Zach LaVine could legitimately join the Los Angeles Lakers within the next few months. However, if he were to join the purple and gold the team would simultaneously have to depart with some of its assets. With collective bargaining criteria, the front office would need to put together a package of outgoing salaries that match or nearly match LaVine’s incoming $40 million salary for the 2023-2024 season.
D’Angelo Russell and his $17.3 million salary would be the starting point. From there, Rui Hachimura and his $15.7 million salary get you closer to where you need to be. Tossing in rookie Jalen Hood-Schifino (17th pick in this year’s draft) and his $3.7 million salary makes the math work.
Including those three guys would get the Lakers into the proper threshold for serious negotiations. From there, the amount of draft capital offered up would be the final leg of the race. Philadelphia, Miami, and even Toronto are probably the biggest threats to the Lakers in this situation.
The Sixers could simply offer up newly acquired veteran wings Marcus Morris ($17.1 million), Robert Covington ($11.7 million), and Nicolas Batum ($11.7 million) in order to meet the mathematical requirements. The Heat could package Kyle Lowry ($29.7 million), Caleb Martin ($6.8 million), and Nikola Jovic ($2.4 million) to get to the actual negotiating table.
The Raptors could kick their offer with a combination of Gary Trent Jr.’s expiring deal ($18.6 million), Dennis Schroder ($12.4 million), and Otto Porter Jr’s expiring deal ($6.3 million).
Assuming the only outgoing player in this swap from the Bulls side would be LaVine, the team that offered the most valuable draft picks/swaps would probably win the race. Chicago appears to be speeding toward a rebuild and should be seeking an assortment of young guys and quality draft picks.
In the initial packages listed above, the Lakers would already have the advantage due to the inclusion of two high-level rotation guys just youthful enough to fit into a long-term future. In addition, JHS has the potential to develop into a solid floor general given time. The Lakers could probably seal the deal by offering up the team’s 2029 1st round pick, a future 1st round pick swap, and two future 2nd rounders.
With 14 players currently locked into contracts, this trade would leave them sitting at 12. Referencing back to the NBPA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, the front office would need to move swiftly in filling at least two roster spots.
Sooner or later they would need to ensure at least 15 players were actively signed to contracts, but they could hold off on the final addition until closer to the postseason to sniff out the buyout market.
For those two mandatory additions that would arise from this trade’s occurrence, there are some guys available in the free agent market now who could be of assistance.
Free agents the Lakers could sign after a Zach LaVine trade
Bryn Forbes had a down year in Minnesota last season but still owns a 41% career splash rate from the great beyond. The Lakers’ shooting woes have been slowly subsiding recently, but it never hurts to have a bonafide sniper parked at the end of the bench.
Forbes probably would not be a major cog in the rotation, but he would automatically create more space for AD, LaVine, and/or LeBron to operate with when paired with them on the floor.
Rudy Gay is also currently searching for employment and could be a useful piece for versatility purposes. He may not have the same springs that he did once upon a time, but he is still just athletic enough to capably bounce around assignments from 3-5 on defense.
On offense, he is no longer someone you can throw the ball to in isolation bucket requests, but he can still reasonably knock down outside shots if you dare him to.
George Hill, like Gay, is currently coasting through the twilight of his career. As someone with such a rich basketball IQ at the point guard spot, his next career could easily be in coaching. For now, he would definitely be useful as a depth piece in the backcourt.
He has the brains on both sides to provide minutes when called upon and has the track record to breed reliability for quality court time in those minutes.
Nerlens Noel may not have a jumper, but he does have a lot of what you could realistically ask for from an end-of-the-bench big: athleticism, rugged rebounding, defensive instincts, rim protection, switchability, etc.
Christian Wood and Jaxson Hayes have been good for the Lakers early on, but adding another big like Noel as a bit of AD insurance could be a good move. His legal history with Klutch Sports could make the move a bit more difficult to complete, but it is one that could be mutually beneficial if concocted.
Austin Rivers’s career may not have painted this picture, but the guy genuinely seems to have a little bit of that dog in him. He has always been a guy who has taken on the toughest perimeter assignments on defense when granted the opportunity. Furthermore, he never seems scared to stand up to a challenge.
He is not the type of guy who is going to go out and give you double-digit scoring averages, but the measure of his impact extends beyond the box score. His grittiness and toughness is something that could be huge for this team, especially come playoff time. Between Cam Reddish, Rivers, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Gabe Vincent, the team would have a stable of point-of-attack defenders to pester opposing floor generals.
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