It might not seem like it but Mitch Kupchak has made at least one in-season trade in five of the past six seasons and four of those were significant:
2006-07 – Brian Cook and Maurice Evans for Trevor Ariza
2007-08 – Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, et al. for Pau Gasol
2008-09 – Vladimir Radmanovic for Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown
2009-10 – N/A
2010-11 – Sasha Vujacic for Joe Smith
2011-12 – Derek Fisher, Luke Walton, and Jason Kapono in separate deals for Jordan Hill, Ramon Sessions, and Christian Eyenga
The difference between previous seasons and this one is the Lakers had draft picks with which to throw in to get teams to take salaries off their hands. The earliest first round pick the Lakers can now trade is in 2019. Besides not having a first round pick to trade, the Lakers don’t really have any attractive young players still on rookie deals that teams might be trying to get their hands on. While Darius Morris, Devin Ebanks, Darius Johnson-Odom, and Robert Sacre have potential, it would be hard for the Lakers to get back anyone significant in a trade since their salaries are so low and the Lakers are so far over the cap. For example, if the Lakers wanted to trade for Calderon instead of waiting for him to be waived, Toronto would have to take back Steve Blake and at least two other players with contracts that add up to $5.6 million.
As I wrote last week, any team willing to trade for Duhon would do so to create cap space for next season and any team trading for Blake would only do so if they feel he’s either worth committing $4 million to in 2013-14 or he would create earlier cap space than the player he’d be traded for. I mentioned in that piece last week that if Blake does have a nice season, there are teams who might be willing to trade a worse player on an expiring contract. I threw out three guys on expiring deals who could be traded for Blake straight up: Matt Carroll, Johan Petro, and Raja Bell.
Because the Lakers have so few guys who make between $2 and $5 million, it would be very difficult for them to make a trade for anyone good without multiple players being involved. Those trades are much more difficult to pull off in-season because of roster minimums and limits. That’s not to say that an in-season Lakers trade is impossible, it’s just unlikely. I’m sure the Lakers would consider moving one of those rookies or sophomores if they could get themselves a decent draft pick in return.
In other words, for Kupchak to be able to pull off a trade that nets the Lakers back anything of substance, he would most likely have to be willing to take on additional salary for next season and I don’t see that happening. If the Lakers aren’t willing to increase this season’s salary for Barbosa then definitely don’t expect them to increase next year’s salary either. Clearly, Kupchak would prefer to move Blake and/or Duhon in a deal that would reduce the team’s payroll and luxury tax commitments for next season when steep penalties go into effect.
If their final payroll [for 2013-14] was $105 million, that would put them $32 million over the league’s projected tax threshold of $73 million, triggering a tax of $94.5 million and putting the team on the hook for a staggering total of $199.5 million — a 55.9% increase over the total for this season with essentially the same group of core players.
Now you know why Kupchak would prefer to reduce payroll by moving Blake or Duhon and replacing either by signing a waived veteran like Calderon to a prorated contract. What that means is this will probably be Steve Blake’s last season as a Laker, regardless of whether he’s traded or not. Even if the team can’t trade him, they will most likely amnesty him. Undoubtedly, they would prefer to trade him over amnestying him because they wouldn’t be responsible for any financial obligations. Just how bad are the luxury tax penalties going to be starting in 2013-14? Salary cap guru Larry Coon estimated in that same piece by Bolch that the $7.7 million contract of Metta World Peace, also an amnesty candidate, will probably cost the Lakers $31 million with luxury tax penalties. Blake’s contract could cost more than half of that.
So if you want to see the Lakers make a trade before the deadline, you should hope that Steve Blake plays well. In other words, don’t expect the Lakers to make a trade this season.