The past two and a half seasons LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers have had since winning the 2020 NBA championship in the bubble have not exactly gone according to plan. Due to untimely injury woes in the 2020-21 season which led to their playoff defeat against the Phoenix Suns, the Lakers felt that it was for the franchise’s best to trade away a package of Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and the 22nd pick in the 2021 NBA Draft in exchange for Russell Westbrook.
However, the Lakers’ swing for the fences ended up being a major whiff.
The Lakers expected that Russell Westbrook would give the purple and gold a third star capable of relieving LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ nightly offensive burden. Never mind that Westbrook is not the most reliable floor spacer (a must for a guard playing alongside James); if Westbrook could carry the Lakers on his back much like he did for the Washington Wizards in the season prior, he would have more than made up for whatever deficiencies his game had.
But now, one and a half seasons into the Westbrook era in LA, and the Lakers are still reeling from their decision to trade for the former MVP. Following last season’s disappointing 33-49 tally, the Lakers have shopped Westbrook around, to no avail. And now, even after their impressive win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night, the Lakers remain below .500 with a 22-25 record.
Nevertheless, it’s not too late for the purple and gold this season. But they will need trade circumstances to fall in their favor if they were to salvage at least a play-in berth amid yet another strong LeBron James season.
Here is the Lakers’ dream scenario for the February 9 NBA trade deadline.
Lakers acquire a 3&D wing in exchange for Patrick Beverley, Kendrick Nunn & second-rounders while trading away Russell Westbrook + 2027 and 2029 first-round picks for Bradley Beal or Zach LaVine
Now that is the stuff dreams are made of. The Lakers have precious few valuable assets, and the entire league knows it. There’s a reason why the Lakers’ prospective trade partners have held out for their unprotected 2027 and 2029 first-rounders in potential blockbuster deals. The Lakers’ roster is aging, they have no blue-chip young prospect that could take over the reins when LeBron James falls off (whenever that may be), making their future as bleak as it gets.
However, there’s simply no use resting on one’s laurels when a player of James’ and Anthony Davis’ calibers are on the roster. Those two have proven that with the proper supporting cast around them, they could overcome adversity and even win a championship. Thus, it makes sense for the Lakers to surround them with as much talent as they could.
And in this scenario, they will be able to do so while maximizing their limited trade assets.
The Lakers have a considerable logjam at the guard positions. Circumstances have gotten so dire that head coach Darvin Ham even put out a microball lineup on Christmas day with Austin Reaves, a 6’5 guard, as the nominal center. Thankfully, the Lakers brass have shown interest in addressing this issue.
Patrick Beverley just has not been able to contribute at a high enough level for the Lakers, while Kendrick Nunn, after making LA wait on him for over a year, has not emerged as the shot creator they sorely needed. Accordingly, the Lakers have reportedly shopped these two in a potential trade for Bojan Bogdanovic, but the Pistons have insisted on the inclusion of one of their unprotected first-rounders.
Thus, if the Lakers could pull off a Beverley/Nunn-centric trade to bolster their depth on the wing without having to relinquish a first-rounder, that would be grand for their chances of making the postseason.
Bojan Bogdanovic’s strong play and recent contract extension makes him unobtainable without a first-rounder. But perhaps a trade for Evan Fournier, Josh Richardson, or even Gordon Hayward, who has struggled with injuries this season, could be doable for the low, low price of a few second-rounders.
So what would the Lakers end up doing with their first-round picks in this scenario? Go star-hunting, of course.
The Lakers are only reportedly willing to trade away their first-rounders in exchange for a bonafide All-Star talent, such as Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine. And those two profile as incredible, complementary pieces alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Of course, it’s unclear if the Wizards or Chicago Bulls ever become willing to trade away Beal or LaVine, respectively, in the middle of the season. In particular, the Bulls are currently in position to make the play-in tournament, while the Wizards, despite their struggles, are only 1.5 games back of the 10th seed. But anything can happen in dreams, no?
Just imagine if the Lakers had a starting lineup of Austin Reaves, Zach LaVine/Bradley Beal, Gordon Hayward/Evan Fournier/Josh Richardson, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis. That may not be enough to win a championship, but that should at least be a team that has more shooting, defense, and depth at every position.
This may not be the most realistic scenario. Moreover, if the Lakers were to pull these trades off, they could very well end up with the most injury-prone roster in NBA history. But that won’t stop Lakers fans from dreaming of better days.