Rui Hachimura

Darvin Ham’s Position With Lakers In ‘Serious Peril’

Darvin Ham‘s position with the Lakers is in “serious peril” following the team’s elimination from the playoffs on Monday, according to Shams Charania, Jovan Buha, and Sam Amick of The Athletic. ESPN’s Dave McMenamin agrees, citing league sources who say that Ham’s head coaching job is “very much in jeopardy.”

The Athletic’s reporters and McMenamin both say that the Lakers will take a few days to review the situation and assess what went wrong this season before making a decision on Ham’s future.

Although the Lakers finished with more regular season wins (47) than they did a year ago when they made the conference finals (43), there was a sense that this year’s team lacked an “effective direction” from the coaching staff at times, per The Athletic, and there were people within the organization confused by the way that Ham used his starting lineup and rotation over the course of the season.

As both The Athletic and McMenamin detail, Ham used a series of starting groups earlier in 2023/24 that frequently featured players like Taurean Prince and Cam Reddish, often at the expense of players that the franchise viewed more as part of its core, such as Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, and D’Angelo Russell.

There was a sense that Prince and Reddish were given opportunities to play through their mistakes that Reaves, Hachimura, Russell, and others weren’t, per The Athletic, and some team sources suggested to ESPN that the Lakers would have finished with a better record – and a higher playoff seed – if they had stuck to a starting lineup of Reaves, Hachimura, and Russell alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis earlier in the season.

“The job of a coach is to make the best out of what you have,” a team source told McMenamin. “And he wasn’t doing that.”

Reporting from both The Athletic and ESPN also pointed to Ham’s response to a post-Game 2 comment from Davis (“We have stretches where we just don’t know what we’re doing on both ends of the floor”) as troubling. Rather than downplay – or even agree with – Davis’ comment, Ham took exception, praising his coaching staff and telling reporters that he would “agree to disagree” with his star big man.

Team sources told The Athletic that Ham’s rebuttal unnecessarily amplified Davis’ initial comment and questioned whether engaging in a back-and-forth with one of the franchise’s cornerstones was a good idea. A club source who spoke to McMenamin, meanwhile, was “confounded” by Ham’s lack of accountability and questioned the wisdom of praising the preparedness of his staff after the Nuggets had run their winning streak vs. the Lakers to 10 games.

According to The Athletic, the contract Ham signed in 2022 was a four-year deal worth approximately $5MM per season, so there are still two seasons left on it. If they make a coaching change, the Lakers would eat the remainder of that contract.

Lakers Notes: Game 4, Hachimura, Wood, LeBron

Despite a 3-0 deficit, the Lakers‘ confidence hasn’t waned going into tonight’s Game 4, writes Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. L.A. has dropped its last 11 games to Denver, including seven straight in the playoffs, but the players aren’t convinced that the series is over.

“We have the guys here, we have the talent, for sure. You know, I don’t think anybody can beat us, you know, just the talent-wise,” Rui Hachimura said Friday. “… In my opinion, yes, we have the talent here, we have the guys that can beat any team in this league. And I talked to somebody about it too, but just this first round against Denver, it’s a conference final, it’s the exactly last thing. But even that, it’s the same story. We always up 20 and then we just come back and lose. So we just gotta put everything together and tomorrow we’ll see. We’re gonna play the same way and just gotta continue.”

Coach Darvin Ham isn’t planning any changes to his starting lineup, saying he wants to give his current unit a chance to respond to the challenge that the Nuggets present, Woike adds. Ham, whose job may be in jeopardy if the Lakers can’t rally, described the team as disappointed by its performance so far.

