The Lakers trade of Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson for Patrick Beverley served as a signal of the team’s intention to move past Kyrie Irving and onto secondary plans this summer in hopes of improving the roster.
That change in mindset has opened up a number of possibilities for the franchise as all the latest reports and rumors show.
Rooting for a Donovan Mitchell trade
If the Lakers are indeed open to trading their two draft picks — more on that shortly — few executives covet future draft picks more than Danny Ainge, now with the Utah Jazz. The two franchises have already been linked in trade reports earlier this offseason and were done so even more by longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein, who dropped a treasure trove of Lakers nuggets in his latest newsletter.
If the Knicks manage to win the trade race for Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, or even if another team unexpectedly beats them to Mitchell, league sources say there’s a decent chance that the Lakers will be involved in the deal. The two future first-round picks that the Lakers possess in 2027 and 2029 are the kind of top-shelf draft picks that Jazz CEO Danny Ainge is believed to covet. Russell Westbrook’s $47 million expiring contract and those picks could be the Lakers’ entry to a potential three-team swap … depending on the players that would land in Los Angeles.
So, in effect, the Lakers should be rooting for a Donovan Mitchell trade. Russell Westbrook’s enormous expiring contract is enticing to Utah, as are the draft picks. If the team can turn one player and two future picks into a number of role players like some combination of Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson, Evan Fournier or potentially even Julius Randle, it’ll feel like an overall win.
How willing are they to deal those picks, though? According to Stein, as long as it makes them a contender.
The Lakers, I’m told, continue to hold firm on their position that they will agree to surrender both of their future firsts in the same deal only if the trade makes them a certified contender. Does a three-teamer that routes, say, Utah’s Bojan Bogdanović and New York’s Evan Fournier to the Lakers rise to that level?
Does a trade for said role players make them a contender? It makes them a better team. A contending team? That’s a harder call to make.
And if Russ stays?
As much of a certainty as it felt this offseason that Russ would be traded, there is still the real possibility that he is on the roster to open training camp. And if that’s the case, new head coach Darvin Ham has remained adamant that he can find a role for the enigmatic point guard, again according to Stein.
Yet I am also hearing that, if no trade involving Westbrook materializes and if he is on the roster when the Lakers start practicing on Sept. 27, new Lakers coach Darvin Ham remains determined to carve out a real role for Westbrook. Sources say that the Lakers, to date, have strongly resisted the idea of shelving Westbrook completely until they can find a trade for him like the Rockets tried last season with John Wall — even after trading for longtime Westbrook adversary Patrick Beverley. Westbrook, who turns 34 in November, appeared in 78 of the Lakers’ 82 games last season.
As it stands, the Lakers roster is far too devoid of talent to sit someone like Westbrook. No matter how much he may fail to fit next to LeBron James, he still has talent and if Ham and the Lakers can figure out how to harness that, there’s still a pathway to some form of success.
Schröder still a possibility
The reunion between the Lakers and Dennis Schröder that feels inevitable could still be on the cards this summer despite the PatBev trade. Again, depending on how the Russ situation plays out, the Lakers could still be in the market for a point guard.
It is not yet clear if the Beverley acquisition completely rules out a Schröder return or if Westbrook’s potential exit could re-open the door. Schröder, remember, has already indicated a willingness to return to Lakerland despite the contractual saga that cost him millions during the 2019-20 season, when he opted for free agency rather than accept a four-year extension from the Lakers worth in excess of $80 million. Schröder had to settle for a one-year deal worth $5.9 million with Boston last season, got traded to Houston in February and will apparently have to settle for a veteran’s minimum deal … wherever he lands next.
Considering how the two play, a point guard rotation of PatBev and Schröder would be absolutely exhausting to play against for 48 minutes. If nothing else, the two would be remarkably active for the entire game night in and night out, a trait that didn’t remotely describe last season’s team.
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