Los Angeles Lakers

How The Los Angeles Lakers Blew A Chance To Get C.J. McCollum

The Portland Trail Blazers can deny it all they want, but the writing is on the wall. The backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum is not working like they hoped it would. But there is a solution to their problem, or at least it was. The easy answer was the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers were trying to rid themselves of Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, according to Bleacher Report, and the Blazers would’ve been the perfect partner. All the Lakers had to do was make a strong play for C.J. McCollum and maybe both teams would have had different results this year.

The Blazers could have swung a deal and sent McCollum and Al Farouq Aminu to the Los Angeles Lakers for Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., and Julius Randle. While it may seem one-sided, it’s really not. The Blazers are thin up front. Not thin in terms of bodies in the frontcourt but in terms of production. The Blazers’ forwards read like a who’s who of big men. Any given night, Terry Stotts can have a rotation that includes Aminu, Meyers Leonard, Ed Davis, Maurice Harkless, and Noah Vonleh (before his trade). While they are deep, not one player averaged more than nine points per game before the trade deadline.

For the Lakers, they were in the same boat as Portland. Too many bodies in the frontcourt. However, they were getting too much production with not enough minutes to go around. The Lakers have tried to trade Randle and Clarkson as early as last season and to no avail. Now, with the emergence of Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram, the Lakers were desperate to shed some weight.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Moving McCollum may have been a shock, but so was losing LaMarcus Aldridge. By adding Clarkson, the Blazers will get a player who’s similar to McCollum. While McCollum is viewed as a better scorer, that might be due to his higher usage rate than Clarkson. McCollum played 36.6 minutes, averaged 17 shots per game while averaging 20.7 points on 44 percent shooting (before deadline). Clarkson, however, played just 22.5 minutes, took 12 shots, and averaged 14 points on 45 percent shooting. If the Blazers were to give Clarkson those additional 14 minutes per game, his stock would rise.

But where the deal would have made sense for both teams is Larry Nance.

Nance is versatile enough to play both forward positions and the Blazers could use him to slide right into the small forward spot. As for Randle, he’s exactly what the Blazers need. While Randle did struggle early on, he found his groove later in the season. If the Lakers would have pulled the trade off, there’s no telling the impact he would have made for Portland during their playoff run. Pairing Randle (12.8 points, 6.4 rebounds) and Nance (8.3 points, 6.6 rebounds) with Jusuf Nurkic (14.5 points, 7.4 rebounds) will give the Blazers one of the most versatile, top rebounding and athletic frontcourts in the NBA.

The Lakers And Trail Blazers May Regret Not Pulling This Trade Off

Instead, the Lakers elected to trade Nance and Clarkson to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Isaiah Thomas who played a handful of games before going down with an season-ending injury. Now a free agent, the Lakers have nothing to show for trading away two young players still under contract.
The same goes for the Trail Blazers. Even with the great play the Blazers displayed the second half of the season, they didn’t put up a fight in the playoffs. There will be some lineup adjustments made in Rip City this offseason and if both teams were to think back, all this could have been avoided.

The Los Angeles Lakers would have gotten everything they want in this deal: Randle and Clarkson gone, a great backup forward in Aminu, and a deadly perimeter player in McCollum. The deal seems like a good one with the only issue being the Blazers holding on to what they think can still work. The Lillard and McCollum backcourt will always be enough to fight for a playoff spot but if there is no help from the frontcourt, then the Blazers will find themselves always on the outside looking in. By adding Randle, Clarkson, and Nance, Lillard would have the pieces he needed to avoid the embarrassment the New Orleans put on him this playoff.

The Lakers could be looking toward a future with Lonzo Ball, McCollum, Ingram, and Kuzma, instead, they have major question marks heading into this offseason.

Sometimes letting go is the only way to move forward. The Los Angeles Lakers were willing to try, but the Blazers were still holding on to hope.

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