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Newsletter: Lakers! Will they make a big trade move? Let’s debate!

Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker drives on Celtics guard Josh Richardson.
Any big trade the Lakers might attempt would likely include parting with talented young wing Talen Horton-Tucker, shown driving against Celtics guard Josh Richardson during a game Dec. 7 at Staples Center.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Happy Friday, everyone. This is Dan Woike, Lakers beat writer for the Los Angeles Times. I know my favorite way to celebrate the coming weekend isn’t an ice-cold beer or a relaxing evening on the couch — it’s putting together another edition of the Lakers’ newsletter.

This week, I’m going to look at a word you’ll all be hearing a lot of over the next month or so: “trade.”

Do the Lakers have a big move?

No.

OK, moving on. …

Just kidding. This topic deserves some more discussion than the two-lettered truth printed above.

The biggest issue the Lakers will face heading into trade season is a lack of players and draft picks that people will want to make a deal. It’s simple as that.

The Athletic’s Sam Amick reported this week that the Lakers have had internal discussions about possibly trading Russell Westbrook, but according to my sources around the NBA, the appetite for that player making $44 million this season and $47 million the next is low.

Maybe a team with a playoff-hungry owner could convince themselves that Westbrook’s competitiveness would push their team into one of the top 10 spots in each conference and maybe past the play-in round. But would those teams want to send back the kinds of players in a trade that would help the Lakers win, weakening their own position to do so? Again, the chances of that are low.

OK, so then what could the Lakers actually offer in a trade?

Their best packages are centered around Talen Horton-Tucker, their 21-year-old wing who has struggled to play consistently after the team signed him to a three-year deal at more than $30 million. A package of Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn (who hasn’t debuted for the Lakers yet) and a pair of veteran players on minimum deals could return a player making around $20 million a season.

This is where we say that multi-player trades like this are complicated because of roster size rules. If you take on four players, you have to have room for them, which means waiving other players that you might like more than the Lakers’ salary filler. That means involving another team to take on the player(s), and they’ll want an asset to do so, meaning even more players are moving. See what I mean?

Detroit’s Jerami Grant seems like an ideal candidate, though he walked away from the exact role in Denver that he’d be playing for the Lakers to be a top option in Detroit. But if the Pistons were going to deal Grant, it’s certainly no lock that the Lakers would even be able to be competitive bidders. It would all have to do with what the Pistons thought of Horton-Tucker.

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Pistons forward Jerami Grant tries to block a shot by Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram.
One player on the trade market who might interest the Lakers would be Pistons forward Jerami Grant, shown trying to block a shot by Pelicans forward (and former Laker) Brandon Ingram.
(Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)

If it’s not a player like Grant, then the target quickly shifts to players such as Orlando’s Terrance Ross — a nice offensive player who can catch fire in a second, but does he really move the needle enough for the Lakers to part ways with their best (and really only) young trade asset?

The Lakers could use sweeteners from their badly barren draft pick arsenal, but pushing out to 2026 for a moveable first-round pick has to return an impact player. Also, LeBron James will be 42 that season.

Hypothetically, the Lakers could really shake things up and look to move Anthony Davis, but, again, the chance of them getting players in return that would get the Lakers closer to a title this season are very low if they exist at all. Besides, two years after helping lead the Lakers to the NBA title, Davis’ reputation around the NBA has been bruised by, well, his bruises — injuries that have kept him off the court a ton since his pandemic bubble dominance in 2020.

That probably leaves the Lakers to focus on a smaller transaction — and again, they just don’t have a ton to offer, even when it comes to future second-round picks. Maybe there’s some magic idea to shake loose a player like, say, Kenrich Williams from Oklahoma City (purely speculating here), but I can’t see a reasonable way the Lakers could meet the price.

And if they could, it certainly wouldn’t qualify as a big move.

So where does this leave the Lakers? Well, it’ll have them as one of the most aggressive teams on the buyout market, with an eye for offensive players who can space the court and defenders with a lot of versatility, but those players rarely end up bought out.

And it’ll have them focused on their internal development — Austin Reaves, Horton-Tucker, Nunn and Stanley Johnson could all conceivably improve enough to earn significant roles like Malik Monk has done.

If you’ve cooked up a deal you really like, reply to this email. Maybe we’ll share the best ones (remember, salaries have to match).

There’s one other idea, and I’m not sure it’s a good one.

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Let Dwight shoot

A month ago, I was talking to an NBA scout who is a friend of mine, and I pitched him on one of my best/worst ideas for “fixing” the Lakers.

“Give Dwight Howard the green light.”

The scout nearly fell over, but then we watched Howard swish shot after shot during his pregame routine from three-point land. And then I told the scout that Howard was actually six of eight this season from three-point range.

And while I was feeling super good about myself, the scout laughed and got back to doing his real work.

Now, this was all before the Lakers shrunk their rotations, but if Howard was able to push to the corners and be a catch-and-shoot threat — you don’t even have to make ‘em, you just need to draw a little defensive attention — could Howard maybe do that if the Lakers let him shoot every time he was open?

It’s a crazy idea, and I’m a little nervous that Howard is on the same page.

“I think the reason why we’ve played some small-ball lineups is just to keep the floor spaced for guys like Russ and LeBron, who need an open paint just to get to the basket and score,” Howard said after Thursday’s practice. “But maybe that means I have to turn into a stretch 5. So I’m gonna be working on my perimeter game a little more so I can be a stretch 5. And hopefully that’ll do pretty good with the coaching staff, me working on my threes. And just giving space to those guys so they can get to the basket.”

There are probably worse ideas … I just am fresh out.

Song of the week

“California” by Tom Petty

This simple tune from Petty’s “She’s the One” soundtrack was ringing in my ears as I looked at the Lakers’ schedule for the rest of the month. The team plays only four more games at home starting this weekend with a pair. Then it’s out for two, back for two and then out for six. By the time I get home, here’s to hoping California hasn’t fallen into the sea.

Since we last spoke ...

Until next time...

As always, pass along your thoughts to me at daniel.woike@latimes.com, and please consider subscribing if you like our work!


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