5 NBA teams that should be selling at the trade deadline

2. Los Angeles Lakers

After a promising 10-10 start to the 2016-17 campaign, the wheels have fallen off for the young Los Angeles Lakers. Though their sudden collapse may wind up costing executive vice president Jim Buss his job at the end of the season, it could ultimately behoove them in the long run.

If the Lakers finish outside of the top three in this year’s lottery, their first-round pick will head to the Philadelphia 76ers as the final penance for their ill-fated Steve Nash trade from a few years ago. Additionally, if that pick conveys to Philadelphia, L.A. will owe its 2019 first-rounder to the Orlando Magic as well. (If the Lakers do wind up in the top three, their 2018 unprotected first-rounder will go to Philly, but they’ll only owe the Magic their second-round picks in the next two drafts.)

Those draft-pick considerations caused Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus to argue in late January that “perhaps the Lakers should think less about improving the on-court product” heading into the trade deadline “and more about their chances in the lottery.” Though they likely won’t find takers for their two free-agent miscues from this past summer, Luol Deng (four years, $72 million) and Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million), microwave veteran scorers such as Lou Williams and Nick Young could attract suitors in need of additional offensive firepower off the bench.

According to HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy, rival general managers believe the Lakers “will strongly consider” shipping out some of their veterans to free up more minutes for their young core (aka tank for that top-three pick like there’s no tomorrow). The one hurdle may be Buss, who promised to step down if the Lakers weren’t back in the contender mix by this season, but the team’s recent appointment of Magic Johnson as a special adviser may thwart that potential stumbling block.

Adding one more top-three pick to the Brandon Ingram-D’Angelo Russell-Julius Randle core could give the Lakers a special mix of young talent moving forward. The franchise should do everything in its power—including selling the likes of Williams and Young at a discount—to ensure that possibility becomes a reality.