Lakers.
Ben Simmons may be causing a huge problem for the Lakers and Talen Horton-Tucker
Trade deadline rumors have become a prominent part of the discussion as the Lakers navigate through a disastrous 2021-22 campaign.
Despite inking Talen Horton-Tucker to a three-year, $30.7 million deal last offseason, the Lakers have gauged the open market. Much of which has led to underwhelming trade interest primarily due to his inconsistent performance.
However, Bleacher Report‘s Eric Pincus believes that Ben Simmon’s debacle with the 76ers is causing hesitance from teams to pursue Horton-Tucker.
“The whole Ben Simmons thing is complicated and is on Rich Paul’s resumé,” Pincus wrote. “Whether it’s Ben who’s doing what he’s doing or it’s Rich. The perception is, it’s Klutch. Do you want to get in bed with Klutch Sports on a player [Talen Horton-Tucker] who if he blows up, you now need to overpay? That’s what the Lakers are facing when it comes to trading him.”
The 21-year-old is represented by Rich Paul, adding another potential hurdle down the line for any team that acquires Horton-Tucker. Paul helped Anthony Davis push his way from the New Orleans Pelicans to the Lakers, and now Simmons is waiting for a new NBA home.
Horton-Tucker’s situation is drastically different, but the potential remains for a difficult path ahead. Simmons’ ordeal with the 76ers only casts a negative light on any player represented by Paul and Klutch Sports.
All that leaves teams like the Lakers stuck dealing with the consequences of having another problem on their hands.
Lakers must figure it out with their current roster
The Lakers are nowhere near where they thought they’d be at this point in the 2021-22 campaign.
Russell Westbrook’s presence has become a problem instead of a complementary piece alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Meanwhile, his lackluster performance has made him essentially an untradeable asset ahead of Thursday’s deadline.
The circumstances haven’t been great due to nagging injuries to James and Davis, but Westbrook hasn’t found any stable production. Disappointing performances like he had against the New York Knicks on Saturday, recording five points on 1-of-10 shooting with four turnovers, occur far too often.
Beyond Horton-Tucker, Los Angeles isn’t receiving much trade interest in DeAndre Jordan or Kent Bazemore. The Lakers are stuck facing the stark reality that they have to figure it out with their current roster. More importantly, the dire situation underlines that Westbrook must find his way if the franchise holds any realistic chance of vying for the 2022 NBA title.
Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.