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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Trade No. 3: DeMar DeRozan

The Los Angeles Lakers have long been linked to DeMar DeRozan, a Los Angeles native. They were in the mix to acquire him in 2021 when he instead joined the Chicago Bulls, not only signing a lucrative contract but regaining his All-Star status and putting up a highlight reel of clutch heroics for a mediocre Chicago Bulls team.

The Lakers would love to sign DeRozan this summer, but as the top remaining free agent, he may not be keen on signing for even the Mid-Level Exception of $12.9 million. To even offer that, or to acquire DeRozan in a sign-and-trade for a larger contract, the Lakers would need to slash at least $12 million in salary to get down below the first luxury tax apron, a massive feat.

That doesn't mean it is impossible, however. The Lakers could find a team with cap space or a trade exception to offload money onto, and then they could also send enough back to the Bulls or even a fourth team to make enough room for DeRozan's salary as well. Here is one such construction that would work:

Lakers Nets Bulls DeRozan

The Brooklyn Nets take on Russell into a trade exception, completing a second trade where the Lakers send Russell to Brooklyn after he was traded in a deal for Brook Lopez and the pick that became Kyle Kuzma in 2017. Russell is something close to neutral value, but the Nets have all the leverage here so they extract two seconds from the Lakers.

The Bulls likewise know that DeRozan can probably only sign in Los Angeles if they play ball with a sign-and-trade, but they also don't seem to have the space to re-sign him themselves after their other transactions this summer. To take back Hachimura's contract and help the Lakers out they get L.A.'s other two seconds, cleaning the cupboard of all second-rounders but retaining their two first-rounders for future moves. Hachimura is the kind of player the Bulls could use so they are on board.

For the Lakers, this deal cuts a ton of money and loses them their starting point guard, but they add an on-ball star in DeRozan who can take the burden off of LeBron's shoulders at times. Gabe Vincent will need to step up and hopefully be healthy enough to do so, but this deal cuts a lot of salary without depleting all of their picks.