Trade Watch: Pacific Division

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The Pacific Division has been surprisingly strong so far this season. The division boasts the third and fourth place teams in the Western Conference as of Nov. 21 (Warriors and Clippers, respectively), and the Kings are shockingly one game over .500 and only a half game out of the playoffs (albeit, through only 17 games). Happy Thanksgiving, west coasters!

Currently, the teams in the Pacific Division have less tweaks to make and less problems to solve. But it’s the NBA in 2018 – there are always trades to explore. With that, let’s get into the sixth and final installment of Basketball Insiders’ Trade Watch series, with an eye on the Pacific.

Brandon Ingram

Before getting too far into this, let’s make one thing clear: Brandon Ingram is a stud, and one you could presumably build a team around. But despite his upside, Ingram is a poor fit next to LeBron James. He needs the ball in his hands to be most effective (as does James, obviously), and his numbers when sharing the court with James are pretty bad, relatively speaking. In fact, the Lakers have mostly negative net ratings when the two are on the floor together, despite posting a positive net rating in aggregate for the season.

Further, Ingram’s numbers are down on the whole this season – mostly because James is logging nearly 35 minutes per game, leaving few for him to play without James. Ingram’s PER thus far is down from 11.7 to 11.1, and he is scoring less points compared to last season (15.2 vs. 16.1) on worse two and three-point shooting, and tallying 1.6 fewer assists per game.

Long story short, it’s LeBron’s team and the onus is on everyone else to fit around him. The Lakers have a lot of young stars who must figure out how to fit in, but Ingram’s fit is probably the most awkward –  and yet he probably has the most trade value.

So before his trade value changes, the Lakers should consider moving the young star for a more appropriate piece. They probably want to avoid taking on any big salary commitment. But considering his fit and his $7.265 million salary in 2019-20, it’s worth exploring an exchange of Ingram – as either part of a bigger package that gets them the second starter they desire or in exchange for an equally compelling or better-aligned young star.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

The Lakers have another player they might be interested in moving. They signed quite a few players to slightly overpriced, one-year deals last offseason as a means to convince free agents to come to Los Angeles while maintaining cap space in the future.

Caldwell-Pope is one of them, having re-singed in Los Angeles for $12 million. He is a nice player who can score the basketball and defend opposing wings. He can’t be traded until December 15, and he secured a no trade clause (and a trade kicker to his contract) via the his one-year deal. However, he could very possibly agree to a move.

Caldwell-Pope has seen his role diminish with his minutes contracting by more than 40%. Fortunately for Caldwell-Pope, the 76ers were rumored to be interested in trading for him as recently as a week ago. And the Lakers could return a player who is better suited for their style of play – so long as it doesn’t add to their long-term salary commitments.

Trevor Ariza

Ariza never really fit with Phoenix. The Suns are in the middle of a youth movement with Devin Booker (22 years old), DeAndre Ayton (20), Mikal Bridges (22) and Josh Jackson (21). Sure, Ariza provides nice leadership, but he has much more left to give than guidance. And guidance can be had for far less than $15 million.

But there is a silver lining. He signed for only one season. So that makes him highly expendable. He could even become a trade asset if teams like the Rockets or Lakers get desperate. But one way or another, Ariza should be moved to a contender ASAP – and if the NBA Gods are just, he will return to his rightful home in Houston.

Zach Randolph

Last we saw, Randolph could still score the basketball – he led the Kings in scoring in 2017-18. But Randolph is 37 years old, and the Kings are in the middle of a serious youth movement. They play 13 players 10 or more minutes per game, only three of whom are older than 26. They’re obviously headed in different directions.

But Randolph also represents an $11 million expiring deal, and the Kings have the lowest payroll of any NBA team this season – and it gets even better next year when their only two players making more than $10 million this season both expire (Randolph and Iman Shumpert, who represent two of their three oldest players, as well).

The Kings should explore moving at least Randolph – and maybe Shumpert, as well – for a player they might have eyes for with a team looking to dump salary. Considering Randolph represents $11 million in salary this season, and that the Kings are $11 million under the cap, they can take back $22 million in a deal.  And $22 million (or more if they chose to include additional players) can net a difference maker from a team looking to dump some long-term salary, which might be desirable to Sacramento considering they haven’t been a free agent destination in some time.

Marcin Gortat

Gortat was a borderline All-Star while in his prime, and he was still productive as recently as two seasons ago. But father time is undefeated. Gortat will be 35 this February.

While he’s not playing horribly for a 12-year veteran, he’s also not a major factor on the Clippers. He’s scoring fewer points (5.6) in less minutes (17.2) than he’s registered since 2009-10.

So why would anyone be interested in taking him off the Clippers’ hands’? Cap relief. Gortat represents an expiring deal worth just north of $13.565 million. And while the Clippers don’t want to add too much salary beyond this season themselves, they could potentially pry an asset away from another team in exchange for swapping Gortat for longer-term salary. This could be a draft pick, or it could be a nice young player on a rookie deal.

Either way, the Clippers will have ample cap space entering free agency. They are committed to approximately $60 million assuming they pick up Avery Bradley’s team option; if they choose to forego on Bradley, they’re only committed to approximately $47 million. Tobias Harris will be a free agent and they must make a decision on him. But long story short, taking back a mix of (limited) longer-term and expiring deals for Gortat could be a good move for the team assuming they get an asset, as well.

The Pacific Division is off to a good start, but there are plenty of games left to go. It stands to reason that the Western Conference hierarchy looks distinctly different come Christmas than it does on Thanksgiving. But whether for salary dumps or improvements, we know we’ll see some interesting moves before the trade deadline in February from the Pacific Division, as well as the league as a whole.