Often, good players on bad teams get traded. Winning teams have more use for the players, and bad teams would rather get assets that will help down the road.
In the last two years, the NBA’s worst teams have traded a couple of their best players during the season:
- 2013-14 Bucks (Gary Neal, Luke Ridnour)
- 2013-14 76ers (Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes)
- 2012-13 Magic (J.J. Redick, Josh McRoberts)
Will the 2014-15 Lakers join the club?
At 0-4, they appear headed toward the cellar, but their top player is a bit more special than J.J. Redick or Evan Turner.
Kobe Bryant has looked pretty good this season, averaging 24.8 points per game. So far, he’s met the most optimistic reasonable expectations after playing just six games a year ago due to injury.
He’s 36 and owed $48.5 million this season and next, two factors that dramatically diminish his trade value. But he’s playing well enough and has such a great history of playoff success that the Lakers could probably find an interested contender – if they want. And if Kobe wants.
Kobe has a no-trade clause, putting any potential deal in his hands. Would he consider a trade?
“I hear the chatter of Kobe should ask out and he should go and play for a contender in this latter stage of his career,” Bryant told Yahoo Sports. “But that’s not what I do. I’m extremely loyal to the Lakers.
“I believe in fighting through the tough times as well as enjoying the good times. It’s my responsibility to get us to be the best that we can be. It’s important that we approach that on a day-to-day basis.”
“We can’t get discouraged by it,” Bryant said. “It’s a very long season. You just have to stay the course. Keep on looking to improve, keep on looking to get better and things will eventually break.
“I’ve enjoyed a great amount of success here. You can’t just enjoy the successful times and then run away from the bad ones. No, I don’t even think about [departing]. I’m a Laker.”
Apparently, $48.5 million buys a lot of loyalty, because although Kobe’s success in Los Angeles plays a part, it’s not the whole story. Kobe had already won three championships with the Lakers when he strongly considered the Clippers as a free agent in 2004 and when he demanded a trade in 2007.
The Lakers invested in Kobe as a business decision. He maximizes the team’s popularity, allowing the Lakers to continue selling tickets at exorbitant prices. How well they play and how well he plays are only part of the story.
So, I doubt either side will pursue a trade.
But here’s the rub: Things won’t necessarily break for the Lakers. Sure, they won’t go winless. And like all teams, they’ll have runs of success.
Turning their season around, though? Don’t count on it.
This is a poor team playing poorly, and Kobe has endured only four games of that so far. It’s possible his tune changes in 40 games.
Again, I’d be surprised if Kobe’s frustration ever reaches the point he wants a trade, but there’s nothing binding about his desire to stay with the Lakers. If he wants to change his mind, he can.