The Los Angeles Lakers are not making the playoffs this year. Having Lou Williams on the team doesn’t change that fact. Although he has been their best and most consistent player this season, having him on the roster actually hurts their cause more than it helps.
Article continues below ...
The Lakers are in a position where they would be best served to finish the year in the bottom three of the league standings — as they have two first round draft picks riding on it.
Williams is an explosive scorer off the bench whose talents are essentially being wasted in LA. His trade value is as high as it’s going to get and the Lakers have a chance to move a player that can bring back decent value while helping them in their cause of tanking without actually tanking.
From a logical perspective, it would seem like a good time for the franchise and player to separate in a move that will benefit both. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Magic Johnson-led front office plans on pursuing a trade for the valuable sixth man:
The one move widely expected from the Lakers’ Magic Johnson-led front office this week is trading Lou Williams. No need for LW when tanking
But in case you’re not convinced this is the right path, I’ve detailed my reasons on why it would make sense for the Los Angeles to trade Lou Williams before the Feb. 23 trade deadline.
The Lakers can still play their way out a two first round picks
Losing two first round picks in the process of a rebuild can be crippling to any franchise. That’s especially true for a franchise in desperate need of finding a player with star potential.
The Lakers have a young, talented core when you consider D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr. and rookie Brandon Ingram. Each has shown flashes of potential, but none has proven he can carry a franchise in the way the Lakers have had in the past and desperately need now.
That’s not to say one or two of these young players can’t grown into that role one day; it’s just that we simply don’t know yet.
The Lakers have virtually no chance of competing for a playoff spot during the post All-Star portion of the regular season, but they can still erroneously play their way out of two first round picks.
At 19-39, the Los Angeles Lakers currently hold the third-worst record in the NBA. But they’re far from securing that spot as only two games separate them from the Orlando Magic and three games from the Philadelphia 76ers, who hold the fourth- and fifth-worst records in the league, respectively.
If the Lakers do fall out of the top-three worst records, then they exponentially increase their chances of losing their top-three protected first round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and subsequently the 2019 NBA Draft.**
So because of the added importance of keeping their pick this year, it is imperative for the future of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise that they finish in the bottom three of the NBA standings this season.
With that said — I’m not calling for them to tank the rest of the year — but they should probably tank the rest of the season and trading Lou Williams away helps in that mission.
Williams boast the highest Player Efficiency Rating rating on the team at 24.1 , Win Shares at 5.1 and plus/minus on the season. He has been a go-to player for the Lakers all season long down the stretch. He’s helped the team come back late in games multiple times this season and is fifth in the league in fourth quarter scoring with 7.7 per game.
For a team that needs to lose games, that’s not an asset you want right now. The presence of Williams only hurts the Lakers cause of adding a top-flight player through the draft.
Young players need to develop
Lou Williams is a high volume shooter who plays extensive minutes towards the end of close games. Head coach Luke Walton likes to reward the players who put forth the best effort throughout the game with late fourth quarter minutes in crunch-time. Along with Williams, a lot of those minutes go to Luol Deng and Nick Young.
While rewarding players isn’t a bad strategy, it shouldn’t come at the expense of young players whom you are trying to groom.
D’Angelo Russell has suffered the most at the expense of his coach’s’ philosophy. Russell is currently tied at ninth with rookie big man Ivan Zubac in minutes averaged in the fourth quarter with 6.1, while Julius Randle ranks sixth on the team at 6.7 minutes.
Lou Williams is taking opportunities away from the younger players in other areas as well.
Despite playing two fewer minutes than starting point guard D’Angelo Russell, Williams is tied with him for the most FG attempts per game with 12.7. And although Williams is ranked seventh on the team in minutes played this season with 24.2 per game, his usage rate ranks first on the team by a wide margin at 30.6 (Russell ranks second in usage at 26.8).
Lou Williams is a good player coming off the bench but his presence on the team is taking away far too many opportunities from Russell, Jordan Clarkson and even Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle.
Williams trade value right now is as high as it’s going to be
In the forgotten land that has been come the LA Lakers, many have failed to remember that Williams, who is only two years removed from being named Sixth Man of the Year with the Toronto Raptors, is still a valuable asset in the NBA.
As I stated at the top of the article, Lou Williams has been the Lakers best and most consistent player this season. He leads the team in scoring with 18.6 points per game while boasting the highest PER on the team at 24.1. And although he only has one start on the books this season, he is one of only three players on the team (along with Jordan Clarkson and Brandon Ingram) to suit up for every game thus far.
Unfortunately for himself and the Lakers, he’s a valuable player who’s not adding any value to his current team. However, his service can still benefit the Lakers (getting a first round pick back is not out the realm of possibility) and himself if a deal were to be made.
Here’s a list of contending teams that would be better off with the services of Lou Williams:
Certainly a contending team in the East, the Wizards have one of the worst benches in the league. They currently rank second-to-last in bench points with only 23.4 per game.
LeBron James has been asking for more help and another playmaker. Lou Williams certainly fits the bill. Although he may be more of a ball-dominant guard than the Cavs need, he can definitely add a punch to that second unit, which ranks 28th in scoring at 29.4 points a game.
A team that looks like they’ll be right in the middle of the playoff race once again this season, the Grizzlies still lack a dynamic scorer who can provide much-needed points when the offense lags. Adding a guy like Lou Williams would certainly help in that area and puts the in a better position to compete in the Western Conference.
**Detailed explanation of the Los Angeles Lakers protected 2017 first round pick and how it ties to 2019.
Because of the Lakers’ failed attempt to hit a home run back in the offseason of the 2012-13 season with the acquisitions of Dwight Howard (left to go to Houston after one year) and Steve Nash (spent most of his Lakers career on the injury list), they’re now in a position where they may have to give up two first round picks.
The Lakers gave up four, that’s right, four draft picks to the Suns for Steve Nash, including a protected 2015 first round pick, now owned by the Philadelphia 76ers. That pick has been deferred to the 2017 draft because of the protections tied to the pick and because the Lakers have landed a top-two selection in each of the last two drafts (2015 and 2016). If the Lakers again land a top-three pick in 2017, then they will have to give up an unprotected 2018 first round draft pick to the Sixers instead.
Furthermore, because of the back-end of two bad trades (Dwight Howard) that summer, the Lakers will also be obligated to surrender a first round pick to the Orlando Magic in 2019 — but only if they fail to land in the top three of this year’s draft.
Why? Because that pick is tied to the Lakers’ obligation to the Suns (now Sixers) due to a couple of conditions. One, the Lakers must first satisfy their trade with the Suns (now Sixers) before they can transfer their first round pick to Orlando.
Second, if that pick does indeed end up being in 2018, because of the Ted Stepien Rule (trade rule that has since been amended), the Lakers will be unable to trade first round picks in back-to-back seasons, thus not allowing them to trade the 2018 pick to the Sixers, then their 2019 pick to the Magic. Instead they will surrender two second round picks: 2017 and 2018 to the Magic.
If you’re asking why they didn’t just trade their 2020 first round pick with the Orlando Magic to avoid this whole mess, the answer is because teams can’t trade first round picks seven years out because of the aptly named “Seven Year Rule” (which has also been amended ).
Hopefully this sheds a little more light on how the Lakers; 2017 protected first round pick and 2019 first round pick to the Orlando Magic are tied together and why it’s so important that the Lakers don’t fall out of the top three this year.