“Guys are irritated, frustrated, fed up, ready to make a change in terms of not continuously going down this road,” Ham said. “And the overall theme was just our mindset. Belabor the problems, what’s gone on up to this point or shift our focus to how do we stay alive? And looking at the film, had a really good first quarter. How can we sustain that type of performance during the duration of the game?”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Christian Wood has been medically cleared for tonight’s game, according to Khobi Price of The Orange County Register. The backup big man underwent surgery in March after missing about a month before that due to swelling in his left knee. Wood appeared in 50 games and averaged 6.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per night in the first season of a two-year contract he signed last summer.
  • There was a sharp contrast after Game 3 as Nikola Jokic talked about the long process of building a competitive team and LeBron James questioned what some of his teammates were thinking during the game, notes Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. The stability in Denver may lead to a second straight title, Shelburne adds, while the discord in Los Angeles will likely result in another summer of change.
  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report examines what the Lakers might look like if James turns down his $51.4MM player option for next season and signs elsewhere in free agency. If D’Angelo Russell, Jaxson Hayes, Cam Reddish and Wood also opt out and New Orleans takes L.A.’s first-round pick this year, the team would have about $32MM in cap space to work with. Pincus suggests that if Russell picks up his option, he could be part of a trade package to obtain a reliable scorer such as Trae Young or Donovan Mitchell.

L.A. Notes: Kawhi, George, Hachimura, Lakers

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard met the criteria for postseason award eligibility on Wednesday when he appeared in his 66th game of the season, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Leonard logged just 12 minutes in one of his first 65 contests, which is why he needed a 66th game to meet that benchmark.

The achievement is notable for a couple reasons. For one, Leonard was viewed by many NBA fans as one of the faces of the new 65-game rule due to his history of load management, though he pushed back against that idea last fall.

More importantly, Leonard has built a solid All-NBA case this season, averaging 23.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.6 steals per game while posting an elite .524/.415/.887 shooting line and playing strong defense. Leonard earned his sixth All-Star nod earlier this season — he has made an All-NBA team in each of his previous five All-Star seasons.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two Los Angeles teams:

  • In a pair of stories about Paul George, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report examines the star forward’s contract situation and considers whether a new deal with the Clippers is the likeliest outcome, while Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN explores why George has become the model NBA archetype for young NBA wings — as well as for NBA 2K players.
  • Making Rui Hachimura a full-time starter has been a huge success for the Lakers and has put the fifth-year forward in position to thrive, as Khobi Price of The Southern California News Group details. Since reinserting Hachimura into the starting five on February 3, the Lakers are 16-7, while the 26-year-old has averaged 15.7 PPG on .584/.453/.667 shooting in those 23 games. Head coach Darvin Ham said that playing alongside other offensive threats has given Hachimura more room to operate. “Him coming off the bench, there was times where they treated him like (LeBron James),” Ham said. “They know how he can definitely score at all three levels. He draws a lot of attention without having those guys on the floor.”
  • Zach Kram of The Ringer pushes back on a social media conspiracy theory that the NBA’s referees are favoring the Lakers, explaining that the free throw disparity between Los Angeles and its opponents isn’t out of the ordinary when compared to leaders in that category in previous seasons. Kram points out that the Lakers’ style of play often leads to a free throw advantage because they attempt far fewer three-pointers and more shots at the rim than average on offense, while the opposite is true on defense. The Lakers have taken 435 more free throws than their opponents, but those opponents have attempted 513 more threes than L.A, Kram adds.

Lakers Notes: Vanderbilt, Hachimura, Wood, Prince, Reddish, Offense

Lakers head coach Darvin Ham has tinkered with the team’s starting lineup over the course of the season, but no matter what he tried, he was having difficulty finding one that stuck. According to The Athletic’s Jovan Buha, Ham planned to start Jarred Vanderbilt as the fifth starter alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis, D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves in early February, but injuries to James and Davis sidetracked that plan.

Then, shortly after, Vanderbilt suffered a foot injury and hasn’t played since Feb. 1. A player with a unique skillset who helped propel last year’s late-season run, Vanderbilt’s absence was and is a big blow to the Lakers. According to Buha, there is internal optimism that Vanderbilt will return before the regular season ends next month.

Someone needed to step up in Vanderbilt’s absence and, so far, the Lakers have seen success with Rui Hachimura taking over the fifth starter spot from Vanderbilt and Taurean Prince, the latter of whom has been a starter for most of the year. The Lakers moved to 12-5 with Hachimura in the starting five next to James, Davis, Russell and Reaves after beating the Sixers on Friday.

I’ve been telling them, like, this is who we are,” Hachimura said. “We’ve been trying a lot of different things, some lineups and all this stuff, but this is the lineup we had in the playoffs and that’s how we won, so it’s simple. … It’s just that we know, we’re just really comfortable playing each other.

