LA’s 2021-22 campaign is a massive disappointment. But the 23-24 Purple and Gold are anxious to right the ship, reportedly targeting Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant in a trade. But with limited resources at their disposal, the Lakers have an uphill battle to acquire Grant or anyone else of value by the deadline.
The Los Angeles Lakers struck out on Jerami Grant
Many thought, including the Lakers themselves, the combination of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook would be enough to make them contenders. But thanks to Westbrook’s shortcomings, Davis’ MCL sprain, and a shallow bench, LA is a longshot to even win a playoff series, let alone a championship.
General manager Rob Pelinka is doing his best to turn around LA’s fortunes by next month’s deadline. The latest offer, as reported by Marc Stein on Substack, would have Grant coming to the Lakers in exchange for Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, and a 2027 first-round pick. However, the package was rejected by Detroit.
Grant, 27, is one of the hottest names on the trade market. The eighth-year veteran has gradually become one of the better power forwards in basketball, averaging 20 or more points in each of the past two seasons. He’s also playing on the second year of a very affordable three-year, $60 million contract.
The 11-35 Pistons would like to move Grant, who hasn’t played since Dec. 10 after injuring his thumb and undergoing surgery. However, the 6-foot-8 forward is on the eve of returning to action; perfect timing for a possible trade.
The Lakers don’t have enough assets to acquire a game-changing player
Through 47 games, LA knows it needs to make some sort of change. The easiest way to go about that is through the trade market, as the Purple and Gold have been linked to Grant, Myles Turner, and even disgruntled star Ben Simmons.
However, with limited pieces to send in any trade, the Lakers must significantly lower their expectations.
LA has big money going toward three stars in LeBron, AD, and Westbrook. The first two aren’t going anywhere and neither is Westbrook, although the Lakers would love a team to take him off their hands. Meanwhile, the rest of the roster is comprised of Horton-Tucker, Nunn, and a collection of minimum-salary vets on expiring deals.
The problem with that roster build is simple. In order to acquire a player like Grant, who’s making $20 million this season, the cash-strapped Lakers would have to send some salary back in return. For a rebuilding team like Detroit, you’re not going to send any of the All-Stars. That leaves Horton-Tucker and Nunn, who each make $9.5 and $5 million this year.
No matter which star player the Lakers target, they will have to include THT and Nunn in an offer. But if the other party isn’t high on both players, it’s a no-go.
Additionally, LA’s 2027 first-round pick is the earliest available first it’s allowed to deal. That is likely the most valuable asset in its arsenal. But is that enough to land a borderline star? In Grant’s case, it reportedly wasn’t.
There are a few low-cost options for the Lakers to explore
If there is something you can be certain about, it’s that the Lakers will aggressively work the phones ahead of the Feb. 10 trade deadline. But at some point, the 17-time champions must temper expectations and look at more-affordable ways of improvement.
That could mean contacting a team like the Portland Trail Blazers, No, not for a blockbuster Damian Lillard trade, but to look at veterans like Robert Covington or Larry Nance, the latter of whom began his career with the Purple and Gold. Portland is aiming to shed some veterans off the books and could deal Covington or Nance for a very reasonable package of players and/or picks.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are another team LA should be calling. They have overlooked role players like Kenrich Williams, a low-cost 3-and-D guard the Lakers could inquire about. And rather than trading Horton-Tucker, Nunn, and a first and depleting all assets, LA could try to acquire Williams for multiple second-rounders and one or two low-cost vets, while also taking someone like Mike Muscala back to relieve OKC of another $3.5 million.
Is Robert Covington or Kenrich Williams a game-changing player? No, of course not. But can they improve the Lakers? They sure can. And best of all, players like that can be had without sacrificing every single asset they have at their disposal.
The Lakers are traditionally a franchise that loves big-game hunting and collecting stars. But this trade deadline is proving how that school of thought must temporarily change.