Los Angeles Lakers must turn to New Orleans to Upgrade Roster

The Los Angeles Lakers are in a bind. Ravaged by COVID-19 protocols and injuries, Los Angeles has sputtered to a 20-19 record. LeBron James has been a beast in his 19th season, averaging 28.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 6.5 assists on 52-37-77 but the team has failed to gel. Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook are supporting James’ sensational play but the roster is severely flawed.

In order for the Lakers to upgrade the roster, they must turn to the New Orleans Pelicans for help.

Los Angeles Lakers must turn to New Orleans to Upgrade Roster

Anthony Davis trade has come back to bite

When the Lakers traded for Anthony Davis in 2019-20, it was one of the biggest deals in recent memory. New Orleans received Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks. The issue is the protections given to the Pelicans in 2024 and 2025.

New Orleans has the option of taking the Lakers 2024 pick or deferring it to 2025. The problem for Los Angeles is it commits two first-round picks in 2024 and 2025 now, making them ineligible to be traded. If the Los Angeles Lakers can swing a deal to lift that protection, it would provide much-needed flexibility to upgrade the roster.

But what will it cost?

New Orleans has all the leverage over the Los Angeles Lakers

The Pelicans can take the Lakers to the cleaners asking for a combination of second-round picks, players, and pick swaps. Los Angeles will likely be in the lottery in the next five seasons and would be mortgaging their entire future to chase more silverware. The Lakers have the following second-round picks below:

In terms of personal, the Lakers only have two intriguing pieces in Talen Horton-Tucker and Undrafted Rookie Austin Reaves. Tucker is the only middle salary Los Angeles can use to match in a wider deal (approximately $9-million per season) while Reeves is firmly in their rotation. Neither one of these players realistically move the needle for New Orleans.

What can the Los Angeles Lakers offer New Orleans?

Given the position the Lakers are in, they may be in a position where they must overpay. This is an opportunity to essentially lock the Lakers into oblivion once James, Westbrook retire, and Davis enters his early 30’s. If they are really chasing another title, Los Angeles could offer three second-round picks to remove the protection.

There is conjecture surrounding the value of second-round picks but Philadelphia legend Sam Hinkie popularized the acquisition. During the rebuilding process, Hinkie collected all picks and the 76ers uncovered players who’ve gone on to have productive careers (Jerami Grant, Richaun Holmes, Christian Wood, Alex Caruso just to name a few).  Teams are now seeking value in the second round using intelligent scouting teams.

There are limits to what the Lakers should offer but they aren’t in a position to play both sides of the coin. It’s going to take a good offer for David Griffin and co. to play ball.

Final Thoughts

If the Lakers are serious about upgrading their roster, they are at the mercy of the Pelicans and will need to entice them to work together. Los Angeles is super weak rebounding the ball and almost all facets on defense, particularly pick and roll. They need to give themselves as many options as possible to upgrade and this is the first step.

For the Pelicans, why would they bother to help a team that stole their franchise player two years ago? The simple answer is New Orleans is the smallest market in the NBA so controlling as much of the board as possible should interest them.

Ultimately, it’s up to the Lakers to make the move.

 

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.