Buha further explores why it took so long for the Lakers to get back to lineups featuring Hachimura, which had success last postseason. As Buha explains, Vanderbilt’s preseason injury caused the team to pick between Hachimura and Prince for early-season starter, and Prince won out due to his professionalism and consistency. Prince’s ties to Ham also helped keep him in the lineup for as long as he was.

But with the team floundering and lineups featuring Prince next to the stars continuing to be outscored, the team made the move to Hachimura. So far, the new starting group is outscoring opponents by 42 points and has a plus-8.0 net differential.

We have more from the Lakers:

  • In the same article, Buha writes that while Christian Wood is expected to miss the rest of the regular season with his knee injury, there’s a chance he can make a return for the Play-In Tournament or the playoffs, if the Lakers make it. Wood is averaging 6.9 points and 5.1 rebounds this season.
  • Prince missed Friday’s game against the Lakers due to personal reasons but he’s expected to be back in the lineup on Sunday against the Pacers, according to Buha (Twitter links). Prince is averaging 9.0 points and shooting 38.7% from beyond the arc in 66 appearances (49 starts) this season.
  • After he’s been in and out of the lineup due to injury over the past couple months, the Lakers are optimistic that Cam Reddish will be available and able to help the team during the final stretch of the season, The Orange County Register’s Khobi Price writes. Reddish has missed 19 of the last 24 games due to a sprained right ankle after originally suffering the injury on Jan. 23. Ham expressed confidence he’ll be able to help sooner than later. “He should be able to find his rhythm pretty quickly,” Ham said of Reddish. “Obviously, there’s gonna be a little bit of rust and it’s always like that when you’ve been out of the lineup. But for the most part, the things he needs to do to help us win, he should be able to fall right back in the pocket pretty smoothly.
  • The Lakers are running more sets and organized offense, leading to the second-best offensive rating in the league over the past two months, Price observes in a separate article. L.A. is continuing to put forth solid halfcourt offensive displays and are thriving in games with controlled offense. “Getting off to good starts, when the offense gets stagnant, we can run a few sets to get the ball popping again,” Russell said. “It’s vital for us. We’ve got a lot of guys, a lot of talent, can easily get in ‘Hero Mode’ and it can hurt us as a team. So just keeping that ball popping. Having everybody trust the pass. It’ll be contagious, making us hard to guard.

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Longevity, Bronny, More

The Lakers may be without star forward LeBron James for their first game after the All-Star break, as he’ll be undergoing left ankle treatment this week, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN. L.A. faces Golden State on Thursday.

An All-Star starter, James played 14 minutes in Sunday’s exhibition game but sat out the second half to manage the ankle injury. He missed his seventh game of the season last Wednesday, the final contest before the break.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • James set a record by being named to his 20th All-Star game in 2023/24. Several young players at All-Star weekend said they were amazed by his remarkable longevity, according to Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times, who notes that seven Rising Stars participants were born after James made his NBA debut, including Jazz rookie Keyonte George. “It’s crazy. There’s a stat when we played him the first time that he was older than our coach (Will Hardy),” George said Friday morning with a laugh. “… All the young guys coming into the league know who Bron is. To me, he’s the best that ever touched the basketball. … The main goal coming into the league is, ‘How can I stay in it for as long as possible?’ Being a good teammate, with your play. The name of the game is longevity. … I think the shot-making ability, not going to the rim all the time, get to their spots, pick them, play with a good pace. I think that helps with longevity and your body. And then it comes down to skill.
  • Appearing on TNT’s Inside the NBA before the All-Star game, James said his son, Bronny James, has yet to decide whether he’ll declare for the 2024 draft, as McMenamin of ESPN relays. Bronny is a freshman guard at USC. “It’s up to him, it’s up to the kid,” LeBron said. “We’re going to go through the whole process. He’s still in season now. He has the Pac-12 tournament coming up. … We’re going to weigh all options and we’re going to let the kid make the decision.”
  • Jovan Buha of The Athletic lists five reasons to be optimistic about the Lakers down the stretch, including the new starting lineup of D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, James and Anthony Davis. L.A. is 8-2 when those five players have shared the court together, Buha notes, including 5-0 with them starting.

