Kobe Bryant (left) and Dwight Howard (right).
The Los Angeles Lakers as presently constructed do not seem capable of contending for a title. This entails that perhaps the roster needs to be shaken up a little, and that typically involves trades.
Dwight Howard’s looming free agency holds things up a little given that his departure directly impact the Lakers’ needs going forward.
For the sake of this exercise, we will assume that Mitch Kupchak will put the full-court press on the three-time Defensive Player of the Year and re-sign him.
Per ESPN.com, executives are of the belief that the Purple and Gold have positioned themselves to have an abundance of cap room in the summer of 2014 with the hope that LeBron James will opt out of his contract in that offseason.
Armed with a multitude of expired contracts, the Lakers will have an opportunity to sign the four-time MVP in free agency. This is pertinent at present time because the Lakers will not be looking to compromise that cap room by adding long-term contracts on their books.
It’s a tricky dilemma, though. The Lakers cannot acquire big salaries, but they must be relevant enough for James to believe he can steer the team to a title with the talent on board.
The only player under contract for the Purple and Gold going into the 2014-15 season is Steve Nash. Granted, with Howard re-signed, the Lakers in this instance have two players under contract for a total of roughly $30 million if they renounce the remainder of their free agents (Kobe Bryant included).
This scenario provides Kupchak with approximately $28 million in cap room to use in free agency.
With that said, there are still a few interesting potential trade packages where the Lakers can acquire talent without eating too much into that projected cap room.
Courtney Lee of the Boston Celtics.
It remains unclear at the moment the direction in which the Boston Celtics are going. There is a possibility they might blow up the team and rebuild or give the core of Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett one last shot (it feels like they’ve done this for 10 seasons in a row now) to contend for a title.
Regardless of the choice, the Lakers can help out in both scenarios. Jordan Hill has a cap-friendly figure of $3.6 million that expires at the conclusion of 2013-14.
The Celtics currently employ Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger as the complements to Garnett. Hill does a good job of rebounding and protecting the rim, which are basic requirements of a center.
The Lakers can swap Hill for the services of Courtney Lee who is signed until the conclusion of the 2015-16 season. The Boston swingman is a decent defender as well as a three-point threat.
Lee is a career 38.4 percent career shooter from downtown as well as a solid athlete. He would thrive in Mike D’Antoni’s system given that his talents are perfectly suited for an up-tempo offense.
Per Hoopsworld, Lee will make about $5,5 million in 2014-15. That would reduce their $28 million projected cap room to roughly $23 million, which is still sufficient to make a pitch to James.
Hill allows Garnett to play his natural position of power forward. Mind you, if the Celtics decide to rebuild, trading away Lee removes one of the longer contracts on the books.
Brandon Rush of the Golden State Warriors.
Going into the 2013 offseason, the Golden State Warriors should be a luxury tax team if the players with contract options decide to opt in, which is more than likely given the salaries they will earn.
Richard Jefferson has a player option for $11.1 million for the 2013-14 campaign while Andris Biedrins will earn $9 million unless he exercises his early termination clause. Just so we are clear, he will not forego the final year of his contract given the money involved for his scarce production.
Brandon Rush has a player option for $4 million that he will probably agree to given that he is coming off an ACL injury (unlikely any team offers him anything close to that before he proves he can still perform). The one player on the Warriors likely to opt out of his contract is Carl Landry.
His play during the 2012-13 season has warranted a significant raise, and the same is true for backup point guard Jarrett Jack.
Given that Golden State is projected to enter luxury territory, re-signing both Jack and Landry to lucrative long-term deals will be difficult.
This is where the Lakers come in.
The Purple and Gold can offer Jordan Hill and Steve Blake for Brandon Rush and the non-guaranteed contracts of Dwayne Jones, Scott Machado and Kent Bazemore.
Hill and Blake are expiring contracts that do not compromise the Warriors’ 2014 cap room. Also, they immediately replace Jack and Landry, who are both in for big paydays elsewhere.
The Lakers acquire a quality shooter and defender in Rush as well as a solid and athletic defender in Bazemore. Rush is a career 41.3 percent shooter from three-point range while the remainder of the players can fill out the bench or simply get cut loose and save the Lakers some money given their non-guaranteed deals.
Shane Battier of the Miami Heat.
Chris Andersen has been sensational as a third big man for the Miami Heat in the 2012-13 season. Mind you, his play has probably turned him into an attractive and expensive commodity. It stands to reason the Heat will not be able to retain his services in the 2013 offseason.
Jordan Hill is certainly capable of replacing Andersen’s contributions. Thus, Mitch Kupchak’s move here is to trade away Hill for Shane Battier.
The Heat swingman plays both forwards spots and defends at an incredibly high level. More importantly, he is a career 38.7 percent shooter from long range, which is perfect in Mike D’Antoni’s system.
Battier will be encouraged to fire away from downtown and open up the floor for Dwight Howard. In addition, his contract expires at the conclusion of the 2013-14 campaign. Consequently, the Lakers still keep their 2014 cap room intact.
Marcus Thornton of the Sacramento Kings.
The Sacramento Kings’ roster has some intriguing talent, but the players simply do not complement each other. Some of their players are incredibly redundant, which makes for a flawed team.
The Lakers can help them out with a trade: Pau Gasol for John Salmons and Marcus Thornton.
DeMarcus Cousins and Gasol become a great big-man tandem for one season with Tyreke Evans directing the offense. Given that Sacramento had far too many players who needed the ball, this transaction creates a clear pecking order on the team.
Also, Gasol’s contract expires after the 2013-14 season. This matters in the grand scheme of things because Evans then becomes eligible for an extension that probably puts the team over the salary cap or fairly close to it if it keeps Salmons and Thornton.
The Lakers, on the other hand, get some serious scoring punch on the perimeter. Thornton is not a deadeye shooter, but he is a stud scorer who heats up in a hurry. Salmons has some scoring and playmaking ability that he can bring off the bench.
The move bolsters the Lakers’ bench and perimeter play. Financially, Salmons’ contract calls for him to make $7 million in 2014-15, but that final year of his contract is a team option. Hence, the Lakers can simply terminate his contract.
Thornton will make $8.6 million, per Hoopsworld, in 2014-15, which partially compromises the Lakers’ cap room for 2014. Under this scenario, the Lakers would have Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Thornton under contract. This leaves the Lakers with a little over $19 million in cap room.
In this setting, the Lakers trade away Nash to offer James a maximum-type contract offer.
Vince Carter (left) and Shawn Marion (right) of the Dallas Mavericks.
During his coaching tenure with the Phoenix Suns, Mike D’Antoni used Shawn Marion as an athletic stretch power forward and watched him play some of the best basketball of his career.
Marion is obviously much older now but still has plenty in the tank. He is still an above-average defender and superb finisher at the basket. He rebounds at a very good rate and still gets up and down the court.
The Lakers can offer Pau Gasol for Marion and Vince Carter.
This transaction gives the Purple and Gold a team that fits a little better in the image of D’Antoni’s philosophy. Carter boosts the bench play, while Marion stretches the floor and also allows the Lakers to run up and down the court.
The Mavericks acquire a gifted low-post player to pair alongside Dirk Nowitzki. The twosome immediately becomes one of the most versatile and fearful in the league given the matchup nightmare it presents.
The three players involved in this trade all become free agents in the summer of 2014, thus neither team has to worry about the long-term ramifications of this swap.