Since signing LeBron James in 2018, the Los Angeles Lakers have reshaped their roster several times. Now that the James era is in full swing, it appears that the team is preparing to make their first major in-season move.
As the major majority of free agents signed during the offseason will be eligible to be traded on Wednesday (Dec. 15), trade talks are starting to heat up around the league two months before the trade deadline.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Lakers are interested in Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons and Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant. There are significant obstacles to both deals.
Money is the issue in Simmons’ case. It is estimated that he will earn more than $33 million this season, and tax-paying teams like the Lakers can absorb no more than 125 per cent of what they pay out in a deal, plus $100,000. A deal with one of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, or Russell Westbrook might be possible, but involving any of those three at this time is not likely.
Unfortunately, the Lakers have almost no matching salaries outside of that trio. For the Lakers to reach the threshold necessary to acquire Simmons without compromising their top three, they must part with Talen Horton-Tucker (who makes $9.5 million), Kendrick Nunn (who makes $5 million) and a staggering eight players who make the veteran’s minimum (1,669,178 counting against the cap).
For a variety of reasons, it is not feasible to give away two-thirds of the roster during the season.
Grant is far more accessible financially. Lakers could match his $20 million salaries by offering Horton-Tucker, Nunn, and one minimum-wage player. The concern with Grant is that he is expected to be out for up to six weeks due to torn ligaments in his thumb. Considering the Lakers’ win-now nature, trading for him would be a significant risk.
Grant would be the more likely acquisition of the two players Charania listed given the finances involved and his relatively clean fit as a stretch-four on an otherwise empty roster.