Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka went a different direction in team building around LeBron James than we saw in Cleveland and Miami: Get more playmakers on the court, more ball handlers so “we don’t run everything through him because now it is Cleveland all over again.”
Except in an NBA increasingly about spacing and shooting, the Lakers lack enough of it. It has showed and hurt their halfcourt offense this season.
The Lakers may try to add shooters at the deadline, so long as those additions don’t mess with next summer’s cap space and the ability to chase another star player next July. Although, what they’d prefer is a blockbuster deal, reports Bill Oram at The Athletic. Here are the Lakers’ two options, according to the sources Oram spoke with:
• The trade that shores up the current roster and increases the Lakers’ chances of saving face and making the playoffs.
• A blockbuster that lands the Lakers a second superstar that makes them a true threat in the Western Conference this season and beyond….
A team source said the Lakers will pursue any 3-point shooter on an expiring deal, a group expected to include former Laker Wayne Ellington, Orlando’s Terrence Ross, Memphis’ Garrett Temple and Trevor Ariza, who many believe could be on the move again before the deadline if Washington continues to falter in the East.
There almost certainly are going to be no blockbusters at this trade deadline. For the Lakers, Anthony Davis would be the primary target, but as I have reported before from sources (as have numerous others, plus the direct statements of coach Alvin Gentry) the Pelicans have zero intention of trading Davis at the deadline. They are actively trying to add players to entice and keep Davis as a free agent. Even if Davis requested a trade — and he has not done so, nor is he expected to — it would not happen until this summer (New Orleans would want Boston and other teams in on the bidding process). Along those same lines, the Raptors are not trading Kawhi Leonard. Players such as Mike Conley (making more than $30 million a season for the next two seasons after this) are not worth the price the Lakers would have to pay.
Shooting, however, makes sense. Especially once LeBron returns, his gravity draws defenders in, and his passes find open shooters.
It should be noted that sources have told me, with their recent run of improved play, the Wizards are not making Ariza or anyone else available (at least at a reasonable price). Maybe that changes between now and the Feb. 7 deadline if the team struggles.
The Lakers have slipped to ninth in the West without LeBron, and now sit 1.5 games out of the playoffs. Worse yet, they are about to head into a gauntlet — their toughest stretch of the schedule is just ahead. LeBron’s return will help the team survive this stretch, but the roster needs more scoring if the Lakers are going to be certain they make the postseason. Or, at least to get guys healthy in time to make a push.