Monday, May 20, 2024
spot_img

Trae Young expected to be among possible Lakers offseason targets, but his fit raises familiar questions

The last time the Los Angeles Lakers lost a first-round playoff series, they blew up a roster that had achieved meaningful postseason success in order to add a high-usage ball-handler in Russell Westbrook. Now, it appears that the Lakers are at least considering the possibility of doing so again.

The Lakers have been linked to Trae Young since the trade deadline. Now that their season is officially over, it seems as though he is indeed on the radar, as The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Sam Amick and Jovan Buha reported Monday night that while “the Lakers’ room could be split” on him, he is “expected to be discussed.”

Young, obviously, would not be an exact re-run of the Westbrook trade. Young is a career 35.5% 3-point shooter, which doesn’t reflect his true value as so many of his shots are difficult pull-up attempts. He’s significantly younger than Westbrook was as well, suggesting that there is time for him to work on some of his flaws.

But any player attempting to fit in with James needs to be comfortable playing without the ball in his hands. LeBron James has the sixth-highest usage rate in NBA history at 31.53%. Westbrook is actually ahead of him on that list at 31.61%, and he never fully figured out how to function within an offense that James, by virtue of being LeBron James, was always going to run. 

That could be a problem for Young, who just spent two years struggling to fit alongside another point guard in Dejounte Murray. Young’s career usage rate of 32.3% is actually higher than any player in NBA history not named Michael Jordan, though he doesn’t yet qualify for the all-time leaderboard.

Young’s defensive vulnerabilities would cause problems as well, and unlike Westbrook, those flaws can’t be fixed with improved effort and schematic discipline. Westbrook is one of the best athletes in NBA history and had the capacity to be a great defender when he wanted to be. Young, who is far skinner and slower, has physical weaknesses that make him far harder to hide on defense. His effort did improve at points this season. Still, it’s hard to imagine him ever improving to the point of even being a league-average defender, much less a true positive.

Within that same Athletic story, Charania, Amick and Buha wrote that James “places importance on having comprehensive and well-rounded depth around him.” This is perhaps evidence that James has learned from the mistakes of the Westbrook trade. The 2020 Lakers roster that he won a championship with had that sort of comprehensive and well-rounded depth. This year’s roster was a middle-ground between the extremes of that roster and the one they scraped together after landing Westbrook. With three tradable first-round picks available, the Lakers have pathways to bridging the gap between this team and the 2020 championship roster.

Trading for Young would be a step in the opposite direction. Matching his $43 million salary alone would mean sacrificing at least three players out of the Austin Reaves-Rui Hachimura-Jarred Vanderbilt-Gabe Vincent mid-tier salaries. That is assuming D’Angelo Russell does not opt into the last year of his deal. In the new, second apron world teams are operating within, pairing three stars with comprehensive and well-rounded depth isn’t really possible.

But the Lakers have spent the past six decades emphasizing the importance of star power. If their history is any indication, they will at least explore the possibility of acquiring anyone with Young’s pedigree, whether he fits or not. 

Related articles

Share article

Latest articles

Newsletter

Subscribe to stay updated.