The Los Angeles Lakers want to get better before Thursday's trade deadline. The question is: Will they be able to?

On the other hand — in the words of The Beatles — it can't get much worse.

Maybe the better question is: Will it even matter?

The Lakers enter Deadline Thursday as losers of 10 of their last 15 games. In their past three outings, they benched Russell Westbrook in an overtime win vs. the New York Knicks, got blown out by the Milwaukee Bucks (causing post-game drama), then had arguably their worst loss of the season (and that's saying something) against a G-League Portland Trail Blazers. They are four games below .500. There are no silver linings.

LeBron James knows the Lakers won't be able to realistically compete for a championship. However, that doesn't mean the front office (in consultation with LeBron) won't do something to shake things up. Does that mean trading Russell Westbrook? Talen Horton-Tucker? Kendrick Nunn? The 2027 first-round pick? We'll find out in the next few hours.

“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,” LeBron said on Monday. “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.”

Whatever happens, the Lakers are ready to get on with it.

Let's examine five important things to know about where the Lakers stand as we hit the 2022 NBA Trade Deadline:

1) The Limitations

The Westbrook trade depleted the Lakers' tradeable resources. The franchise shipped out nearly all of their movable assets (mid-size contracts + on-court value) for Russ, who is borderline untradeable, at least until this coming summer (more on that below).

The Russ Gamble left the Lakers with a roster of max and minimum contracts, with the exceptions of Horton-Tucker ($9.5 million) and Nunn ($5.0 million) — both of whom have seen their value diminish since opening night.

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They can't trade any first-round picks before 2027. They have a plethora of second-rounders and $4.4 million in cash to send out. They have the oldest roster in NBA history. The Lakers are approximately $18.6 million over the cap, and can shave about $7 million by trading a minimum player without taking a guaranteed contract back. They would prefer not to take on any post-2023 money.

Also: nobody likes to help the Lakers get better (the San Antonio Spurs, for instance, have a policy not to deal with Los Angeles.)

2) The Agenda

Unlike most teams in basketball, whose objectives range from “blow it up” to “get to the second round” to “whatever Vivek says”, the Lakers have one mission while LeBron is employed: raise banners.

The Lakers would prefer to hit a home run and acquire immediate, game-changing talent. They won't be able to. A package of THT, Nunn, and the 1st — I'm going to call this “THT+” — may have once netted a near-star (Myles Turner/Jerami Grant/Gary Trent Jr./Christian Wood, that level), but various reporting has indicated that's no longer the case. THT has struggled all season (Portland game notwithstanding), and his player-option for 2023-24 renders his $30.8 million contract less appealing.

Nunn, 26, is still a ways off from making his season debut with a mysterious bone bruise, and he, too, has a player option for next year.

The 2027 1st could be valuable depending on where the post-LeBron Lakers are at, but they'll (presumably) still have Davis, and Jeanie Buss does not like to rebuild — she steadfastly cares about the Lakers brand being synonymous with championships.

It's hard to pinpoint the Lakers' precise needs, considering how infrequently the group has played together at full strength this season. As Vogel said Monday, they simply have to evaluate their performance thus far rather than ponder hypotheticals.

“You have to just evaluate what you’ve had,” Vogel said. “You can’t focus on what you haven’t had. You evaluate on the body of work that our guys have put forth so far. And understanding that we haven’t been whole the whole year, for most of the year, and you make whatever decisions based on that.”

Realistically, the Lakers will look to add a wing that can defend and a stretch big. Here's more on what types of players they should target.

3) The Options

The Lakers' options were already limited for all the above words. They're scanter in the aftermath of deals that have already gone down — nearly all of which included feasible targets for the Lakers.

So, what's left?

The Lakers have been linked to “two-way” (depending on your generosity) wings such as Terrance Ross, Eric Gordon, and Josh Richardson (for THT+). This would mean selling low on a Klutch client and swapping one of their few young players for a veteran who probably doesn't move the needle.

Perhaps Goran Dragic is gettable for THT. Or, per Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, maybe Alec Burks and Cam Reddish end up in Los Angeles:

As my Lakers Multiverse co-host Cooper Halpern posited, perhaps the most beneficial trade for the Lakers involves the Oklahoma City Thunder: Kenrich Williams and Mike Muscala both fill respective needs and are under contract through next season. Presti would surely ask for the '27 1st.

4) The Russell Westbrook conundrum

Speaking of the Thunder, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Westbrook — however unlikely it is that he gets dealt before July, when the Lakers' 2029 1st becomes eligible to include in deals, and Westbrook's contract becomes an expiring one.

I laid out some potential Russ trades on Wednesday, so I'll refer you there. In summary, the Lakers can offer a first-rounder or take on Daniel Theis' four-year contract to swap Russ for John Wall. Financially speaking, they can salary dump him to OKC. Maybe James Dolan or Vivek Ranadivé gets that irrational feeling.

As of the wee hours on Thursday morning, the Lakers remain unwilling to include a first-rounder to part with Westbrook. We'll see if thata stance changes, or if another team relents and accepts two 2nds, instead.

At this point — considering the locker room tension — the Lakers may view trading Russ as addition-by-subtraction.

They're certainly making calls.

5) The Outcome

I believe the Lakers will strike one to two marginal deals. One will be trading THT+ for a wing who can shoot and respectably defend.

Beyond that, I think Los Angeles will shed one or two non-rotation vets on minimum deals (Kent Bazemore, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Wayne Ellington) — attached to second-rounders/cash — to clear roster spots for a buyout addition. At the moment, I'd pick Paul Millsap or Thaddeus Young as the front-runners in that department.

The hard truth is: nothing the Lakers can do before Thursday at 12 p.m. PT will magically vault them into contention.