As the March 25 trade deadline fast approaches, the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves in a precarious situation as without LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the team has looked completely unfamiliar.
The current three-game losing skid has left the Lakers searching for alternatives to improve the talent on the roster, but the current salary cap situation makes finances tricky to navigate.
The Lakers have had to operate carefully as they’re a team above the max cap space, and sometimes moves may require a team to go into the luxury tax, which controlling owner Jeanie Buss expressed a willingness to do.
However, it may be more suitable for Los Angeles to attempt to shed current contracts on the roster to free up additional cap space to provide cushion for other moves, and trading forward Alfonzo McKinnie is a possibility, according to The Athletic:
The Lakers are $3.3 million over the tax and just $1 million from the hard cap, with two open roster spots that they can’t yet fill due to the hard cap. Paying somebody to take Alfonzo McKinnie ($1.5 million) would lighten both those burdens considerably, especially with the Lakers — as always — being the lead horse in any buyout race.
As aforementioned, McKinnie is in the second year of a four-year deal, and since he doesn’t play an essential role when the team is at full health, moving on from him would make sense and cause little damage to the rotation.
McKinnie played important bench roles for the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers during the last two seasons, but in 23 games played for the Lakers this year, he’s averaged just 5.3 minutes. In the absence of James, McKinnie has received a few extra minutes but is someone the Lakers can easily replace after creating more leeway with their cap situation.
It will be interesting to see if the Lakers need to sweeten a potential deal by adding one of their second-round picks from 2023 to 2025 to increase the chances of finding a buyer for McKinnie, but he’s also not a major salary dump.
The Lakers also reportedly have an edge over the Brooklyn Nets for Andre Drummond’s signature if the center is bought out, and even though they can only offer a minimum deal, moving on from McKinnie could open the door to pursue other possible buyout candidates as well.
Frank Vogel confident in Lakers roster, not expecting big trade deadline moves
The basketball on display by the Lakers has been far from desirable, but it’s not surprising given the context of missing James and Davis, the core players of the franchise.
Even with the two healthy, though, some questions emerged if the talent around them was adequate enough to defend their recent championship win and that L.A. may need to make a splash at the trade deadline to increase the odds of going back-to-back.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel, however, is confident in the current roster.
“The biggest thing is we just have to get healthy. Those conversations are for the front office. My expectation is we’re going to win games with this group. I believe in the group that we have,” Vogel said following the Lakers’ loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
“If nothing happens, we’re going to win games. We’re going to figure out a way to win games during this stretch and it will benefit us during the long run. I’m not sure if we’ll see any changes or not. Most trade deadline situations there’s been a lot of talks that result in nothing and that’s my expectation as a coach.”
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