Statistically, the Los Angeles Lakers can still barge into the NBA playoffs if they continue playing good basketball. But can they do it without Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance, Jr.? Better yet, should the Lakers still try to march past the regular season now that they have the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2018 first round draft pick?

Hours before the trade deadline expired, the Lakers and the Cavaliers agreed to swap players: Clarkson and Nance for isaiah thomas, Channing Frye, and the 2018 first round draft pick. Clarkson is the Lakers’ third-best scorer (14.5 points) while Nance is their third best rebounder (6.8 rebounds).

Win-Win trade

While the trade looks to strengthen the Cleveland Cavaliers’ playoff and possibly NBA Finals’ chances, the Los Angeles Lakers have its fair share of bright prospects.

In terms of player quality, the Lakers got Isaiah Thomas [VIDEO], one of the leading point guards during the 2016-17 NBA season. He was even considered for the Kia NBA Most Valuable Player award.

In 15 games he played with the Cavaliers where he started in 14 games, Thomas averaged 14.7 points (3rd) and 4.5 assists (2nd). Meanwhile, Channing Frye led the Cavaliers in terms of 3-point shooting percentage last season, barging in the Top 20 placing 17th behind Stephen Curry and Chris Paul (tied for 16th spot).

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton is open to the possibility of playing Isaiah Thomas and rookie Lonzo Ball in the backcourt together. This could be an interesting development in terms of the team’s offensive style.

The real score

According to Bobby Marks of ESPN, the real reason behind the trade is not about the player quality but their contract.

As Marks explained, the Lakers get two expiring contracts which would push their projected salary room to $46.9M this summer.

Marks added that this number would stretch even further to $69M. This scenario would happen if the Lakers decide not to bring back Julius Randle and apply the NBA’s stretch provision on Luol Deng’ contract to five years.

Two max players

Wojnarowski believes that the move of Magic Johnson and the Lakers management is part of its grand plan to bring two max players next season to Los Angeles. And it’s an open secret that they are looking forward to getting LeBron James, should he opt out of his contract, and California native Paul George.

In addition, there were rumors that the Lakers are already eyeing other NBA superstar-caliber players. The list includes Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and Klay Thompson.