Pacific Notes: Hachimura, Ham, James, Brown, Lee

Rui Hachimura, who remained with the Lakers by signing a three-year, $51MM contract last summer, erupted for a career-high 36 points against Utah on Wednesday. His teammates implored him last week to be more assertive on the offensive end and Hachimura believes he’s capable of playing an important role the rest of the way, Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes.

“I want to be the X factor for the team, either coming off the bench or starting, whatever that is, offensively, defensively, everything,” the Lakers forward said. “Just got to be aggressive, use my size, whatever it takes to win.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The NBA world was shaken up by the revelation that the Warriors had made inquiries to the Lakers about LeBron James‘ availability prior to the trade deadline. Lakers coach Darvin Ham was asked for his reaction and Ham did his best to sidestep the issue, Khobi Price of the Orange County Register writes. “To put it [simply], the alignment that I have with [Lakers governor] Jeanie [Buss] and [GM] Rob [Pelinka] is they handle that stuff,” Ham said. “It’s my job to try to extract the most positive performances out of our team.”
  • Mike Brown isn’t backing down from publicly criticizing officials, even though he’s already been fined by the league for it. The Kings coach was upset about a number of officiating decisions during the team’s loss to Phoenix on Tuesday, including what he felt was a foul by Devin Booker that wasn’t called in the final minute. “I don’t know, man. You fight so hard and then you just feel like it’s just not fair down the stretch,” Brown said to Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee and other media members. “That no-call — I’m going to be interested to see the 2-minute report, because if they say that’s not a foul on Booker, I’m really lost.” Brown was fined $50K last month by the league for comments about the officiating.
  • Following Booker’s first-quarter ejection against Detroit on Wednesday, Suns two-way player Saben Lee stepped in and contributed 16 points, six rebounds, four steals and two assists in 24 minutes against one of his former teams. It was easily his most impactful outing this season, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic notes. “He’s an elite athlete. He can really touch the paint at will and he makes good decisions when he gets there,” coach Frank Vogel said. “Very shifty. He’s got great ability to draw fouls, sweet moves and shot fakes and those types of things. He’s a hell of a guy to have in that situation to come in and give us that spark.”

Lakers Rumors: Trade Market, Reaves, Russell, Vincent

After completing a 4-2 road trip with a victory in Charlotte on Monday, Lakers star LeBron James was asked if he thinks the team has enough to contend as is, or if an upgrade is needed on the trade market.

“It’s not a question for me,” James responded, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “I love who we have in the locker room. And that’s all I worry about. … We’re going to go out and prepare ourselves every single night no matter what it is. No matter who’s out on this team. No matter what.”

A team source tells McMenamin that Lakers head of basketball operations Rob Pelinka has been “stuck on calls” all day recently in search of trades that would make sense for the club. As Jovan Buha of The Athletic writes, Los Angeles would like to add another solid wing defender – ideally one who can shoot – and continues to seek a player who fits that bill.

Dejounte Murray, Dorian Finney-Smith, Jerami Grant, and Bruce Brown are still among the players who appeal to the Lakers, according to Buha, but Austin Reaves remains off limits in a deal for a trade target of that caliber, and veterans like D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura, and Gabe Vincent aren’t nearly as coveted on the trade market. That means the club would have to add draft assets – including possibly its 2029 first-rounder and/or a first-round pick swap – in order to make a meaningful upgrade.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • The odds that the Lakers stand pat or just make a minor tweak along the edges of the roster have increased in recent days, writes Buha. There are a few reasons for that, Buha explains: L.A. has grown more confident in the possibility of internal improvement, the trade market favors sellers rather than buyers, and the team recognizes it could make a more significant move in the offseason when it has more first-round picks available to trade.
  • As trade rumors swirl around him, Russell was asked on Monday why he willingly gave up his right to veto a trade when he re-signed with the Lakers last summer. “I just thought it made sense,” Russell said, per McMenamin. “Obviously I’ve been here before, I played for the Lakers before, so I know what the requirements are to be successful here are. So, if you’re part of the future here you’ll be successful. If you’re not, you’ll get traded. And I’ve been traded before here. So, my approach is just a little different.”
  • Russell’s name has been mentioned in trade talks with the Nets, Hawks, and Raptors in recent weeks, sources tell McMenamin. Among players on those teams, Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie, Royce O’Neale, Murray, and Brown have all been connected to the Lakers.
  • Vincent appears on track to return to the court in early March, reports Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. It’s not a sure thing that the injured guard will still be a Laker by then – since his name has popped up in some trade rumors – but he was given a recovery timeline of about eight-to-10 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in late December and remains on that schedule, Fischer says.
  • The Lakers have used 15 different starting lineups this season. As Khobi Price of The Orange County Register writes, head coach Darvin Ham is hoping his latest one – James, Anthony Davis, Hachimura, Reaves, and Russell – will stick. Of course, if either Hachimura or Russell is traded this week, that starting five will have already played its last game together.

