NBA insider: Lakers may be playing it safe at the trade deadline

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

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Everyone assumes the Lakers are going to swing for the fences and make a wild trade to try and compete for a title. But it’s looking like they might play it safe, instead.

The Lakers have been connected to all sorts of trade rumors, with interest already reported in Bojan Bogdanovic, Myles Turner, Buddy Hield, Kyle Kuzma, DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and several others. However, their tradable assets are fairly limited and essentially any deal would have to be built around either Russell Westbrook or a combination of Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn for salary-matching purposes, and then either or both their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks as actual selling points.

Last week, there were reports that the Lakers were ‘increasingly unlikely‘ to trade Russell Westbrook, given how well he had been playing off the bench. Now Jovan Buha of The Athletic is reporting that they, “don’t believe there is a trade presently available that will immediately turn them into a contender,” and might just let things play out this season without making a major trade.

Why wouldn’t the Los Angeles Lakers make a trade this season?

The Lakers have a track record of swinging big on talent and trusting it will work out in their favor. Sometimes it has (the Anthony Davis trade) but just as often it hasn’t (Russell Westbrook, the Dwight Howard and Steve Nash combination). A more cautious approach may be slightly uncharacteristic but it’s probably warranted here. It’s unlikely that any trade makes them a sure-fire contender and just leaping into the outer circle of possible contenders might not be worth mortgaging their long- and short-term future.

Damian Jones has a player option for next season and Austin Reaves will be a restricted free agent but otherwise, LeBron and Anthony Davis will be the only players under contract. That’s a lot of cap space for them to use in an offseason where players like Khris Middleton, Kyrie Irving, Kristaps Porzingis, D’Angelo Russell, Myles Turner, Christian Wood, Kelly Oubre Jr., Jakob Poeltl and Seth Curry could all be available.

The Lakers don’t want to waste a year of LeBron James but they probably have a much better chance of building a last-ditch championship contender around him by spending strategically this offseason than they do by trading with no leverage over the next few weeks.

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