After scuffling out of the gates, the Lakers have hit their stride, winning six of their last seven and moving to the fourth seed in the Western Conference, tied with the Clippers at 17-10.
Unsurprisingly, this has happened as LeBron James once again puts up absurd numbers, averaging 28/7/7 on the season and hitting 37.1 percent of his three-pointers. As LeBron has found his comfort zone in a new place, so have the young players around him. Kyle Kuzma has become the second-highest scorer on the Lakers, averaging nearly 18 points per game, Josh Hart is shooting well off the bench, Brandon Ingram is rounding into form, and Lonzo Ball is looking more comfortable sharing the ball-handling load with James while Rajon Rondo is sidelined with an injury.
While the young players are hitting their stride around LeBron, not all of their offseason acquisitions are working out as they had hoped. The Lakers feel the need to go out and find veteran wing help given that they’ve gotten nothing from Michael Beasley and would probably be best served to give Lance Stephenson fewer minutes per game than they’re having to rely on him for currently.
Recently, there’s been buzz that, when Saturday comes around and players signed this offseason are eligible to be traded, the Lakers will be players in the Suns’ efforts to unload Trevor Ariza. The veteran wing is on a one-year, $15 million deal and was a huge help a year ago to the Rockets, so for a Lakers team looking to contend he’s something of the ideal option on the trade market.
The problem is figuring out a deal that works for both parties, as the Suns want a point guard, young promising players, and/or draft assets in any deal for Ariza. The Lakers would prefer to move Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who isn’t really any of those things, and according to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, the Lakers have told the Suns and others that none of their four young players are available in any trade that wouldn’t net L.A. a superstar.
The Lakers have informed teams that have called about trade proposals that they will not give up any of their young core unless it’s for a superstar player, one person said.
The Suns were turned down when they sought to get one of the Lakers’ young players in exchange for Ariza, and Phoenix also rejected a three-team deal that was discussed with the Lakers.
There’s no doubt the Suns hold the leverage here, given that they’re so far out of contention already there’s no push for an immediate move to help them now. They can wait on an Ariza deal for as long as needed, and would be wise to do so until a team is willing to come closer to meet their needs.
As for the Lakers, it’s also wise to think long-term and not unload any of their young assets for a player that won’t help them beyond this season, because even the most optimistic view of this Lakers team seems to come with a ceiling on it below a championship barring the addition of another superstar-caliber player.
What this report seems to indicate is that while very interested, the Lakers likely won’t be a frontrunner in Ariza trade talks. The player might want to be there and the Lakers might want him, but if they aren’t ponying up a young player and the need is on finding a third team to get involved, it stands to reason Phoenix could find a better deal elsewhere for Ariza. That’s not a bad thing for Los Angeles, as they’ve already reportedly expanded their search for veteran wing help elsewhere.
According to Sean Deveney of Sporting News, Terrence Ross from the Magic and Wayne Ellington (who the Lakers should’ve signed over Lance this offseason, anyway) from the Heat are apparently potential targets of the Lakers. Ellington is a sharp-shooter that fits the mold of the type of wing you typically want on a team with LeBron, while Ross is having his best season in a long time for the surprising Orlando Magic. Once again, neither of those teams would net one of the Lakers young core pieces, but if L.A. is willing to part with a pick, it makes both a possibility.