By Alex Kennedy

The Los Angeles Lakers seem to understand that they can’t compete for a championship as currently constructed. Following Tuesday’s blowout loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, LeBron James said as much.

“It tells me we ain’t on their level,” James told reporters. “I mean, I could have told you that before the game.”

According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the Lakers’ players realize that “the roster is not working, and something must be done to get the team back on course with Thursday’s trade deadline fast approaching.”

This “suspicion had been mounting for weeks, if not months,” but it became clear following Tuesday’s loss to the Bucks (which was Los Angeles’ fifth loss in their last seven games).

James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook have only played 18 games together this season, and the Lakers are 10-8 in those games. However, sources told McMenamin that “standing pat … is not seen as a viable option by players on the team.”

The Lakers have been shopping Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn and their 2027 first-round pick in recent weeks, but teams don’t seem to be interested. Los Angeles reportedly offered this package to the Detroit Pistons for Jerami Grant, but the Pistons rejected the offer.

The Lakers chose to prioritize Horton-Tucker last offseason when he was a restricted free agent, giving him a three-year deal worth $32 million. The 21-year-old has potential, but he hasn’t taken the leap that the Lakers hoped for this season. In 25.7 minutes per game, Horton-Tucker is averaging just 9.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 0.9 steals on .405/.248/.797 shooting splits. He is earning $9,500,000 this season, followed by $10,260,000 next year and a player option worth $11,020,000 in 2023-24.

Nunn has yet to play in a game this season due to a bone bruise in his right knee, and the Lakers have ruled him out until at least March. He’s earning $5,000,000 this season, with a player option worth $5,250,000 next year. Last season with the Miami Heat, the 26-year-old averaged 14.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.2 threes in 29.5 minutes per game, while shooting 48.5% from the field, 38.1% from three and 93.3% from the free-throw line.

It remains to be seen if the Lakers can pull off a significant trade with these assets.

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka “will continue to collaborate with James leading up to the deadline,” just as the two worked together on the Lakers’ offseason moves (including the Russell Westbrook trade and free-agent signings), writes McMenamin.

The Lakers are currently 26-28, putting them outside of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. The NBA trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m. ET.

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