The Los Angeles Lakers have two major problems that have been exposed in their losses to the Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Boston Celtics. They need a quality backup point guard who can create shots for himself and teammates when LeBron sits and an elite wing defender who can guard other team’s top scorers like the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Celtics’ Jason Tatum.
While the Lakers may have enough with LeBron James and Anthony Davis to win a championship despite these weaknesses, Rob Pelinka and the front office cannot afford to stand pat, not with just a two year championship window and their competitors aggressively looking to close the gap or increase their edge over the Lakers. The Lakers would be negligent not to pursue moves to fill the holes in their roster and improve their odds.
In a perfect world, the Lakers could fill both their roster needs by signing Darren Collison and Andre Iguodala as free agents, which would only require them to waive players at the end of their bench. The problem is Collison has not committed to returning from retirement, Iggy might end up getting traded rather than bought out, and either or both might opt to sign with another team, like the Clippers, instead of the Lakers.
Which says the Lakers can’t count on the basketball gods giftwrapping Darren Collison or Andre Iguodala and need to be proactive in pursuing a trade for Derrick Rose, the best available option to solve their need for a quality backup playmaker, or Robert Covington, the best available option to solve their need for an elite wing defender. They cannot afford to wait.
The challenge facing the Lakers is they don’t have enough assets to trade for both players since Kyle Kuzma is the only viable trading chip the Detroit Pistons or Minnesota Timberwolves could covet in a trade. While the Lakers will engage both teams to see their level of interest in Kuzma, it will probably to come down to a decision of whether their need for a scoring playmaker or an elite wing defender is more important.
Rose or Covington? Should the Lakers trade Kuzma for defense or offense? If they believe defense wins championships, the answer to that question is easy. The Lakers should prioritize trading for Robert Covington. In fact, you could argue that should be the case even if they luck out and the Grizzlies buyout Iggy and he decides to sign with his former player agent and join the Lakers. You can never have too many quality wing defenders.
Covington is also a better long-term fit for the Lakers than Rose. He’s not only two years younger than the 31-year old Rose but also has a far better injury history and two years left on a very tradeable $12 million per year contract. Robert won first team All-Defensive honors with the 76ers in 2018 but was then traded to the Timberwolves in the Jimmy Butler deal and struggled with injuries throughout 2019 but is now healthy.
Covington would slide right into Kuzma’s role and minutes in the Lakers’ rotations. He’s a top-ten defender who matches up well with scorers who are too big for Bradley, KCP, and Caruso. He’s also a top-ten player when it comes to steals and deflections. Besides being an elite defender, Robert’s a better career three-point shooter and would give the Lakers the veteran consistency and toughness Kuzma couldn’t, especially in the playoffs.
The main asset in a trade for Covington would be 24-year old Kyle Kuzma. The Lakers would have to include Quinn Cook and Troy Daniels as filler to match salaries. Hopefully, that would be enough. If not, the Lakers could consider sweetening the deal by including a future second round pick.
The addition of Robert Covington would give the Lakers the elite wing defender they need to shore up their defense against top opposing scorers like Tatum, Antetokounmpo, and Leonard. The three-for-one trade would also open up roster spots for Darren Collison and Andre Iguodala. If the Lakers were lucky enough to sign Collison and Iguodala as well as trading for Covington, they’d immediately become odds-on favorite to win it all.
Right now, the Lakers have the #5 defense in the NBA. Were they able to add Covington, Collison, and Iguodala, there’s a good chance they would be able to leapfrog several teams and have the best defense in the NBA.
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