Will the Lakers make a bold deadline deal?

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers are having yet another roller-coaster season filled with drastic ups and downs. From Russell Westbrook becoming arguably the best sixth man in the league to Anthony Davis playing like the league’s MVP to ultimately getting injured once again to the team sitting three games below .5oo a month away from the NBA trade deadline.

At this point, there’s no telling which way the Lakers front office will go in the coming weeks. There’s no doubt that this team isn’t a title contender right now, nor may it be, even if moves are made ahead of the deadline on Feb. 9.

Fortunately, the Lakers have a new sense of optimism, even with Davis’ status still up in the air. Thomas Bryant has resurrected his career where it began, as he’s played well, filling in for the eight-time All-Star forward. Westbrook continues to prove he can play at a high level off the bench, while LeBron James has kept Father Time at bay even though he’s missed games here and there.

The real question now is whether general manager Rob Pelinka pursues a major or minor deal(s) with the clocking ticking on the trade deadline. There are a few things to take into account as the deadline approaches.

LeBron James, Lakers
Jan 7, 2023; Sacramento, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) stands on the court during the playing of the national anthem before the start of the game against the Sacramento Kings at the Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Is this LeBron’s Last Season in LA?

Although anything can happen from here on out that may change what this team does in the summer, it seems as though James could be playing his last season in Purple and Gold. He’s dropped some hints lately about his mindset and intentions, with the four-time NBA champion basically letting it be known that he no longer is content with not playing on a championship contender.

In a recent interview with Dave McMenamin of ESPN, James said the following about his desire to get back to playing at a championship level.

“I want to win. [The losing is] not sitting well with me,” James said. “I don’t like having accomplishments, and it don’t feel right, when it comes in a losing effort. … So as we sit here right now as a franchise and as a team that’s below .500 — we’ve been playing some good basketball as of late, but we want to and I want to win at the highest level. Breaking records or setting records or passing greats in a losing effort has never been a DNA of mine.”

James is as tactical as they come in terms of making vague statements that can be interpreted one way or the other. This statement indicates he is done messing around and wants the Lakers brass to make something happen to help right the ship before the season is lost, if it’s not already.

As for James’ immediate future, he will not be traded ahead of the Feb. 9 deadline due to the extension he signed last summer, which is still somewhat of a baffling move if he was assured the team would do what it could to contend this year. He could’ve had leverage over the Lakers front office had he chosen not to sign the extension, but now he’s stuck in Los Angeles and could very well be traded this summer, even though he’ll almost certainly have a say in where he goes unless things get ugly internally.

If Pelinka and company want to salvage this season and potentially set things up for next season, it would be safe to say something substantial needs to happen over the next few weeks. However, the team may be thinking far beyond LeBron’s stint in Los Angeles, with plans on keeping their trade assets, namely the two first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 they seem to covet.

Oct 26, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) is fouled by Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) in the first quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Davis’ Injury Issues

One of the main reasons the Lakers may be holding back on making trades this season is that they may have lost faith in Davis and his ability to stay healthy. When he’s 100 percent and fully engaged, few players on the planet can contend with the versatile forward. He proved that convincingly by going head-to-head with Giannis Antetokounmpo on the road earlier this season, dropping 44 points on the two-time NBA MVP and leading the Lakers to a win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Unfortunately, the injury bug gets the best of Davis on annual basis. This season seemed different as he appeared to turn back the clock while drawing MVP buzz in the process. Still, a fluke injury against the Denver Nuggets has sidelined him for 13 games thus far, with no real timetable for his return despite a recent report suggesting the injury might not be as bad as once thought.

However, the Lakers have won seven of the 13 games Davis has missed, with Bryant helping shoulder the load much better than anticipated. Obviously, this team is still that much better with Davis back on the floor, but the same old story has to have the team’s higher-ups thinking about the future without depending on a healthy Davis.

Regardless of the end result of this season, the summer will be an interesting one for the Lakers, with some tough decisions to make about the future with Davis and James. This leads to an equally interesting few weeks ahead, with some big names and some role players potentially in the Lakers’ crosshairs.

Buddy Hield, Pacers
Jan 4, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield (24) reacts after his three pointer against the Philadelphia 76ers during the fourth quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Trade Rumors: Is There Any Move for the Lakers Worth Making?

One of the great things about sports is the simple fact that anything can happen, and a team down in the dumps can quickly turn things around with an influx of talent and or motivation. The Lakers have proven over the last couple of weeks that they can play inspired basketball, with the five-game winning streak, even with injuries piling up, being a strong reason for optimism.

However, outside of a blockbuster deal for Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan or Bradley Beal, I’m not sure if there’s a deal worth making. Some of the names linked to the Lakers as of late include Kyle Kuzma, Cam Reddish, Myles Turner, Buddy Hield, Bojan Bogdanovic and Terry Rozier.

There’s no doubt some interesting trade scenarios, with Turner and Hield coming to Los Angeles being one kicked around endlessly being one. The return of Kuzma is also intriguing, as well as Bogdanovic being an option.

Do any of these trade options really move the needle for the Lakers?

Personally, I’d say no. I think these moves would ultimately make the roster better, and that’s the goal, but will it thrust the team into title-contending status? Probably not.

Despite my opinion, I will say that optimism is something that should be considered, especially when you have stars like James, Davis and Westbrook on the squad. Sometimes teams can make some magic with even the most likely of rosters, and that’s what the team should strive for as this window with superstars leading the way could be closing this year.

Admittedly, I’ve been as pessimistic as they come when it comes to the immediate future of this team, but this squad has surprised me at times, and if it’s the end of the LeBron era, it’s time to have with it in hopes that something special is on the horizon.

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