4 Trades the Lakers can make to upgrade roster after LeBron gobbled up the money

The Los Angeles Lakers are in a tight financial situation but still need to upgrade the roster. What trades can they make after LeBron James took the max?
DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls and Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls and Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages
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The Los Angeles Lakers are in a bind.

Last season they barely snuck into the playoffs, knocking off the New Orleans Pelicans in the Play-In Tournament to set up a five-game loss to the Denver Nuggets. This summer was about upgrading the roster around the aging but still extremely impactful LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Lakers went from being eligible to trade just one first-round pick to trading three, which was supposed to unlock massive pathways to improve the team.

Instead, the draft is in the rearview mirror, and instead of taking a big swing, the Lakers stood pat and drafted Tennessee wing Dalton Knecht with the 17th pick and Bronny James at No. 55. They didn't make a trade leading into free agency, and they couldn't lure any big names to the team. Klay Thompson turned down more money from the Lakers to sign with the Dallas Mavericks.

LeBron put the Lakers in a bind

LeBron James made a magnanimous offer to take less than his max to sign the right free agent, but he kept his list small and unlikely and all of those players signed elsewhere. James, as he has done every year since leaving the Miami Heat, proceeded to take the maximum possible salary for a new two-year contract.

That leaves the Lakers with essentially the same roster they had last year, and the front office has to try and upgrade the team with one hand tied behind their back. With LeBron signing for the max the Lakers are right up against the second luxury tax apron. To ensure they are not further restricted down the road, they will need to reduce their salary at least a little -- all while trying to substantially improve the team.

Can they do that? It's certainly possible. Let's look at four trade options for the Lakers to reduce their salary (even by a tiny amount) and improve the roster in the process. We will start with a player the Lakers are rumored to be interested in, Portland Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant.

Trade No. 4: Jerami Grant

LeBron James is one of the greatest defensive players of his generation, but he is no longer the best option to defend an opponent's best wing player night-in and night-out. The Los Angeles Lakers have Jarred Vanderbilt in place for that role, but his offensive limitations play him off the court in the playoffs. The Lakers really need a two-way forward to add to the rotation and upgrade upon Rui Hachimura.

That's why their rumored interest in Jerami Grant makes sense, as he has the defensive chops to defend multiple positions on the perimeter and is a positive on offense. Grant has developed his on-ball scoring game and his shooting since he was a defense-first role player in Philadelphia and Oklahoma City. He averaged 21 points last season shooting 40.2 percent from deep.

Grant is not much of a rebounder despite his size, and he is not a true lockdown perimeter defender, but he is above average on both ends and the kind of player whose weaknesses would be supported by the Lakers' strength, both in their rebounding and backline rim protection.

The difficulty for the Lakers is that they need to match Grant's salary of just over $29 million and in fact exceed it to shave a little money off of their payroll. The Blazers, jam-packed with guards, likely don't want D'Angelo Russell or at least would not value him very highly. That means a deal would need to be built around Rui Hachimura and Gabe Vincent.

Here is what it could look like:

Lakers Jerami Grant

The Lakers need to incentivize the Trail Blazers to both trade a valuable player in Jerami Grant and take on their bad money. Gabe Vincent has two years left on his contract and desperately has to prove he can stay healthy to have much value, and Rui Hachimura was paid a fine number that largely makes him a neutral factor. It's a steep price to pay, but it gives the Lakers a true difference-maker for the tail end of LeBron's prime.

The Blazers flip Grant and get back two solid first-round picks, either of which could leap up into the lottery or even the very top of the draft; who the Lakers will be in five and seven years is a mystery. The Lakers could still start Russell, Austin Reaves, LeBron, Grant and Davis. That's a fearsome two-way group and would help the Lakers push to be a relevant contender this season.