Where things stand with the Lakers heading into trade season

Lakers teammates, from left, Rui Hachimura, D'Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves celebrate on the court.
Lakers teammates, from left, Rui Hachimura, D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves celebrate on the court during a playoff win over Memphis. The trio likely will be the focus of trade rumors before the Feb. 8 deadline.
(Justin Ford / Getty Images)

Welcome to this week’s Lakers newsletter. It’s Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times doing a check-in with history’s greatest in-season tournament team — for at least another 10 months.

Let’s talk trade deadline. I’ll do my best to explain where the Lakers are and what they’re thinking about doing.


A change is gonna come?

Next week, the Lakers will firmly enter trade season, with players like Rui Hachimura and D’Angelo Russell becoming eligible to be traded after Monday. It’ll be a welcome deadline to some, a feared one for others, the Lakers playing some of their worst basketball this season at the time when they need to make their biggest decisions.

As I wrote about a week ago, the Lakers’ playbook is limited by having LeBron James still, somehow, in a version of his prime where there’s no doubt that he can impact winning for stretches of important basketball. There’s too much proof from last postseason, when he was hurt, and in the biggest games fromthis season, that shows James still can floor it.

Because of that, the Lakers, almost no matter what, are in “go for it” mode, but with a caveat. One of the two biggest pillars of the roster just turned 39 and is playing in Year 20. Despite what the commercials tell you, eventually, time always wins.

As the Lakers flounder, players clearly frustrated with the quest to figure it out, they are operating like a group that knows it needs to do something. What’s the move? No one really can say.

Let’s start with what the Lakers can send out and what, as of today, that might get them.

NBA insiders said the Hawks, in their discussions with the Knicks, talked about a Dejounte Murray trade with Atlanta seeking Immanuel Quickley and a first-round pick.

Murray is a player who definitely has the Lakers’ interest, and the Hawks certainly would ask for Austin Reaves initially in those talks. The Lakers, though, have shown no interest in trading Reaves despite some defensive regression this season, and even if they did flip him for Murray, there’s real skepticism that it would “move the needle” — a phrase you hear a lot when you talk to people about the Lakers and their deadline plans.

If the cost to get Murray is a first-round pick and a win-now young player (the Raptors elected for two of those players in lieu of a first-round pick in their trade of OG Anunoby to the Knicks), the Lakers can’t really meet it without Reaves. Sources say there have been no discussions about trading Reaves.


Max Christie, the second-year guard who has played his way into the rotation , has value and fans around the league, but his restricted free agency this summer suppresses some of his worth.

Lakers guard Max Christie elevates for a shot after driving to the basket against Rockets center Jock Landale.
Lakers guard Max Christie elevates for a shot after driving to the basket against Rockets center Jock Landale during a game last month at Arena.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Either would be more of an accessory in a trade than a centerpiece. The real star the Lakers can offer is their 2029 first-round pick. If the Lakers were to unprotect or lightly protect the selection, there’d be some value there. It is, of course, hard to imagine the five-year plan for this current Lakers roster, some kind of reckoning eventually coming after building around James at this stage of his career.

The Lakers’ cache of draft capital includes that pick, the ability to swap picks in 2026, 2028 and 2030, second-round selections and, in a fun wrinkle, their 2027 first-round pick should it fall between 1 and 4. The Lakers sent that top-four protected pick to Utah last year as part of the Russell Westbrook deal, but the team also can trade the protected portion so long as the team isn’t in danger of trading future first-round picks in consecutive years.

The veteran players the Lakers can send out likely won’t drive much interest beyond the way their salaries are required to make a trade work. Russell’s looming player option for $18.7 million next season is big enough that it’s expected to give teams pause. Hachimura has two more years at $35 million and Gabe Vincent is due more than $22 million over the next two years. Both players’ seasons have been defined by injuries, with Vincent playing only five games.

Taurean Prince, who makes $4.5 million, is the largest expiring contract on the books (save for James, who has a player option), making it another hurdle for the Lakers in trades.


So if that’s what can go out, what can come back in?

Murray is probably the biggest name, in terms of known interest. Zach LaVine, long rumored to be on the trade market, isn’t usually a name that comes up when talking to people about the Lakers’ interest because of his contract and injury history. The trade market for him around the league, sources say, is so rough that the thought is Chicago should have to add stuff in a LaVine trade to get off the contract.

There doesn’t seem to be a player worthy of the Lakers making an “all-in” offer that wouldn’t be a wild overpay.

Other veteran guards on struggling teams — Malcolm Brogdon, Terry Rozier and Tyus Jones — could be backcourt upgrades. A 3-and-D role player like Dorian Finney-Smith also could fill a need.

The challenge, though, will be whether or not the Lakers are willing to include significant assets for players who might not push them deep into the postseason. That’s especially true with the 2029 first-round pick and any unprotected swaps. The front office wouldn’t be wrong to look at the roster and wait for the players to prove they’re worth investing more in.

Things are fluid, a good week or a bad week potentially impacting how the Lakers proceed. They’ve shown that they’re willing to add around James and Anthony Davis in the past.

Now, the clock is ticking to see if they’ll do it again.

The case for a LaVine deal

On the latest edition of The Times Lakers Show, Broderick Turner and I spoke about Davis and a trade I don’t think the Lakers will make (but maybe should).


BT wasn’t impressed. Watch it here.

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Song of the week

Same Song” by Digital Underground

After the Lakers lost to New Orleans, James sang this Digital Underground classic before starting his postgame interview. It, and the supremely weird “Nothing But Trouble” movie this song appears in, have been stuck in my head since then. As the Lakers head, again, to an important trade deadline, it all feels like the same song.

In case you missed it

Lakers’ winning streak against Suns comes crashing down in blowout loss

Elliott: For Lakers, brutal loss to Suns magnifies bigger issues that don’t have an easy fix

Anthony Davis scores 41 points as Lakers hold off Toronto

Cam Reddish gives Lakers plenty in fourth quarter, while also taking a hit on defense


Plaschke: Should the Lakers fire Darvin Ham? No, that’s just dumb

Lakers withstand late Clippers surge and end their four-game losing streak

Lakers’ Anthony Davis steps up on defense vs. Clippers. ‘I’m very comfortable in guarding anybody’

Darvin Ham addresses his status within the team as Lakers’ losing streak grows

Lakers vow to fight to the finish as losing streak reaches four games

Until next time...

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