Lakers Trade Proposal Flips Austin Reaves for All-Star Wing, Defensive Ace

Austin Reaves, LeBron James, Lakers

Getty Austin Reaves #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates a three-point shot against the Phoenix Suns.

The Chicago Bulls have made Los Angeles Lakers‘ preferred trade target Alex Caruso untouchable, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

The same had been said about Lakers’ rising star Austin Reaves, the Bulls’ preferred return in a potential Zach LaVine trade, per Hoopshype’s Michael Scotto.

But there might be a win-win trade that could solve the standoff, Hoopshype’s salary cap expert Yossi Gozlan wondered.

“Maybe there’s something where [the Lakers] get LaVine, and maybe they could also get Alex Caruso,” Gozlan said. “I think that’s a guy that really raises their championship ceiling over most of the players.”

“Would the Lakers consider a package where they get LaVine and Caruso, but then have to give up Reaves, but they don’t have to give up any picks? Maybe they can also get off [Gabe] Vincent in the process? I think that’s an interesting scenario. They definitely need a point-of-attack defender like Caruso to defend some of the better ball-dominant players in the league.”

However, this potential blockbuster deal cannot be completed after January 15 when Reaves, who signed a $56 million, four-year deal with the Lakers last summer, becomes trade-eligible.

Vincent, the injured Lakers free-agent acquisition, can be traded starting December 15.

Reaves and Vincent’s combined $22.5 million salary does not match the Bulls duo’s combined $49.4 million salary for this season. So, the Lakers will have to throw in salary fillers from the group of D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura and Christian Wood. Like Vincent, all three become trade-eligible on December 15.

Alex Caruso Cushions Austin Reaves’ Loss

In this trade scenario, the 29-year-old Caruso cushions the impact of Reaves’ loss.

Caruso fits LeBron James and Anthony Davis better than Reaves. And he already has a pre-existing chemistry with both Lakers stars, especially with James.

James and Caruso had the highest net rating among any two-man lineup in the team during their last two seasons playing together. In their NBA Bubble championship run in the 2019-20 season, they had a plus-18.6 net rating. The following season, Caruso’s final year with the Lakers, they registered a plus-17.1 net rating.

Caruso has blossomed into one of the premier perimeter defenders in the league since he left Los Angeles. Last season, he was named to the All-NBA Defensive First Team.

Zach LaVine Forms Lakers’ New Big 3

If Caruso returns to play his ultimate glue guy role anew with the Lakers, LaVine, on the other hand, will provide a major scoring boost.

LaVine’s 38.2% career 3-point shooting clip and his off-the-dribble offense could ease the pressure off James and Davis. He will easily slide as the Lakers’ third scoring punch, forming Hollywood’s new Big 3.

LaVine was averaging 21.0 points on 44.3% shooting overall and 33.6% from downtown — his lowest since he joined the Bulls in the Jimmy Butler trade before a foot injury sidelined him. Joining a playoff contender could inspire him to get back to his All-Star form.

Another factor that is swaying LaVine to the Lakers is he shares the same representation — Klutch Sports — with the Lakers’ top two stars and role players Cam Reddish and Jarred Vanderbilt.

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