Lakers Trade Talk: Who Can Fix This Glaring Flaw in L.A.’s Roster?

Lakers Trade Talk: Who Can Fix This Glaring Flaw in L.A.’s Roster?


Free agent shooter Kyle Korver

When it comes to the onslaught of NBA rumors that have cropped up about possible Lakers acquisitions, either by trade or by eventual buyout, they tend to have something in common: The players in question are almost always big guys.

DeMarcus Cousins. Andre Drummond. Blake Griffin. Most recently, Hassan Whiteside.

Problem is, it might be nice for the Lakers to find a big guy, but none of those players really address the issue that is currently killing the team, and that could kill them in the playoffs if they don’t get it sorted, which is that they can’t shoot.

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That’s why, around the league, the sense is that the Lakers are more likely to target shooting help than they are to target another big man. At least, they could land a big man—the team has two roster spots open with the release of Quinn Cook—but it is not nearly as important as getting someone who can shoot consistently.

“They do not seem to think they are in bad shape with their big guys, it is just that everybody else thinks that,” one general manager told recently. “I mean, it is shooting for them. They’ve got to get some shooters.”

Broken down by week, you get a sense of how the Lakers have struggled with their shooting as the season has gone on.

Lakers Worst in the NBA in 3-Point Shooting Over Last 16 Games

The Lakers are not just bad when shooting 3s lately. They are the worst in the league. In the first 16 games of the season, the team was very good from the arc, making 40.0%, which ranked fourth in the NBA. In the last 16 games, the Lakers are making 30.5%, which is dead last in the NBA.

The early-season success was a bit of a mirage. Alex Caruso was shooting 57.1% from the arc, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was shooting 56.9%. That was obviously not sustainable. But even Wesley Matthews and Kyle Kuzma (40.0% each) and LeBron James (39.6%) were putting up shooting numbers that clearly were not going to last.

What’s been remarkable has been the utter collapse, up and down the lineup, of the shooting in the past 16 games, during which no Laker is even shooting the league average on 3 pointers. Marc Gasol leads the way at 34.8%, Kuzma is at 32.9% and James is 31.5% Caldwell-Pope has plummeted to 30.5%, and Matthews is 30.0%.

Lakers’ Limited Shooter Options

So what can be done? It is tricky because the Lakers need a player who is not only a good shooter but can do enough other little things—defend, handle the ball—to be useful even when he is not shooting. Whomever the Lakers bring in would have to knock out another rotation player, like Wes Matthews, Talen Horton-Tucker or Markieff Morris.

The options are limited.

Sterling Brown, Rockets. This would be an intriguing addition, because Brown is only 26 and just now fulfilling his potential as a shooter, making 43.1% in his first season with the Rockets after three lost-in-the-shuffle years in Milwaukee (34.5% with the Bucks). The Rockets would be open for a move on Brown, but the Lakers don’t have much to offer.

Trevor Ariza, Thunder. The Lakers have been looking at Ariza all season as he has been estranged from his current team in OKC as they look for a trade for him. The Lakers would very much like for Ariza to get bought out so he could be signed, but he is not a pure shooter and not necessarily an answer to the team’s perimeter woes. Ariza has made 35.2% from the arc in his career.

Wayne Ellington, Pistons. The Lakers have been rumored to be eyeing Ellington, who has been on the team’s radar as a potential target before and played for L.A. in 2014-15. Ellington is 33 and currently making 42.1% of his 3s. With limited assets on hand, Ellington might well be the best they could do.

Kyle Korver, free agent. Korver will be 40 next month and while he does not do much besides shoot, he does that so well that the Lakers could live with his other deficiencies. Korver is a career 42.9% 3-point shooter who has led the league in accuracy from the arc four times. He played 17 seasons in the NBA and, in 12 of those seasons, was above 40% on 3s.

Ersan Ilyasova, free agent. Ilyasova is rumored to have talked with several teams about coming back to the NBA, but could wait until after the trade deadline. He is 6-foot-10 and, though he is a natural power forward, can play a little center. He has made 36.5% of his 3s in his career.

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