Lakers Notes: Hachimura, Prince, Ham, LeBron

Lakers coach Darvin Ham unveiled another new starting five for Saturday’s win at New York, writes Khobi Price of The Orange County Register. With LeBron James and Anthony Davis both returning from one-game injury absences, Ham replaced Taurean Prince with Rui Hachimura, who made his eighth start of the year as Ham inserted more size into his frequently shifting lineup.

“Just coming out being bigger along the frontline,” Ham said. “Taurean, he has to do it on both sides of the ball. I just felt like him coming off the bench just would allow him to not only shore up our bench in terms of a defensive presence but also allow him to get some buckets too. We need him to score and be aggressive offensively. And so he was able to do that. It worked out well. It created a nice sense of balance.”

Prince, who came off the bench for the first time this season, still found a way to contribute, scoring 16 points in 33 minutes. He and Austin Reaves handled most of the offense as L.A. took over the game in the fourth quarter, combining for 16 of the team’s first 20 points.

“That’s what we need,” Ham added. “We have a team full of talented offensive players. The more they assert themselves and stay aggressive, and … deliver; take advantage of the opportunities that they have, the better it will be (and) the more endurance we’ll have for LeBron and A.D.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Saturday’s win gives L.A. a 3-2 record on its annual Grammys road trip, which was expected to impact the team’s strategy heading into Thursday’s trade deadline, Price adds. The Lakers can wrap up a winning trip with a victory Monday at Charlotte, and they’ve moved within one game of eighth-place Dallas. “We’re just trying to get to a place where we’re playing the type of basketball we envisioned,” Ham said. “The type of basketball we know we’re capable of and defend at a high, high level. That’s (going to) give you a chance every night. And we’ve got enough firepower in terms of people in the starting lineup, people coming off the bench to where we’re (going to) be able to put points on the board.”
  • Ham isn’t concerned about the hourglass emoji tweet that James posted earlier this week, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN (Twitter link). He said it’s a reflection of the urgency to win that comes with being part of the Lakers organization. “If I were him, I would’ve put out two or three hourglasses,” Ham quipped.
  • After Saturday’s game, James offered advice to young players who want to be successful in the NBA, saying it requires a total commitment to basketball, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “Just pour it all into the game ,” James said. “If you want to be great and if you want to be someone that will be never forgotten in the league, the cars and the jewelry and all the other dumb s–t that don’t matter means absolutely nothing.”

Scotto’s Latest: Lakers, Murray, Russell, Hachimura, Brown, More

Dejounte Murray is the Lakers‘ top target as they search for a point guard before the trade deadline, but they’ll likely need to find a third team to get a deal done, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype says in a discussion about the team with Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

L.A. has discussed a deal with the Hawks involving D’Angelo Russell, rookie Jalen Hood-Schifino and the team’s next available first-round pick in 2029, according to Scotto. However, Russell has an $18.7MM player option for next season, and Atlanta doesn’t want to take back any salary beyond this year, plus there are questions about Russell’s fit alongside Trae Young.

There’s no obvious third team to make a deal work, Scotto adds. He points to the Hornets as an organization that’s willing to take unwanted contracts in return for draft assets, but notes that Russell is also an awkward fit with LaMelo Ball. The Lakers wouldn’t have another first-rounder to offer Charlotte since their 2029 pick would be going to the Hawks in the proposed deal.

