If the Chicago-Los Angeles match taught us anything, it’s that the Lakers are about as far away from playoffs as they’ve looked at any point this season.
The lows keep getting lower for the 16-time champions, dropping their ninth game in 11 and leaving them a full four games adrift from Houston who occupy the West’s eighth seed.
They are just four games clear of Phoenix who are bringing up the conference rear.
The Lakers have missed the playoffs just twice over the past 37 years and while they are surely due a pass now and again it’s their future seasons where there’s genuine cause for concern.
The Lakers’ roster as presently constituted is the most expensive in the league and also one of the most precarious.
The Lakers moved heaven and earth just six months ago to acquire the final year of Dwight Howard’s contract despite the big centre never providing any assurances he would commit to Los Angeles beyond this season.
To compound the continual drama of Howard’s choice of workplace is the fact they’ll have little meaningful participation at this year’s draft due in part to the deal to land Howard but also owing to their aggressive pursuit of Nash.
As far as I’m concerned the Lakers need to concede this season as an unmitigated disaster (again they’re entitled to one now and then) however they can’t also comprise their future prospects at the same time.
The solution would be to perhaps trade Howard now as the risk of him leaving for nothing as well as no draft representation would be about as serious a situation as the Lakers have faced in some time.
With that in mind here are the five strongest options the Lakers could and should pursue over the coming weeks.
Owner Mark Cuban seems to think Howard would like to do business in Dallas, however any trade with the Lakers would mean at least surrendering their first pick over the next couple of years, finding another pick from somewhere else and also including OJ Mayo and Jae Crowder.
The Lakers would know that sending Howard to the Rockets would set their franchise up perfectly so they might not be as inclined to deal with the same team who months ago also secured James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Ömer Aşık.
Chandler Parsons, Carlos Delfino and one of either Marcus Morris or Jim Peterson would need to be involved as too would at least one first round draft pick, maybe two.
I personally think this would make the most sense for both parties. From LA’s perspective it would mean gaining what’s sure to be a high end lottery pick from the Cavs. This would mean selecting as low as they’ve had since 1982 when they used the number one pick to land James Worthy.
The Cavs might also need to throw the beloved Anderson Verejao into the deal as well. As for Cleveland, they’ll be gaining the best centre in the game to pair with Kyrie Irving.
That tandem would immediately make Cleveland playoff-worthy with the prospect of adding LeBron James in two years still alive.
Howard has repeatedly mentioned he could see himself in Brooklyn and though a trade involving the Nets was close pre-season, it does seem as though they’ve moved on quite well without his services.
The Nets likely won’t be picking in the top 20 which won’t appeal to the Lakers, while it might be folly to assume the Lakers would be all in on either Brook Lopez or his large contract.
This mightn’t be the most fashionable move, but one which could make a lot of sense for both parties. The trade would certainly need to start with Charlotte’s first pick which would be in that Cleveland territory and also include moving the number two pick from last season, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
If Charlotte refused to budge on Kidd-Gilchrist then they might also have to include their second pick in addition Bismack Biyombo. For the Lakers this would mean two top-15 picks to go with Bryant, Nash and the final year of Gasol’s deal.