Heading into the 2019 NBA offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers are in desperate need to make a splash for a secondary star to run alongside LeBron James. Despite at one point sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference, when LeBron James went down for a month with his groin injury, the Lakers went down with him. Although James was able to return after a month, the Lakers would lose key young contributors Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram for the season while Kyle Kuzma battled injuries that had him in and out of the lineup. Unable to ever get back into rhythm at full strength, the Lakers tumbled out of playoff contention.
Meanwhile, the Phoenix Suns recently gave Devin Booker the max extension yet have shown an inability to provide useful pieces around him as they have gotten progressively worse in each of his NBA seasons. Especially if the Suns find themselves falling outside the top three picks in the upcoming NBA draft, the possibility of trading franchise cornerstone Devin Booker may become a legitimate option.
Enter the Lakers, who as just mentioned are desperately looking for a second star but proven themselves unable to do so in free agency. With an abysmal free agent track record outside of James in recent years, trading for a young star under team control might be their best option.
Possible Lakers Trade With Suns for Devin Booker
*Note: Deal built with ESPN’s Trade Machine
Lakers Receive: Devin Booker
Suns Receive: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, 2019 First Round Pick, 2020 Second Round Pick
Considering that Booker is only 22 years old and has a whopping five years left on his extension after this season, he is going to demand an extraordinary crop of assets coming back in return. The only two teams with the cap flexibility and assets able to pull something like this off are the Lakers and Celtics. Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge has had his eyes locked on Anthony Davis for a few years now, so we can mostly rule out the Celtics offering competition as their interests lie with a different player.
While the Lakers are interested in moving for Davis, the fact remains that the Celtics have a better crop of assets to deal and Ainge seems hellbent on landing Davis no matter the cost. With the Lakers simply not having the pieces to compete with the Celtics for Davis, Booker makes sense as he fills a glaring void for the Lakers and should slot in nicely as an off-ball scoring option. Booker has shown the ability to be competent and run an offense on his own but he is at his best when another player brings up the ball and helps put him in an easy position to do what he does best – score.
Most importantly the Lakers could potentially hang onto Kyle Kuzma to function as a floor-spacing power forward, allowing James and Booker to more easily attack the rim. Kuzma fits in extremely well alongside LeBron and while the Suns will almost certainly be interested in Kuzma, offering Lonzo and Hart should help make up for the lack of backcourt depth. Losing Lonzo and Ingram would hurt but the Lakers would still have around $20 million to go free agent hunting and could likely land another point guard who fits the new lineup even better.
In return, the Suns would be getting a crop of young players to surround Deandre Ayton alongside a second (likely) top 10 draft pick this season. Given their inability to build a winner around Booker, blowing things up and getting this sort of haul back doesn’t sound all that bad. Frankly, the depth that a healthy Ingram, Ball, and Hart would add alongside two top ten picks would likely make Phoenix much better than the 18-win ballclub they currently are.
What makes this deal easy from a financial standpoint is that heading into this offseason, both teams have heaps of cap space and the Lakers are more than able to absorb Booker’s poison pill provision. The Suns would actually save themselves nearly $10 million in cap space next season as well and allow them to potentially find a solid free agent to come play alongside what would be an exciting young core.
Will the Lakers Trade For Devin Booker?
Most likely not, while the trade works in ESPN’s trade machine and offers both teams plenty of upside, the Suns are probably pretty unwilling to part with the star they recently gifted a max extension to. Even given the monster haul the Suns would receive in return, the Suns would almost certainly need to find themselves falling outside of the top three in the NBA Lottery in order for this to cross their mind.