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December 15 marked the unofficial start of the NBA trade season.

As of Thursday, 74 additional players, all free agents last offseason, were added to the trade-eligible pool. Roughly 89 percent of the league is now available for trade, opening up significant options for the Los Angeles Lakers as they try to improve their roster and climb out of the 11-16 Western Conference standings.

With trade season upon us, here’s a brief preview of where the Lakers currently stand, with the necessary caveat that things can change at any time this time of year.


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Which players are off the table?

LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

James can’t be traded until next summer because of his extension this offseason. The Lakers have no interest in trading Davis, especially after he re-emerged as a top-10 player and their best player so far this season. Any Davis trade buzz was always premature.

In addition to the two superstars, Austin Reaves, Lonnie Walker IV, Troy Brown Jr., Venien Gabriel and Max Christie are young players on team contracts that have exceeded expectations and fit in nicely alongside James and Davis. It’s unlikely that either of them will be traded, as the Lakers particularly value Reaves and Walker IV as starter- and shutdown-level players.

Which players are on the table?

All the rest. But the three names that stand out are Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn.

The Lakers have only six players making more than the league minimum salary: Westbrook, James, Davis, Beverley, Walker IV and Nunn. Any notable trade would involve at least one of those players, if not more, matching the salary. That’s just how crafts work.

Again, James can’t be traded. Davis is untouchable. Walker IV proves to be a steal from his taxpayers mid-level contract. That leaves the aforementioned three names as the only realistic possibility.

The Lakers’ interest in trading Westbrook has been well documented. That interest is waning because The AthleticSam Amick is reporting this week, but it’s not completely off the table. That becomes more likely as the Lakers approach the Feb. 9 trade deadline and teams become desperate to tank or shed long-term salary.

Internally, Los Angeles is still concerned about Westbrook’s matchup with James, especially late in games when opponents often center on Westbrook and disrupt the Lakers’ league-worst offense.

Beverley is struggling in his second stint in Los Angeles, especially on offense. He posted career lows in field goal percentage (30.3 percent), 3-point percentage (25.4 percent), 2-point percentage (40.6 percent), field goal percentage (38.9 percent), true shooting percentage (43 .9 percent), points (4.6) and assists (2.4). Beverley has a negative plus-minus for the first time in his career. At 34, he is understandably starting to decline as a player. But he hasn’t made the impact the Lakers hoped for when they traded for him last summer.

Nunn has lost his place in the rotation, playing single-digit minutes in four of the past seven games and not playing at all in two of those games. The third-year guard is setting career lows almost across the board. He looks like a shell of the player the Lakers envisioned when they signed him in the 2021 offseason.

All three players are underperforming their contracts ($47.1 million for Westbrook, $13.0 million for Beverley and $5.3 million for Nunn).

What are the Lakers looking for?

Size: Mostly on the perimeter, though they could use another big and 3-point shooting. Plus, Los Angeles is looking for the type of upgrade that will make them contenders.

The Lakers roster is unbalanced with too many small guards in the rotation. They need to add a wing in the 6-6 to 6-9-9 range. They could also use a versatile big who fits well next to Davis and would give the limited Gabriel a more appropriate role.

The Lakers are always looking for another star, and a more suitable third star, even one at point guard, is important.

Who are the possible trading partners?

In no particular order: Indiana, Detroit, Washington, San Antonio, Chicago, Utah, Brooklyn and New York. Each of those teams has a star, wing and/or big man that the Lakers know about or are interested in.

Which players have been linked to the Lakers?

how The AthleticShams Charania reported earlier this week that the Lakers have had discussions for Detroit’s Bojan Bogdanovic as well as the Knicks’ Evan Fournier and Cam Reddish.

Additionally, other names that have popped up include DeMar DeRosa, Kyle Kuzma, Myles Turner, Buddy Hield, Kyrie Irving and Doug McDermott.

All of these players qualify as wings, bigs, or stars.

In the ultimate pie-in-the-sky scenario, the Lakers are interested in Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal if any of the three stars become available.

What will the commercial package look like?

Regardless of which route they go, the Lakers will be trading negative value players and therefore will have to attach draft capital, likely in 2027 or 29, to either of their two tradable first-round picks. in the form of one.

This is where things get complicated. The Lakers are technically willing to part with two of their picks if they believe the deal will put them in contention. But it’s still unclear how far an entity falls from that threshold and what type of trade would meet that criterion. It’s also unclear how low the standard is for trading just one pick for two.

Any deal that attaches two picks would likely include Westbrook, though that could rule out the team moving Beverley and Nunn, given the lack of remaining first-round trade picks, unless they’re also part of the same trade. The Lakers could make a smaller move by using both picks along with Beverley and Nunn, but it’s harder to find a significant difference-maker in the $17-22 million range.

Are the Lakers buyers or sellers?

“Lakers” are buyers. But their problem is that most of the league is still evaluating whether they want to buy, sell or keep. The Lakers need to find a seller willing to pick up either Westbrook’s and/or Nunn’s and Beverley’s contracts (along with the draft compensation).

Teams that tank and are willing to trade their veterans don’t make sense for the Lakers (Detroit, Orlando, and Houston). San Antonio and Charlotte are the two exceptions, but negotiations have cooled with both franchises, and the Hornets could still try to get into the play-in mix.

The Lakers need one of the aforementioned potential trade partners to change their organizational motivations and/or fall short, forcing them to consider a trade.

When are the Lakers most likely to make a trade?

Not for at least two to four weeks (late December to mid-January), according to multiple league sources with knowledge of their plans.

NBA trade history shows that trades happen on the early side of January. Most occur during the final week of the trade deadline. There are exceptions, of course, and the Lakers hope to be one of them.

The Lakers have an urgency to get the deal done sooner rather than later. The sooner they improve their roster, the sooner they can turn their season around. But they’re also at the mercy of the trade cycle and the evolving motivations of other teams.

There are still a few factors that need to be ironed out, mainly who the trades are and how many picks the Lakers are willing to include in certain trades in the coming weeks.

(Photo of Beverly and Westbrook: Jeff Bottari / NBAE via Getty Images)



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