Scotto mentions the Nets as a potential landing spot for Russell with Spencer Dinwiddie heading to Atlanta or L.A., but he’s skeptical of Brooklyn’s desire to add Russell. He sees the Wizards as a better option, with Tyus Jones possibly moving, but notes that a fourth team might be necessary to provide enough draft picks to make a deal work.

Buha also hears that Murray is the Lakers’ top priority, but warns that the market is constantly changing, citing this week’s trade of Terry Rozier to Miami as an example. He suggests that might increase the price for Murray and wonders if the Sixers or another team with more assets than L.A. will enter the bidding. Buha proposes that the Lakers might try to get Brooklyn involved in a Murray trade and add another asset such as Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith or Royce O’Neale.

There’s more on the Lakers’ trade market from Scotto and Buha:

  • L.A. would like to move Gabe Vincent, who’s recovering from knee surgery and still has two years left on his contract, but he currently has negative value around the league, Scotto and Buha agree. Buha points to Rui Hachimura as another player who might be involved in trade discussions, but says the Lakers would create a hole in their frontcourt by parting with him.
  • A rumored deal of Russell and Hachimura to the Bulls for Zach LaVine seems to be dead at this point, according to Scotto. Buha adds that L.A. always had more interest in DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso than LaVine, but has been reluctant to part with Austin Reaves to acquire them.
  • Executives around the league tell Scotto that it would likely take at least a first-round pick to get Malcolm Brogdon from the Trail Blazers. He also reiterates that the Cavaliers are informing teams they’re not interested in trading Donovan Mitchell.
  • Buha notes that the Lakers had interest in Bruce Brown dating back to last offseason, but it may take a third team to get involved if the Raptors don’t want Russell. He sees a Brown-Hachimura trade as a more realistic option, depending on what else L.A. would have to give up.

Lakers Exploring Trades For Murray, Numerous Other Players

The Lakers are exploring a number of avenues on the trade market with the Hawks’ Dejounte Murray arguably the biggest name on the wish list, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reports.

Murray would give the club some much-needed playmaking and speed out of the backcourt. The fact that Murray is making $18.2MM this season before his four-year, $114MM extension kicks in could provide an additional bonus. The Lakers could engineer a two-for-one swap and shave some money off their luxury tax bill in the process.

However, the Lakers continue to resist including Austin Reaves in a potential deal. The Hawks recently inquired about Reaves, according to McMenamin’s sources, who speculates that the Lakers would have to give up some combination of Rui Hachimura, a future first-round pick, Reaves or other young players to land Murray.

The Lakers don’t plan to pivot to the Bulls’ Zach LaVine, per McMenamin, due to his hefty contract, injury issues and declining production. They could aim lower and pick up some bench pieces instead.

They’d like to add a quality backup guard with Gabe Vincent sidelined by a knee injury. The Jazz’s Collin Sexton and Wizards’ Tyus Jones have been discussed internally as potential targets. They also have the Raptors’ Dennis Schröder and Bruce Brown on their radar.

Schröder, who started 50 games for the Lakers last season, has seen his role diminish with the acquisition of Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett. Brown, a defensive ace who was instrumental in Denver’s championship run, was acquired by Toronto in the Pascal Siakam deal.

Brown was the Lakers’ top target with their mid-level exception last summer, according to McMenamin, but Indiana blew them out of the water with a two-year, $45MM offer.

The Nets’ Dorian Finney-Smith and Bulls’ Andre Drummond are two other players the Lakers are considering to fill key postseason roles. Finney-Smith could guard elite wings, while Drummond would give them more size to combat an opponent such as Denver. They’re not particularly interested in the Hornets’ Miles Bridges, a potential alternative to Finney-Smith, because they wouldn’t hold his Bird Rights and Bridges would likely sign a more lucrative contract elsewhere in the summer.

If the Lakers choose not to make a trade or do only minor tinkering before the deadline, they could have more flexibility to acquire another star in the offseason such as the Cavaliers’ Donovan Mitchell or Hawks’ Trae Young, McMenamin writes.

On the day of the draft, the Lakers pool of available first-rounders would grow to their picks in 2029, 2031 and either this year or 2025, depending on whether New Orleans chooses to use the pick L.A. owes it this June or the following summer.

The Lakers have discussed internally the possibility of packaging those three picks, along with players they already have on their books, to pursue that type of blockbuster, says McMenamin.