With less than a month remaining until the NBA trade deadline, the clock is ticking for “sellers” to shed salary and/or acquire assets for the future benefit of the organization. As Adrian Wojnarowski reports, the rebuilding Lakers could be included in that bunch:
“The Los Angeles Lakers, needing to shed salary for summer free agency, had been hopeful of waiting until the end of the season to move Jordan Clarkson — owed $26 million beyond this season — but there’s a mutual desire to find something sooner than later. The Lakers have made it clear that Clarkson, Julius Randle and Larry Nance are available.”
Though all three players are still on the younger side, Clarkson has already cashed in on a more lucrative deal and the Lakers appear to be content building around Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma and their rookie scale pacts. This would seem to make Clarkson and Co. expendable.
Could the Knicks gain from the excess talent in Los Angeles? Perhaps so.
There could be an opportunity for New York to explore a deal involving Randle, who would stand tall as a sensible complement to Kristaps Porzingis in the frontcourt. Nevertheless, more likely (and available) for what the Knicks could reasonably offer would be Clarkson. As the Lakers’ sixth man, the 26 year old is averaging 13 points, 3 assists, and 2.7 rebounds. Shooting 45% from the field and 36% from deep, Clarkson is owed $26 million over the following two seasons after this one, as Wojnarowski mentions. That’s undoubtedly a pretty penny for the Knicks to pay, but doing so would be reasonable when considering what they would give up in return.
In exchange for Clarkson, the Knicks could send a package including Lance Thomas, Willy Hernangomez, and a future draft pick to La La Land. Currently in a bit of flux, the 19-21 Knicks certainly aren’t tanking in hopes of securing a higher draft pick this coming summer. At the same time, they’ve struggled to maintain a .500 record and are currently on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. If the team is going to legitimately make a push toward the postseason and truly disregard any hope for a meaningful draft pick, they’re going to need a boost.
Extra firepower off the bench is an injection of life any competing team could use, and that’s something Clarkson has consistently proven himself able to provide. As a steady shooter with range and an ability to slash through the lane, he also boasts a certain level of explosiveness the Knicks do not own at the one. At times, Jarrett Jack has been a step too slow. On the flip side, rookie Frank Ntilikina has a tendency to act purely upon his raw instincts and can be overzealous. Clarkson could provide an interesting balance between the two.
But is he worth the cost?
As the longest tenured Knickerbocker, Thomas is the team’s co-captain and a widely respected veteran in this young locker room. What’s more, he’s often regarded as New York’s best defender and has done well filling in for Tim Hardaway Jr. during the swingman’s injury-plagued absence. Still, he has fallen short of the goal to put together a more versatile skill-set. His contract may be otherwise difficult to move in another deal. Hernangomez is a promising young big under contract for the future, which is a commodity that is very difficult to find. That’s why he might be appealing to the Lakers. If the Knicks want to retain his services and keep his development in the forefront, they need to find consistent and meaningful minutes for him. If not, it makes sense to move him for a different asset. Tossing in a future second-rounder would be an easy decision.
One could certainly make the case for the Knicks to make such a deal, especially if propelling toward the playoffs is a goal this season. Nevertheless, it’s still a bit too soon to pull the trigger on a trade like this. They still have a few weeks to make a decision, and Steve Mills and Scott Perry should take their time in assessing things before parting with guys like Thomas and Hernangomez. It’s nice to know they could potentially have the assets to reel in more talent if need be, however.