News of Joel Embiid’s fractured foot sent the sky hurdling towards the ground with less than a week until the 2014 NBA Draft. One of the dominos to fall as a byproduct was the news that Philadelphia could seriously consider a trade of the No. 3 pick if Andrew Wiggins goes first or second:
As Ryen Russillo and countless others have tweeted, the offer circulating rumor mills has Steve Nash and the No. 7 pick going to the 76ers in exchange for Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams and Thaddeus Young. If Philadelphia GM Sam Hinkie does in fact extend such an offer, Mitch Kupchak should pull the trigger without a second thought.
The prospect of drafting a Julius Randle or a Marcus Smart and watching him develop into a stud is tantalizing. It’s a big reason why we watch professional sports in the first place. But Kupchak and the team’s ownership latched themselves to the Kobe Bryant freight train with coal going out of style. They need to get the most miles out of what they have now.
Next to Jabari Parker, Randle has gotten the biggest nod as the draftee most ready to contribute in the Fall. Drafting him would no doubt be a positive. But if you’ve got to choose between Nash and Randle or Carter-Williams and Young, the answer is obvious.
Kobe Bryant knows the Lakers are below where they need to be to compete this upcoming season. Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Making this trade doesn’t change the Lakers’ obligations much.
Carter-Williams ($2.3 million) gets a shade less than the No. 7 pick will make ($2.4 million). Nash, at $9.7 million, will get about $600k more than Young. In the short term they actually gain a few hundred-thousand dollars in cap space.
Young does have an early termination option for the 2015-16 season. But at $9.7 million he either a) checks out for more money, b) becomes a great trade chip or c) gives the Lakers value at a weak position.
Los Angeles retains all of its cap space to pursue a true star pairing for Bryant.
Dead weight turned to gold
Photos of Steve Nash in a Lakers jersey this season are a rarity. Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
At 40, expectations on Steve Nash to run the Lakers’ offense like the Phoenix days of yore just aren’t there. That doesn’t change the fact that he and Bryant will hog more cap space this season than San Antonio’s championship-winning trio of Tim Duncan-Tony Parker-Manu Ginobili.
Even if 2013-14 was an injury-filled aberration for Nash, he’s been on the decline since 2009-10 in terms of games played, PER, points, assists, you name it. A top starting point guard, especially in the Western Conference, Nash is not.
Young, in contrast, has seven years under his belt at the ripe age of 25. He just put together career highs in points (17.9) and assists (2.3) while becoming the team’s No. 1 option on offense.
Throw in the reigning Rookie of the Year and you’re already heading into the free agency with three-fifths of a starting lineup, a backup point guard in Kendall Marshall and Robert Sacre doing your dirty work at the bottom of the rotation with about $30 million to throw around.
Though the Western Conference is rife with sharks at the point guard position, Carter-Williams would fit perfectly next to Bryant. The ROTY’s biggest weakness is his outside shot; Kobe loves to shoot. MCW has proven to excel as a distributor; Kobe always wants teammates to pass him the ball.
There is some learning to do, which Bryant can surely facilitate, but MCW is much further along than any prospect will be.
Two will tango
Kudos if you can name either of these players, or anyone on Philadelphia not named Young or Carter-Williams. Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The best part about this deal? It holds appeal for both bottom-feeding teams following completely different strategies.
Philadelphia appears content to collect as many draft assets and top young talents as legally possible. Nerlens Noel has yet to play an NBA minute, and this deal would add three more top-10 picks. Sure, they’re giving up last year’s top draft choice who completely outplayed his expectations. But the Sixers seem to have a bigger crush on Dante Exum than Carter-Williams and there isn’t room for both.
Amazingly, Young is the only remaining member of Philadelphia’s 2011-12 playoff team. Sending him west would complete the team’s rapid transition. They could trot out a Dante Exum-Julius Randle-Nik Stauskas-Nerlens Noel core every night, then add another lottery pick next summer.
With $48.5 million dedicated to Kobe Bryant over the next two years, making this trade allows the Lakers to be more competitive in the short-term without sacrificing any future flexibility. In fact, they would be adding two players capable of contributing long after Kobe hangs it up.
All salary information taken from Spotrac.com.