Although the Lakers’ recent hiring of Magic Johnson as an advisor appears to have complicated their front office structure, that hasn’t stopped the club from being actively involved in trade discussions this month, according to general manager Mitch Kupchak. Kupchak tells Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times that the Lakers are always active, but that their growing number of trade assets has created more opportunities this year.
“Quite frankly, compared to the last three or four years, we have a lot of talent on this roster that I think a lot of people have interest in — varying levels of interest,” Kupchak said. “I would think there’s more meaningful discussions this year than there have been the last two or three years.”
While Kupchak and Jim Buss have made the roster decisions for the Lakers in recent years, Johnson’s presence figures to shake things up. The Hall-of-Famer hasn’t been shy about voicing his desire to “call the shots” for the franchise, and has spoken to reporters about what he’d do if he were in that position, including offering Kobe Bryant a job. Johnson is scheduled to meet with Kupchak and Buss on Monday, at which point the Lakers’ decision-makers figure to discuss their approach to the deadline.
As Kupchak, Buss, and Johnson mull potential options for the Lakers, they’ll have to consider how any deals will affect the team’s performance on the court. The Lakers have plenty of incentive to remain near the bottom of the standings, since they’ll send their 2017 first-round pick to Philadelphia if it falls outside of the top three. Currently, L.A. has the league’s third-worst record, as our 2016/17 Reverse Standings show. A desire to remain in the bottom three in the standings may push the club to move someone like Lou Williams, who has been the Lakers’ leading scorer this season.
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Although Kupchak suggested there have been more “meaningful” trade talks to this season, he reiterated a point he made earlier in this season, telling Ganguli that he’d be perfectly happy to stand pat as well.
“I really like this group,” Kupchak said. “They get along really well together, the guys that are here as mentors and leaders are doing a great job. The young players are showing growth. So it’s all good.”