The Los Angeles Lakers are coming out as the early leader in offseason activity. No trades have been made involving Tinseltown at the moment, but according to reports, Rob Pelinka and his team are working hard to find new homes for some of their current players. According to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers have offered some combination of Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to practically every team in the league as of last week, shopping their two most tradeable assets not named Anthony Davis or LeBron James with the hope of making some much-needed improvements to a roster that was originally poised to repeat as NBA champions.
For a team less than a year removed from an NBA title, the Lakers have many holes in their roster that they need to fill. LeBron and Anthony Davis can do nearly everything on both ends of the floor. Still, the dynamic duo in Los Angeles needs shooters to help space the floor for them on offense and reliable defenders to relieve some of the pressure on the two stars on the defensive end.
While team defensive schemes and rotations can remedy deficiencies on defense, shooting comes down to players having the skill and concentration to consistently make open shots. Shooting the ball well is much easier said than done, but the NBA is full of guys that can do this and do it well. None of them happen to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. The purple and gold aim to change that this season and have set their sights on one of the best shooters in the game, Sacramento Kings’ Buddy Hield.
“Lakers have stepped up their efforts in their pursuit of Buddy Hield by adding the No. 22 pick to a deal that’d include Montrezl Harrel, and Kyle Kuzma or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.”
Kevin O’Connor, The Ringer, via @hooper
As reported by Kevin O’ Connor of The Ringer, the Lakers seem to be willing to include the 22nd pick of the NBA Draft in a deal that includes either Kyle Kuzma or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and former Sixth Man of The Year Montrezl Harrel. The trade can only materialize if Harrel decides to opt-in to the final year of his contract with the Lakers, but if he does, the Lakers need to pull the trigger on this immediately. Here’s why.
Buddy Hield shot just under forty percent from three last season while averaging ten attempts per game; not only does he shoot it at a decent clip, but he is not afraid to take and make shots from beyond the arc. Hield hit a total of 282 three-pointers in a reduced role last season, which is more than Damian Lillard and second in the league only to Stephen Curry. Safe to say, he will have an increased role with the Lakers as Hield will be the primary target for LeBron James in the corners, given that acquiring Hield will result in the departure of KCP or Kuzma. If Buddy can shoot forty percent from three on a Kings team in disarray, imagine what he can do playing off Anthony Davis and LeBron James.
Giving up Trez and either one of the Lakers’ main wings plus a first-rounder seems like a lot to give up for Hield, especially given Buddy’s undesirable reputation on the defensive end of the floor. However, if you consider those players’ contributions last season, it seems like the Lakers would be filling a need in exchange for good players that Frank Vogel is reluctant to use in big games anyway. Harrel is a match-up problem and a player that is too small to play as a big in Vogel’s system. We saw Wes Matthews eat into a significant portion of KCP and Kuzma’s minutes in the playoffs.
For the Kings, this is a no-brainer as they have been looking to move on from Buddy Hield as their main two-guard for some time now. The Kings also have the chance to add young talent to bolster their rebuild via the 9th pick in the Draft. While mock drafts have them selecting Franz Wagner from Michigan, Sacramento can always elect to pick up another wing in Davion Mitchell to give themselves another option besides Tyrese Haliburton.
Lastly, because the Lakers have LeBron and the franchise branding, they automatically become a destination for players looking to contribute to a winning team much later in their careers. Giving up a few good but seldomly-used players does not mean that the Lakers will be short of talent. They will always be players in the buy-out market or a destination for players willing to take less money in free agency to join a contender.
It will be tough to part with a young player with all the potential Kuzma has, but it’s much harder to get a finished product like Buddy Hield in free agency. If I were the Los Angeles Lakers, I would do whatever it takes to ensure that this deal goes through to get the shooting the team needs to be successful. A trio of Buddy Hield, Anthony Davis, and LeBron James is not the best, but it’s still one of the best in the league. That is the luxury of having two of the best five players in the game, where adding Hield gives enough to focus on what is more important, adding the glue guys and role players needed to get you through the trials of a championship run.