3 Trades that would make the Los Angeles Lakers instant title contenders

The Los Angeles Lakers are in the market for a trade, but what potential deals actually resemble realistic ways to become a contender?
New Orleans Pelicans v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game One
New Orleans Pelicans v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game One / Cooper Neill/GettyImages
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With free agency in full swing, the Los Angeles Lakers are in the market for a trade. It's been the worst-kept secret in the NBA since the hiring of JJ Redick as head coach allowed a new topic to claim the No. 1 spot on that list of well-known bits of unconfidential information.

The question on everyone's mind as free agent targets disappear from the Lakers' radar, however, is who could the team actually trade for that would make a championship-caliber impact?

The list is a bit shorter than it once was, but there are still several compelling options to help the Lakers get over the hump. This is, after all, a team with Anthony Davis and LeBron James at the core of it, as well as a promising young group that includes Max Christie, Rui Hachimura, Dalton Knecht, and Austin Reaves.

As such, designing a potential trade is done with the intention of complementing the core players and elevating the ceiling this 47-win team has.

In each of these potential trades, we're going to leave the topic of draft compensation to the executives. Our goal here is to simply make the salaries align and the outgoing talent desirable enough to get a team on the phone.

Once a rival executive picks up, it's on Rob Pelinka to determine how many draft picks he's willing to part with in order to acquire his preferred target.

That all starts with an All-Star in Cleveland.

Lakers add Darius Garland, D'Angelo Russell + Kenny Atkinson reunited

Perhaps the most likely outcome here is the Lakers going all-in on a potential trade for Darius Garland. With Donovan Mitchell signing a three-year extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Garland is a candidate to seek a trade to a better situation for him.

With Garland potentially being valued at a lower level than before by rival teams, the Lakers could swoop in with a trade centered around D'Angelo Russell.

Garland to the Lakers

The Cavaliers recently hired Kenny Atkinson to replace J.B. Bickerstaff as head coach. Atkinson, of course, coached Russell between 2017 and 2019, helping the former top-five draft pick become an All-Star during the 2018-19 season.

As such, if Cleveland is forced to part ways with Garland, then reuniting a proven tandem in Atkinson and Russell could be appealing—especially with an expiring contract involved to mitigate risk or open the door to extension talks.

Jarred Vanderbilt and Gabe Vincent make the salaries work on the Lakers' side, while Ty Jerome evens things out for the Cavaliers. The question then becomes draft compensation, which the Lakers would likely be willing to part with if it means keeping Rui Hachimura.

If Hachimura must be included instead of Vanderbilt or Vincent, then perhaps draft picks could be protected—but it all comes down to what the Cavaliers and Lakers prioritize.