Ever since the midseason trades that salvaged their year, the Los Angeles Lakers have had a very good team. But very good simply hasn’t been good enough, as they were swept in the Western Conference Finals by the Denver Nuggets.
Very good also isn’t good enough for a franchise like the Lakers that has won 17 NBA championships and measures success by whether it wins it all at the end of a season.
Aside from a home-run move such as acquiring Kyrie Irving, perhaps their biggest need is a 3-and-D wing who can contain star guards such as Denver’s Jamal Murray while consistently hitting from the outside on the other end.
The Toronto Raptors’ Gary Trent Jr. seems to fit that description, and Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale suggested that he could be an ambitious target for L.A. this summer.
Via Bleacher Report:
“There are levels to how aggressive the Los Angeles Lakers can get in free agency. … Targeting a higher-end shooter who can disrupt on defense, even if he over-gambles, via sign-and-trade is aggressive enough. The Lakers should have the wiggle room to fit Hachimura, Reaves and Gary Trent Jr. under the hard cap.”
Could Trent be the final piece for the Purple and Gold?
At 6-foot-5 and 209 pounds, Trent is a good-sized off-guard who has the size to defend a number of backcourt players throughout the league. He has the ability to disrupt opposing players and teams with his 6-foot-9 wingspan, and he has been in the top seven in steals per game over the last two seasons.
That ability would help the Lakers force turnovers and get out in transition, which has been their bread and butter over the last few years. However, those two facets of their game have come and gone for various reasons.
Earlier in his career, Trent was known as a mediocre or poor defender, but he has certainly put in the work to improve in that category.
He is also a good 3-point shooter who owns a career accuracy of 38.4 percent from that distance. Even better, he is a high-volume shooter who attempted 6.8 treys a game this season and 7.8 a game last season, which means he has the ability to draw defenses away and create space inside for LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Trent also has a solid mid-range game that he can rely on when defenders chase him off the 3-point line.
As of now, the Lakers do not have any true two-way players, other than perhaps center Mo Bamba, who barely played down the stretch and in the playoffs. Trent could fill that void very well.
While Trent is a good defender, he isn’t an elite one, and he does have some relative weaknesses on that end, such as getting around screens.
On the offensive end, he can be a little streaky, and if he were to become a Laker, the hope is that he wouldn’t become the latest newcomer to experience a drop in his 3-point accuracy, something that has happened to a number of reliable shooters over the years.
How would the Lakers acquire Trent? It would likely have to be through a trade, even though he has a player option for next season he can turn down. The Raptors may decide to let him go, as they will likely prioritize paying Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, as well as Fred VanVleet, who can become a free agent this summer.
Favale suggested that the Lakers could use Malik Beasley as a starting point in terms of salary ballast to make a trade happen.
“The Lakers shouldn’t have any major issues cobbling together the assets necessary if he’s leaving Toronto anyway. Malik Beasley’s expiring contract plus the No. 17 pick is a good place to start—if not finish.”
But it’s easy to see Toronto demanding more than just Beasley and this year’s first-round draft pick in return for Trent.