Grade the Trade: Lakers land Suns superstar in sizzling blockbuster pitch

The Los Angeles Lakers came into the season with their sights set on contending in the Western Conference, but despite healthy seasons from LeBron James and Anthony Davis they wallowed in the Play-In race for most of the year and finished as just the eighth seed in the West, losing in five games to the defending champion Denver Nuggets.

Game Preview: Lakers at Suns, colorful courts, and the need for payback -  Bright Side Of The Sun

The scapegoat for that early exit has already been found, with head coach Darvin Ham fired just days after the end of their season. Hiring a different head coach may help, but it won’t be enough to drastically change the outlook for the Lakers if they do not also make changes to the roster. Heading into the offseason armed with as many as three first-round picks and a variety of players to include in trades, how could the Lakers upgrade the roster significantly enough to change their fate?

The Lakers could look to the Suns for a trade partner

Down Interstate 10 from the Lakers, the Phoenix Suns also entered the season with high hopes, having built the latest super team and expecting to ride an elite offense deep into the playoffs. Unsurprisingly, however, Bradley Beal battled injuries all season, Kevin Durant took a small step back at 35 years old and the role players weren’t enough. The Suns finished just sixth and were ignominiously swept in the first round by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Where the Lakers have assets this summer, the Suns have nothing. They used their draft capital to add Durant and Beal and are miles above the second tax apron. They will likely need to run this group back, but Durant could look around and decide he can’t realistically contend with that roster. Asking out is not a new thing for him, and the Suns may actually welcome it to shake free of their current prison.

If Durant were to be available for trade, and especially if he tries to direct his own path, could the Los Angeles Lakers put together a fair trade offer for him? Should they? Let’s look at the details and then grade the proposed trade for the Lakers.

What would a Kevin Durant trade to the Lakers look like?

Building a trade offer for Kevin Durant is a difficult proposition. He makes $50 million next season, so the Lakers need to come up with a lot of matching salary. The Phoenix Suns are also over the second luxury tax apron, which means they cannot aggregate (combine) outgoing salaries to match the incoming amount; essentially, they can only trade one player at a time.

The Lakers are obviously not including LeBron James or Anthony Davis in such a deal, which means they likely have to include Austin Reaves, even if he is a difficult fit with Bradley Beal and Devin Booker. The Suns could use a pure point guard, but unless D’Angelo Russell exercises his player option and wants to go to the Suns, the Lakers probably won’t be able to include him in such a deal.

Those stipulations actually bring clarity to the trade offer. Without Russell, Davis or James in the deal, the Lakers likely need to stack all four of their mid-range salaries together to match Durant’s salary. Add in all three of their first-round picks (assuming in this scenario that the New Orleans Pelicans defer their pick trade, which is likely) and you get an offer the Suns might just consider.

Here is what the deal would look like:

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