Grant Hill- During Phil Jackson’s first year as Lakers coach in 1999, Phil decided that it was better for Kobe Bryant to come off the bench than to start at such a young age. You can guess how a young Kobe felt about that one. The Lakers did have an offer on the table for a Grant Hill/Kobe Bryant swap, and since Kobe had been complaining plenty about not starting, Phil was close to signing off on the deal.
Chris Paul- This one will go down in time as one of the most famous trades (well, not to happen trades) of all time. In 2011, the Hornets had a 3 team deal in place that would send a handful of players and a first round draft pick to the Hornets in exchange for All-Star guard Chris Paul. Commissioner David Stern vetoed the trade citing that the trade was not even enough for the talented Paul. In the end, Stern was trying to protect the Hornets and not trying to screw over the Lakers. At least, that’s what he said. It is very possible that the Lakers could have 3-peated with Paul as their point guard.
Kevin Garnett- The Lakers did have a “handshake deal” to make Garnett a Laker back in 2007. Three teams had been heavily chasing Garnett at the time: The Lakers, the Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers. The Lakers and Celtics did have similar packages on the table for the power forward, but the Timberwolves chose the Celtics package in the end that featured Al Jefferson. While many fans claim that Kevin McHale was helping out close friend and former teammate Danny Ainge, the Timberwolves owner claims the decision came down to not wanting to trade Garnett within the conference.
Russell Westbrook- There have been rumors of Russell Westbrook joining the Lakers for the greater part of the last six or seven years. The rumors were even as recent as just a few months ago, in fact. Back in 2016, at a time where the Lakers future was very uncertain, the Lakers were trying to sign Russell and make him their team leader.
Paul George- There has been two or three different times that Paul George was supposed to play in the purple in the gold. The first time was when the Pacers traded George to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Had George not been traded, he would have played in Indiana until the end of his contract and join the Lakers as a free agent. George is now a Clipper and just inked a huge deal, so it doesn’t look like he will be going anywhere anytime soon.
Dante Exum- The Lakers thought they had a leg up on Exum prior to the 2014 NBA Draft. The Australian prospect had moved to Los Angeles five months earlier and spent his time training and taking pointers from Kobe Bryant. When it was the Lakers time to draft in 2014, Exum was no longer on the board and the Lakers had to select Julius Randle instead. It ended up not being a huge loss.
Ben Simmons- Simmons had been talking about being a Laker long before he got drafted. He used to wear Magic Johnson jerseys around the LSU campus and often posed for pictures with Lakers players on social media. The 11-win Lakers didn’t have many assets to trade that year to the 76ers, who picked up Simmons with the first pick. The Lakers had to settle for Brandon Ingram instead. In the end, Ingram was traded as part of the deal to land Anthony Davis.
Hakeem Olajuwon- Imagine this one: Kareem retires and then Olajuwon joins the Lakers. Kareem out and Hakeem in. Can you imagine just how successful Hakeem would have been with the greatest point guard ever feeding him the ball? Hakeem had joked with Chick Hern in a 1990 interview that “there are a lot of girls in LA”. Hakeem did demand a trade from the Rockets in 1992, hoping to get dealt the Lakers, but it never did happen for the Dream.
Scottie Pippen- Here is an interesting one you may not have known of: Scottie Pippen. Before joining the Portland Trailblazers in 1999, it was actually Pippen’s preference to join the Lakers as Phil Jackson started his Laker career. Pippen never did win a title with the Blazers, but as a Laker could have added three more rings to his resume. He would have been the only player in history to be a part of three separate three-peats.
Dirk Nowitzki- The 2004 trade of Dirk and Shaq was so close that even Shaq’s then ex-wife had said at that time that she wanted to be in Dallas than in Los Angeles. Kobe wanted Shaq gone at the time, and the Lakers wanted to do whatever it could to keep Kobe happy. Cuban spoke to Kupchak about the trade, and a few people at the time said the move would have made the Mavericks NBA champions. How would the Lakers have been with a Kobe lead team with Dirk as the side kick? Who knows.