NBA roundtable: What moves can Lakers and Clippers make at trade deadline?

Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker drives against a Sacramento defender.
Guard Talen Horton-Tucker (5) is considered the Lakers’ most likely player to be traded at the deadline approaches Thursday, but his inconsistent play this season devalues what type of player the team could acquire in return.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

The NBA trade deadline is Thursday, and the Lakers and the Clippers are actively seeking to make some moves. Los Angeles Times basketball reporters Dan Woike, Broderick Turner and Andrew Greif discussed their options.

DW: When it comes to the Lakers at this trade deadline, there are two distinctly different questions that they need to answer — what do they need and what can they get? In an ideal situation, the Lakers would look at the first 50-plus games this season and be able to pinpoint their needs and then try to solve as many problems as possible. The trouble is, the Lakers need a lot of help and have very little to offer in a trade, having dealt all their first-round picks through 2026.

AG: Adding Norman Powell and Robert Covington from Portland for their potential fit with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, in exchange for three players who had never played with both those All-Stars, was the Clippers’ first big move Friday. Another is almost assuredly coming given this front office’s active track record at the trade deadline. The 2022 free-agent class isn’t littered with big names, so adding Powell was akin to essentially adding a free agent the Clippers wouldn’t have been able to this summer because of their salary-cap situation. That move, like everything else that happens at or after the deadline, will be about strengthening the team’s championship chances in 2023 while also upgrading their roster in the short term.


BT: LeBron James was asked for his take on whether the Lakers should make a move by Thursday or stand pat. “Listen, I don’t really like to play fantasy basketball so this is the group that we have going into the deadline, and we’ll be ready to take on all challenges that this season has given us,” James said. “If there’s an opportunity — I’ve said this every year — if there’s an opportunity for you to get better, then you explore those options. That’s always been [my stance]. I’ve been like that my whole career. I’ve said it over and over. If you have an opportunity to get better, no one turns that down.”

DW: League insiders have indicated that Talen Horton-Tucker and perhaps the team’s 2027 first-round pick are on the table at the deadline. But my sources tell me the appetite for Horton-Tucker is low, with one experienced league source even calling the 21-year-old a player with a “bad contract.” The Lakers owe THT $10.3 million next season before he has a player option for $11 million in 2023-24. Attempts to try and use their assets to jar someone like Jerami Grant loose from Detroit can’t work, meaning the Lakers’ need for two-way players has to be met with lesser talent.

BT: But what can the Lakers really do to make this struggling team better? We know the Lakers’ best asset is Talen Horton-Tucker, but now they are saying his value is not as high as it once was because of his subpar play this season. It’s hard to see the Lakers making a major move. Besides, the Lakers made their big deal over the summer when they acquired Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards. If the Lakers do anything, it will probably be along the margins. Will that be enough to get them out of their doldrums?

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AG: The Clippers pride themselves on operating in silence — one league source once said it has been described within their building as “ninjas in the night” — so speculation can often lead to dead ends. Yet there is an expectation around the league that their three-center rotation, which has not truly worked all that well for anyone involved, will be resolved with a center expected to be gone. Serge Ibaka’s the most likely candidate because of his expiring salary, but there are scenarios, team president Lawrence Frank has said, where he returns. Some around the league take that to mean that there are scenarios where potentially Ivica Zubac could be packaged and sent elsewhere as part of a bigger move.

The thing I’ll watch is how the Clippers address their ballhandling and ball movement. Frank said plainly that it won’t lock them into adding a traditional point guard, even suggesting a forward — an about-face after, and maybe lesson learned from, their pursuit of Rajon Rondo last season. Rondo’s addition yielded a few highlights early but also frustration as he became a playoff non-factor. Coach Tyronn Lue, a player who fit that traditional point-guard role himself, said Sunday that his reserves were limited in a loss to Milwaukee by playing without a guard used to organizing an offense. The Clippers have been linked to Washington’s Spencer Dinwiddie, but would his up-and-down play this season really be the answer they seek? One thing for sure is that Lue’s ability to get the most out of his roster gives the front office some extra flexibility to think differently about moves. A trust exists between Lue and the front office that he can work with what he is given, perhaps better than many if not all coaches.

DW: That’s the juiciest question, BT, the status of Russell Westbrook. He might be the biggest trade deadline tease of them all. The market, according to insiders, is virtually barren. Attaching assets to rid themselves of Westbrook for someone like, say, John Wall, seems like a compulsive gambler losing it all and then mortgaging his house for one more spin at the roulette wheel. The cleanest path would be for the Lakers to stick it out with Westbrook, banking on the limited time he’s spent with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and hoping it’ll work itself out. Starting over with a player like Wall, who hasn’t suited up this season, would be a staggering admission of guilt when it came to the Westbrook trade.
The Lakers are probably too far down the path with Westbrook. And similarly, Horton-Tucker probably is worth more to the Lakers than he is to anyone else. He represents a young player with some potential. And while this season hasn’t helped his stock, he’s still only 21. Trading him for another veteran only gives the Lakers less options in the future if Horton-Tucker is able to improve, which young players should be able to do.


Veteran guard Norman Powell won a title alongside Kawhi Leonard and has greatly improved the last two seasons. He says he fits well with the Clippers.

Feb. 7, 2022

Sources had tied the Lakers to Boston reserve wing Josh Richardson, but the Celtics’ recent winning streak might knock him out of the Lakers’ price range. A player like Toronto’s Gary Trent Jr. would be a great fit (and already a Klutch Sports client), but he’s been way too valuable for Toronto to move for the little that the Lakers can offer. A more realistic target, sources said, would be Orlando’s Terrence Ross. To get him, the Lakers would need to include Horton-Tucker and maybe that first-round pick and be willing to take on a player who has seen his efficiency diminish over the last three seasons, never a good sign for the kind of shooter Ross is purported to be.

My guess is that things are quiet. Maybe there’s a deal to be made for a player like Brooklyn’s Paul Millsap — another veteran, who sources have linked to the team, with some versatility as the Lakers utilize more small-ball strategies. But the Lakers need players who can move the needle. And, strapped for tradeable assets, the Lakers almost certainly can’t get anyone who will.