Report: Lakers, Clippers arms race in West with Knicks’ Marcus Morris in middle of it

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The Lakers and Clippers are the two favorites to come out of the West.

They are the top two teams in the West standings, they have elite talent with championship pedigrees, and the margin between these teams is thin.

Which has led to an arms race for role players at the trade deadline — particularly the Knicks’ Marcus Morris — as the teams look for an advantage. Adrian Wojnarowski said as much on an ESPN draft special.

After months of “we want to re-sign him” posturing, the new Knicks management is getting down to the business of trading Morris. Multiple reports confirm the news that the Knicks are intent on moving Morris, including from Marc Stein of the New York Times.

The question is, where? On SportsCenter, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said the two Los Angeles teams are at the front of the pack.

The challenge for the Lakers is trade construction. Kyle Kuzma is the bait, and the Knicks like the young forward, but he only makes $2 million, to match salaries the Lakers would have to throw in Danny Green (something they do not want to do), or get the Knicks to accept a combination of players with Kuz (DeMarcus Cousins and Avery Bradley would work, for example). The question the Lakers need to ask themselves becomes, are they better with Morris but no Kuzma and Green (or Bradley)?

The Clippers have their 2020 first-round pick and Mo Harkless to make a deal. The Knicks reportedly want Landry Shamett and are getting shot down.

This is a wide-ranging race between the Lakers and Clippers, with Memphis’ Andre Iguodala being another target. Iguodala makes $17.1 million, making it almost essential the Lakers put Green in any offer. The Clippers could use their 2020 first-rounder here plus Harkless and someone like Jerome Robinson to make the numbers work. It would be very difficult for either the Lakers or Clippers to go after both.

The Lakers made calls on Dennis Schroder of Oklahoma City and Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie, but sources told NBC Sports those are more exploratory than anything substantial. In both cases, their teams want to keep those guards.

Around the league, the sense has been for a while that the Clippers would make a trade before the deadline — ideally looking for size and toughness, which is why Morris makes sense — while the Lakers were more likely to wait for the buyout market.

Either way, a lot of eyes are going to be on Los Angeles the next 24 hours before the NBA trade deadline as one move could tip the balance in the West.