Lakers newsletter: What trades would you make if you were Lakers GM?

Anthony Davis and LeBron James in Los Angeles Lakers uniforms on court.
The Lakers miss both these guys.
(Chris Graythen / Getty Images)

Hey, everyone, it’s Dan Woike and it’s time for the latest edition for the Lakers newsletter despite my efforts to try to send this off to someone else for two future first-round draft picks. Alas, I was rebuffed, and you’re stuck with me.

I wanted to spend this week trying to figure out what I would do if I were in charge of the Lakers, how I would handle the trade deadline, what I would look for etc., etc.

Turns out, it’s hard. (We’re going to react to this stuff in real time Thursday starting at 9 a.m. PT at but first, go on this ride with me).

First up

Let’s assume that I know that LeBron James and Anthony Davis are going to be back and healthy at some point during the regular season (and I know that is a big assumption, but there haven’t been good reasons or indicators given to me that this won’t be the case). In the meantime, things are going to get bad.

How bad? I don’t know, maybe really bad. Should I react? Do I just roll with the losing and hope the team figures things out while it takes its lumps? Do I, as Frank Vogel has suggested, hope that the things the Lakers learn now can benefit them later? Do I try and make a move?


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If I decided that the Lakers needed a very specific kind of player to deal with their current problems, I’d look hard at upgrading on the wing, trying to find someone who can ideally score the ball by creating his own shot now while being able to thrive as a spot-up shooter with some defensive value later.

Because trades almost always require equal salary going out and coming back in, if I decide to chase this, it might end up costing me Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and either Talen Horton-Tucker or a 2027 first-round pick when who knows what the state of my team will be.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in a Lakers uniform
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

OK, we’re going on a journey here and things can spiral quickly so try and keep up.

Next, I’d need to identify a player who could be available that could do this. Would Golden State take my calls if I were looking for Kelly Oubre? I think Orlando probably would if I checked in on Evan Fournier. If Toronto is going to move Norman Powell, do I have enough to get him? Do I try to get involved on Victor Oladipo if I view him mostly as a rental?

And then there’s this — if I trade Caldwell-Pope and/or Horton-Tucker, what kind of message does that send to LeBron James and Klutch Sports, the reps they all share? I won a title last year with two hyphenated players on the roster, can I really afford to risk losing them both?

Caldwell-Pope was so good for my team last season, so good when he started the season with such a clearly defined role and our group at full strength, am I sure that he’s not just the better option, allowing me to keep the lone assets I have to use at some point down the road for something bigger?


Maybe I like most of what I have?

So if I decided that a meaningful deal isn’t for me (I mean try to do something minor, maybe I can add a backup big or unload some salary to lighten my luxury tax bill), I’d mostly spend the trade deadline hoping some of the high-salaried bigs don’t end up getting moved (and, in turn, end up getting bought out).

I’d be weighing who helps me more — Andre Drummond or LaMarcus Aldridge — and I think I’d probably land on Drummond, a player who could probably help me more in the short term than Aldridge, even if Aldridge’s offensive skill set is a better fit for what I think I want to do.

From there, I’d look for shooting — I need it (but so does everyone else). Trevor Ariza was going to be an option for me before he got dealt to Miami, so now I’m waiting on guys like J.J. Redick and George Hill. I’m probably not in the lead for either of them, so maybe I’m left to address shooting in a lower-level way (could I get Wayne Ellington for cheap?), confident in my team’s defense being good enough to make up for my inconsistency from deep.

In confusion, I mean conclusion

Everything hinges on LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and in my mind, their presence keeps me from making some kind of huge move (although ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski connecting the Lakers to Kyle Lowry on Wednesday was mighty interesting).

If Davis and James are going to be healthy, I’ve got to feel good about my chances with the roster as is, especially if I can bolster it with a big like Drummond. If Davis and James are hurt, I’m probably sunk anyways so why dump my only assets to chase a title I almost certainly can’t win.

So yeah, we’re back where we started.

Farewell, Elgin

Be sure to check out all of our Elgin Baylor coverage this week — I was lucky enough to learn about how he influenced Julius Erving, David Thompson and Marques Johnson and about how he got poker banned from team trips.

I can’t recommend our coverage enough.

Bill Plaschke: Elgin Baylor was the first great Los Angeles Laker — and their most forgotten legend

NBA legends like Dr. J agree: Elgin Baylor revolutionized game

Jerry West on Elgin Baylor: ‘A great human being’

Gail Goodrich blames Elgin Baylor for a Lakers poker ban: ‘He’d take all our money’

Song of the week

Soul Coughing - "Circles"

Soul Coughing “Circles”

Trying to figure out the best route of action for the Lakers is confusing — I’ve been talking myself in circles with other NBA executives and scouts for the last few weeks. And as I think of one thing, only to be like, “Nope, let’s do the other,” this song plays on repeat in my head.

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Until next time...

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