Grade the Trade: Lakers make disastrous move to add Raptors wing in rumored deal

The Los Angeles Lakers are rumored to be interested in one of the Toronto Raptors free agents. This mock deal illustrated how disastrous the cost would be.
Rob Pelinka, Los Angeles Lakers
Rob Pelinka, Los Angeles Lakers / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages
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Laying out a Gary Trent trade

Gary Trent Jr. is currently an unrestricted free agent. If he wanted to sign with any team in the NBA he is free to do so. The fact that he hasn't likely reflects a cool market for Trent, and he is unlikely to land a substantial contract from another team. There certainly aren't any offers at above the Mid-Level Exception waiting for him, and it's likely his market is even lower than that.

The problem with the Lakers' reported interest, however, is that they don't have the space to add Trent at any number. If they sign him even to a minimum contract it will push them above the second tax apron, severely limiting their flexibility to improve the roster this season and beyond.

Even in a reduced market, however, Trent is very unlikely to accept a straight minimum contract, and the Lakers literally cannot offer anything more than a minimum without shedding salary. As cap space dries up across the league their options to dump salary grow limited, and the cost likely goes up.

The Charlotte Hornets used all of their space taking on money for other teams; the Lakers were too slow. The San Antonio Spurs just used up their space taking on the contract of Harrison Barnes to allow the DeMar DeRozan sign-and-trade to occur. The options for the Lakers to offload salary are quickly diminishing.

Next. Why new Toronto forward wants to leave and why the Raptors can't let him go. Why new Toronto forward wants to leave and why the Raptors can't let him go. dark

The Toronto Raptors have less than $10 million in room below the luxury tax and a full 15-man roster; they are limited in what salary they could take back in a sign-and-trade with the Lakers. For the Lakers to execute a sign-and-trade, however, they need to get under the first luxury tax apron, roughly $11 million below their current team salary. That means offloading $11 million more than they sign Trent for. Freeing up enough money to use some or all of the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception would trigger the same hard cap at the first tax apron of $178.

Could the Lakers do it? Yes, but it's certainly not easy. Here is one potential construction:

Lakers Trent Jr trade and dump

The Detroit Pistons are the last team with significant cap space left, $21.9 million or so. That is just barely enough space to take on both D'Angelo Russell and Christian Wood into their cap space, reducing the Lakers' salary enough for them to add Trent on a sign-and-trade deal; they could start it as high as around $11 million, but in this construction they start slightly lower to give them a hair of flexibility down the road. Doing this deal as a sign-and-trade also keeps open access to the Mid-Level Exception should an opportunity to use it later this year surface.

For the Pistons' troubles they get a future first-round pick courtesy of the Indiana Pacers, a fair value for taking on over $21 million in salary. Depending on how Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey are viewed by the team, the Pistons are relatively light on point guards, so Russell can actually help them.

What about the Raptors and Lakers? Is this deal worth it for them?