Five Trade Assets the Los Angeles Lakers Can Leverage in the Offseason
D'Angelo Russell, Lakers
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

As the Los Angeles Lakers trail the Denver Nuggets three games to one in the best-of-seven 2024 NBA first-round playoff series, the mood around the team is one of cautious optimism mingled with urgent strategy. Despite the looming threat of elimination, the Lakers have reasons to look ahead with hope, particularly with the buzz that LeBron James is set to stay with the team for at least another season. This decision could stabilize the team’s dynamics and enhance their strategies on and off the court.

With the offseason approaching, the Lakers are poised to make significant moves to reshape their roster. DeAngelo Russell, a vital component of the team’s guard rotation, is likely to opt out of his contract, seeking a new deal in the wake of his impactful performances. This opens up both a challenge and an opportunity for the Lakers to renegotiate or rethink their backcourt strategy. Meanwhile, Anthony Davis remains in his prime, offering the Lakers a powerful cornerstone around which to build. His ongoing performance excellence provides the team with a formidable asset for creating a competitive team or leveraging in trade talks if they decide to shake things up dramatically.

The Lakers find themselves at a crucial juncture. Their decisions in the coming months could define their trajectory for years. As they assess their roster and strategize for the future, five critical trade assets stand out as potential game-changers for the team. These assets, if leveraged correctly, could revitalize the Lakers’ lineup and secure their competitiveness in the fiercely contested Western Conference.

2024/25 First Round Pick

Los Angeles only has a few first-round picks, which aren’t highly valuable. Their 2024 and 2025 pick figures will be in the 17–23 range, depending on postseason performance. NBA odds don’t favor the Lakers, but oddsmakers still see them as a competitive team in the Western Conference. Still, these picks are their most valuable asset.

Thanks to their trade for Anthony Davis, the New Orleans Pelicans still have the right to choose one of these picks and decide which to take. So this offseason, the Lakers will either be shopping a 2024 or 2025 pick, but not both. Given the Pelicans will look to maximize the value of that pick, Los Angeles could be stuck with the worst of the two.

The Lakers plan to package this pick with other assets further down this list in exchange for another star. Sources say they are interested in Spencer Dinwiddie and Kyle Lowry. Still, if the goal is to win another title with Lebron and Anthony Davis, they’ll likely need a bigger splash, such as Trae Young or LeBron’s old Cavs teammate Kyrie Irving.

2029 and 2031 First Round Picks

The 2024/25 pick should be of higher value because it can be used sooner rather than later. However, the 2029 and 2031 picks could be more valuable, given how much Los Angeles is leveraging its future for the LeBron/Davis era. The team plans to use all its available picks, but given that LeBron will be long retired by 2029 and Davis will be 36, the team may be much less competitive and yield a higher draft choice.

If the Lakers want to go after another star, it will likely take three first-round picks. For better or for worse, the 2029 and 2031 picks will have to be on the table, as they only have three available picks to work with.

Austin Reaves

Signed for the next three seasons, Reaves will be one of the likeliest players attached to draft picks for the Lakers to trade. The 25-year-old former Oklahoma Sooner had a breakout 2022–23 season that saw him finish 7th in 6th Man of the Year voting and 10th in Most Improved Player voting, as well as making big plays in the Laker’s improbable run to the Western Conference Finals. He took another step forward this year, averaging a career-high 16 points per game and 5.5 assists per game. He is young enough that a team could be enticed to trade for him, along with picks.

Rui Hachimura

Another role player, the former 9th overall pick out of Gonzaga, has a more significant contract than Reaves, with just two more years of club control. He is coming off a career year offensively, which saw him average 13.6 points per game on .537% shooting. He is a different scorer than Reaves, but he could be packaged with Reaves and picked in the right situation.

D’Angelo Russell

D’Angelo Russell, initially drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2015, has experienced a career characterized by frequent trades and persistent rumors, including speculation around the most recent trade deadline. Despite these distractions, Russell has delivered a performance reminiscent of his 2018 All-Star season, posting 5.1 Win Shares and a true-shooting percentage (TS%) of .588, buoyed by a career-best three-point shooting percentage of .415.

For the upcoming 2024-25 season, Russell holds a player option, allowing him the flexibility to opt out of the final year of his contract. This aspect of his contract makes him both a valuable and potentially expensive trade asset. While he is one of the most talented players under consideration, his ability to opt-out adds a layer of risk for potential trade partners, offering them possible cap space flexibility if he decides to leave.

Teams like the Hawks, considering changes in their roster composition, might view him as an intriguing option, especially to create more dynamic offensive strategies. However, his less consistent performance in the postseason could deter teams with playoff ambitions from pursuing him aggressively.

What Is Next for the Lakers?

As the Los Angeles Lakers gear up for a pivotal offseason, the path forward is clear: they are in win-now mode. Despite the setbacks in the playoffs and a roster that has seen considerable fluctuation, the Lakers’ intent remains unchanged—to compete at the highest level. However, they face a significant challenge due to their limited draft capital in the upcoming years, which compels them to be more strategic and creative in leveraging their current assets.

Among their key advantages is Los Angeles—a city that has long been a magnet for NBA superstars. The allure of playing in one of the league’s most storied franchises, coupled with LA’s lifestyle and opportunities, makes the Lakers an attractive destination. This desirability could be crucial in attracting top-tier talent to complement the existing core, ensuring the team remains competitive on the grand stage.

In conclusion, while the Lakers may not have an abundance of picks to barter, their current roster and the city’s appeal provide them with unique leverage. By strategically utilizing their trade assets, the Lakers can bolster their lineup and continue their pursuit of championship glory. The decisions made this offseason will be critical in shaping the future trajectory of the franchise, underscoring their commitment to winning and maintaining their esteemed position in the league.

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