Yes, the Los Angeles Lakers just acquired forward Rui Hachimura in a trade. Still, given their roster and current circumstance, this shouldn’t be the end of their trade deadline plans. Of course, the Lakers must also play this situation wisely and cunningly. This team’s margin for error is essentially zero going forward. Here we will look at what potential 2023 NBA Trade Deadline move the Lakers would regret.
Foremost in our minds is LeBron James. The King is already 38 years old but still playing at a high level. The Lakers must take advantage of this and improve the team to make the most of his remaining years. Anthony Davis is also playing some of his best basketball, making this season a prime opportunity for the Lakers.
The elephant in the room is Russell Westbrook’s $47 million contract. The Lakers just need to unload him. They also have first-round draft picks in 2027 and 2029 they can use to spice trades up. While some suggest a long-term approach, James’ championship window makes this difficult. The Lakers must make a push for a playoff run now.
“Let me be abundantly clear,” Lakers GM Rob Pelinka recently said. “We have one of the greatest players in LeBron James to ever play the game on our team. He committed to us with a long-term contract, a three-year contract. So of course we will do everything we can, picks included, to make deals that give us a chance to help LeBron get to the end. He committed to our organization. That’s got to be a bilateral commitment, and it’s there.”
The specifics of a potential deal are uncertain. However, the Lakers certainly need more shooting, playmaking, and overall depth. They can find it at the trade deadline, but they will most definitely need to make their draft picks available. Remember that, despite their efforts, the Lakers are struggling at 23-28. They are 13th in the Western Conference, but only 2.5 games away from playoff contention. The returns of Davis plus the addition of Hachimura should aid their chances. Still, they may need more outside help to stand out in such a crowded field.
With all these said, let’s look at the potential 2023 NBA trade deadline move the Lakers would regret.
Lakers keeping Russell Westbrook
We will give Pelinka credit for upgrading the roster quickly. He did not wait until the trade deadline on February 9. The Lakers now have a stretch four to go with James and Anthony Davis thanks to the trade for Hachimura. During the previous two seasons, the former lottery selection has hit 41.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts. He has also averaged around 13 points per game.
The Lakers do have to think about this — will they sign restricted free agent Hachimura over the offseason? If they consider that, they may be better off utilizing their $34 million in available salary space on numerous players rather than just one All-Star. This strategy is akin to how Pelinka assembled the squad for the 2019–20 season, which would ultimately result in an NBA title.
One strategy that shouldn’t be discounted is the Lakers dealing either Patrick Beverley or Russell Westbrook’s expiring contracts in order to sign players whose contracts go beyond the 2023–24 season.
Remember that the Lakers’ current major need is outside shooting. Even if Hachimura already has some of that ability, the Lakers definitely still need another reliable perimeter shooter. The problem is that the Lakers don’t need any more guards. They still want to let Westbrook run second units and create, and they want to use floor spacers in LeBron and AD lineups. The Lakers may have just enough shot-creation talent to support their best players between Lonnie Walker, Westbrook, Hachimura, Austin Reaves, and Dennis Schroder.
Take note that the Lakers rank 26th in three-point percentage and last in threes made per game (10.5). That is below average for a team with playoff aspirations and three Hall of Famers who benefit from floor spacers. Even head coach Darvin Ham has acknowledged this.
Bojan Bogdanović says the Pistons think he is a “core member” of their future, via @MikeAScotto.
“They assured me that we’re going to be great next year… We have a lot of cap space to sign great players.” pic.twitter.com/iLZeqlWWGW
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) January 30, 2023
Lakers fans would most certainly welcome a trade for a shooter like Detroit’s Bojan Bogdanovic, who is one of the league’s top perimeter shooters this season. Bogdanovic would instantly become the best spacing threat for James and Davis, as the Lakers still lack outside sniping. This issue has led to opposing defenses clogging the paint and taking the ball away from the Lakers’ stars. Adding Bogdanovic would significantly improve this issue. If he’s not available, then Pelinka and Ham can also consider other guys like Buddy Hield (Pacers), Doug McDermott (Spurs), and Eric Gordon (Rockets).
On the other hand, the absolute worst-case scenario is for the Lakers to stick with Westbrook. Sure, he’s still a star in his own right, but Westbrook just doesn’t move the needle for this team in a positive way. He’s way overpaid for what he brings to the Lakers. As such he needs to go; otherwise, the Lakers are sure to regret it.