Sizing up who's tradable on the Lakers
If it's not for basking in the Lakers' championship glory, a favorite blog activity among the comment threads seems to be the following whenever the Lakers lose: Sizing up trade scenarios involving a opposing team's player that just lit up the defending champs and sizing up trade scenarios involving all of the league's superstars.
That approach might be fun, although impractical for several reasons. Assembling an All-Star team isn't realistic both for cap-space purposes and chemistry issues. The nostalgia for picking up the unknown player who looked like an All-Star against the Lakers will probably prove as fleeting as the next game. But that won't stop the speculation from brewing, with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak telling both The Times' Broderick Turner and NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper he'd consider making a trade, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson telling The Times' Mike Bresnahan "the door's open for business" and ESPN Los Angeles' Arash Markazi highlighting Magic Johnson's sentiments that a trade may be necessary.
As tempting it is to speculate, it's fairly pointless. Bresnahan and Turner will surely provide any pertinent details on ongoing developments. In the meantime, below is my take on who would be tradable. These thoughts are none but my own.
Kobe Bryant: This isn't the 2007 radio tour and doesn't warrant any further discussion. Bryant is remaining a Laker.
Pau Gasol: He's perfectly epitomized the Lakers' inconsistency, particularly when you note the drop in performances from November, December and January in points per game (20.3, 16.3, 16.8) and field-goal percentage (54.1%, 49%, 50.8%). It's not just the numbers that define Gasol's inconsistency, but the lack of hustle, energy and passion that's plagued him ever since logging heavy minutes during Andrew Bynum's absence. Gasol has improved since Bynum's return, but he's nowhere near where he was at the beginning of the season. He's tradable, but would the Lakers really want to give up the signature piece that got them over the hump en route to three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals?
Ron Artest: No doubt, the Lakers can't afford the one-for-10 effort on offense and the defensive performance that spurred Paul Pierce to score 32 points on 11-for-18 shooting in the Lakers' loss to Boston. Artest would only fit in as a complementary role and could be attractive since the Lakers acquired him using the mid-level exception, but his inconsistency yields little trade value.
Derek Fisher: This would be misguided on several fronts. His 37.6% mark from the field and veteran presence gives him little trade value. But remember why the Lakers value him so much. He hits big shots in playoff games, he provides a good example in taking charges and making deflections and his locker room presence serves invaluable in making sure the team doesn't fracture apart.
Andrew Bynum: The Lakers' defensive rotations and paint presence has improved since his return to the starting lineup. He may have disappeared against the Celtics, but trading him away is shortsighted. No one will pick up Bynum because of his injury history, with the recent development that he has a bone bruise in his left knee.
Lamar Odom: Odom would surely attract a lot of offers, but he's been the Lakers' most consistent player. He embodies the team concept and can really fit in anywhere, whether it's off the bench, in a starter's role, cleaning the glass, providing a post presence or spreading the floor.
Steve Blake: His shooting percentage severely dipped from November (41.7%) to December (33.3%), although it spiked to 43.8% in January. Still, ever since experiencing that shooting slump, Blake's 48 field goal attempts in January compared to the 69 he took in December and 60 he took in November shows his reluctance to shoot. It's partly good because Blake knows his strength lies in passing and partly bad because confidence remains an issue. He hasn't exactly wowed Lakers fans, but he hasn't played egregiously enough to be traded.
Matt Barnes: His eight-week absence has clearly showed how much the Lakers miss his grit, tenacity, speed and ability to adapt in any situation. Many teams will surely like the energy he provides off the bench, but the Lakers should realize this too.
Shannon Brown: Brown also hasn't quite recovered from his initial hot start, where he shot 48% from the field in November, shooting 40.2% in December and 43% in January. Still, for a team that has struggled keeping up with fast and young teams trading away one of those type players isn't smart.
Theo Ratliff: A genuinely nice guy and a positive locker room presence. But his age (37) and left knee injury makes him neither a reliable minutes eater nor a tradable asset.
Luke Walton: It seems like some Lakers fans can't wait until his three-year, $16.7-million deal expires because of his injury history. The team respects Walton's team-first mentality, understanding of the triangle and willingness to fight through adversity, but he holds little trade value.
Joe Smith: The Lakers acquired him in a three-team trade that sent Sasha Vujacic to New Jersey and Terrence Williams to Houston, a move that was strictly financially motivated. Vujacic is making $5.5 million in the last season of a three-year, $15-million contract he signed in 2008 with the Lakers, while Smith's salary is $1.4 million this season. Smith is used to this routine, this being his 12th NBA team and all, but it's doubtful the Lakers would get much in return.
Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks: Both have lots of potential and raw talent that needs to be developed, with Caracter continuing to monitor his weight and Ebanks fine-tuning the nuances of his offensive game. But both have tremendous attitudes and a great work ethic. It's not guaranteed the Lakers wouldn't re-sign them after this season and they would both provide a good presence for a rebuilding team.
Kupchak's recent comments should serve to jolt the team awake, if nothing else. Unless a blockbuster miraculously pulls through, there's no reason to shake up this team. They just have to execute better. Kupchak shared that sentiment last season when he opted not to make any trades before the mid-February deadline.
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Photo: Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak told The Times' Broderick Turner and NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper he'd been open to making a trade. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / September 29, 2009