The NBA Trade Deadline has passed and the Lakers were unable to make any major moves to help bolster their roster. One year ago, the team was in a prime position to land a star to help complement LeBron James and Anthony Davis. On deadline day, the team was in talks of landing Kyle Lowry, but the team didn’t want to part with Talen Horton Tucker.
The team then made it to the offseason and there were reports that the team nearly acquired Lowry again. Had this happened, it would have triggered a domino effect that would have changed the entire landscape of the Lakers team. Had the team made the acquisition, this Lakers team might have been a championship contender instead of a team dangling at the back of the playoff race.
The Lakers made a mistake, a very costly one when you break it down. By adding Russell Westbrook, it cost the team a hefty haul in return, but that wasn’t all. When the Lakers brought Westbrook to the team, it negated the chance of truly building a complete team. Now, all the Lakers can do is think about where they could be right now had that made these moves instead.
Trade Package: Dennis Schroder (sign-and-trade), Talen Horton-Tucker
After the season, Schroder was looking for a large contract extension. The Lakers were not able to afford him. They could have made a sign-and-trade, but the team elected to go in a different direction. When Lowry completed a sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat, he was given a three-year, $85 million contract. Realistically, the Lakers could have afforded that, or even negotiated a contract for a lower price.
The parting piece would have been dealing with Horton-Tucker, who is 21 years old. The team didn’t want to part with their younger prospect, which promptly ended those discussions. If the Lakers capitalized on this move, they would have been able to build around their two stars, rather than add a third superstar in Russell Westbrook.
Trade Package: Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
When the Lakers traded for Westbrook, the team traded their two best outside shooters in Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Both led the Lakers in three-point field goals last year. With the addition of Westbrook, it hurt the team’s outside shooting. Instead of trading for Westbrook, who is not a good three-point shooter, they could have doubled down and traded for an exceptional three-point shooter in Buddy Hield.
Hield, who was recently acquired by the Pacers, is a career 40% shooter from three-point range. He has been a top finisher in made three-point field goals the last few years. With Hield in the lineup, it would have stretched the floor. We saw that in 2020 with the inside and outside game with KCP and Davis. Hield is a better shooter and would have complemented the superstars with his role.
Trade Package: Alex Caruso (sign-and-trade), Montrezl Harrell, 2027 First-Round-Pick
There were talks that the Lakers were in talks to trade for DeMar DeRozan this past offseason. It just didn’t materialize because the team didn’t have the assets to offer. Imagine if the Lakers had kept those assets. Harrell, being one of those assets in the Westbrook trade, could have been shipped with his expiring contract, and the first-round pick would have been the foundation. Alex Caruso would have been a true Gregg Popovich player that could have joined the team with ease.
As for DeRozan, he is from Los Angeles and has made hints that he wanted to play for the Lakers in his career. If his former teammate in Lowry joined the Lakers, that would have been enough for DeRozan to take less money to chase a championship. Lowry and DeRozan failed in Toronto despite some successful years. To win in his home state of California would have been worth the discounted price tag.
Kyle Lowry, Buddy Hield, DeMar DeRozan
LeBron James, Anthony Davis
The Lakers starting lineup features a combination of Russell Westbrook, Malik Monk, Trevor Ariza, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis. This lineup lacks shooting from the outside. It also features two players in Westbrook and LeBron who own a usage rate of about 30% on offense. We have seen that those two players cannot coexist while on the floor and the rest of the team suffers.
If this new hypothetical lineup, which could have happened, existed, we are looking at a complete team. Lowry could run the offense and play defense, while Hield could hit the outside shots when needed. It frees up the post as teams would not just clog the inside and force the Lakers to shoot. LeBron could trade roles with Lowry at that point and it would be just fine. DeRozan gives the team the midrange game they desperately need. You are looking at three players who can make their shots at three different areas of the court.
Lakers Would Have A Championship Squad
If the Lakers did a smarter job, they wouldn’t have had to trade for Westbrook. They could have used their pieces in Schroder and Caruso to make other deals to better their team. Think about it. The team lost both to free agency, Schroder to the Celtics and Caruso to the Bulls, while also losing KCP, Kuzma, and Harrell. What they got back in return was Westbrook, who was coming off a triple-double season, but not someone who was going to mesh with another ball-dominant player in LeBron.
When you look at the Lakers on paper, they are one-sided on offense. They lack the true shooters and they are older. While Lowry and DeRozan are both in their 30s, they at least fulfill a role to make the team better. Westbrook brought great stats, but not something that made the team better. He took away from the team their best outside shooters and replaced it with himself who is shooting 29.8% from three-point range.
The Lakers could have had a championship squad. Look at the two best teams in the Western Conference. The Suns have a complete starting lineup with Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, and Deandre Ayton. The Warriors have a complete starting lineup with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Otto Porter Jr., and Kevon Looney. This lineup, that could have been put together, would have been a complete starting lineup. Instead, they shot for the stars, it completely backfired, and we are looking at a wasted year of LeBron James.