The Los Angeles Lakers have righted their ship, shaking off a 3-5 start to go 12-7 in the 19 games since.
They have, however, struggled away from Crypto Currency Arena, losing three of their last four games, with two of those losses coming on the road. Los Angeles is 5-9 on the road this season and just dropped their lone home game – 114-109 to the New York Knicks on December 18 – in between a pair of three-game road trips.
This recent stretch may have laid bare their need for more firepower with descending final scores in each of their last four contests. Injuries have played a part. But that may be all the more reason to beef up their talent where possible.
Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen could be an ideal trade target.
– Lauri Markkanen
– Kris Dunn
– Gabe Vincent
– Jalen Hood-Schifino
– 2029 first-round pick
– 2030 first-round pick swap
Including Dunn might be a bit ambitious. But he would help offset the loss of both Vincent and rookie first-round pick Hood-Schfino, neither of whom has contributed much this season.
Los Angeles could also swap in Rui Hachimura for Vincent (or Christian Wood or Taurean Prince for Hood-Schifino) for a cleaner positional swap.
This trade could maximize Anthony Davis, allowing him to focus on his greatest strength, his defense, pairing him with a consistent offensive threat in the frontcourt.
Markkanen, 26, is averaging 23.2 points on 62.8% true shooting with 4.5 rebounds, and 1.3 assists. He is also connecting on 38.4% of his 8.1 three-point attempts per game, numbers that would rank third and first, respectively, on the Lakers.
He is in the third year of a four-year, $67.5 million contract. The deal is only partially guaranteed for $6 million of the $18 million he is owed next season.
Markkanen is the reigning Most Improved Player of the Year.
Dunn, 29, is averaging 4.7 points and shooting 36.4% from deep. He would bring hard-nosed defense to the Lakers’ backcourt, though consistency has always been an issue. He has a rapport with Markkanen dating back to their time together with the Chicago Bulls, though.
Most importantly, Markannen may be available.
Lakers Could Try Poaching Jazz’s Lauri Markkanen
“Lauri Markkanen has indeed emerged as a fascinating, albeit unlikely trade candidate before February’s buzzer,” wrote Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports on December 15. “The Jazz are by no means expected to trade the 7-foot sharpshooter at this juncture. … But Utah has indeed left opposing executives with the sense that Markkanen is no longer untouchable”
The Jazz and Lakers came together on a three-team trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves at last year’s deadline.
Utah had the look of a contender amid Markkanen’s breakout campaign.
This season, they are 10-17 and sit 12th in the Western Conference standings. They would not even qualify for the Play-In Tournament if the regular season ended today. Perhaps that reality will compel them to part with Markkanen, though he won’t be cheap to acquire.
Insider Speculates on Jazz’s Asking Price for Lauri Markkanen Trade
“My impression from talking to teams is that it’s something resembling the haul the Jazz received for Mitchell and Gobert: so, five-ish firsts and/or players of comparable value,” wrote Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer on December 18. “This is a lot for Markkanen … But his qualities seem like a fit for virtually any scenario you can imagine:”
Fischer named the Atlanta Hawks, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Sacramento Kings as the rumored trade suitors for Markkanen.
A bidding war would only drive up an already high price for Markkanen, which the Lakers may not be able to afford.
For the most part, those other teams would be able to offer more immediate returns with their draft compensation than the Lakers. But the Lakers could try selling the Jazz on their roster being the oldest of the four. There is uncertainty ahead, potentially making their picks the best of the bunch.