How Lakers Land Third Superstar, POA guard, & Modern NBA Center

7 min readMay 12, 2024

The challenge for the Los Angeles Lakers this summer will be how to add the third superstar, elite perimeter defender, and modern two-way center they need to win a championship without exceeding the second tax apron.

The bad news is the Lakers most likely don’t have enough trading chips to solve all three of their major roster needs this summer, which means they may have to choose between third star, POA guard, and modern center.
The good news is the Bulls may be desperate enough to trade superstar Zach LaVine to the Lakers for just matching salaries, allowing L.A. instead to use their newfound draft capital for a POA guard and modern center

The Bulls salary dumping Zach LaVine could open a door for the Lakers to pull off an stunning blockbuster trade for a third superstar, POA guard, and modern center as starters alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
If the Lakers could trade for Zach LaVine without giving up a pick, they could then use the picks and swaps not used for a third superstar to trade for a POA guard like Alex Caruso and modern center like Jonathan Isaac.

A Lakers’ starting lineup of Alex Caruso, Zach LaVine, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Jonathan Isaac could be the best two-way starting lineup in the league and make the Lakers one of the league’s top teams.
The Lakers would also have a solid bench anchored by three rotation players from last season in Jarred Vanderbilt, Christian Wood, and Max Christie as well as possible rookies like Zach Edey and Bronny James.

While the Los Angeles Lakers still believe they can build a championship caliber team around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, they also know the clock is running out and they soon need to find a replacement for James.
The Lakers also know competition is only going to get tougher as the league is in the middle of a generational changing of the guard with the younger and more athletic stars and teams now replacing their older counterparts.

Here’s what a blockbuster trade for a third superstar, POA guard, and modern center to transform Lakers into champions would look like plus the team’s resulting depth chart and cap space and luxury tax status.

The Blockbuster Trade

The above three-team trade has the Lakers trading six players — Russell (S&T), Lewis, Hachimura, Reaves, Vincent, and Hood-Schifino — for two players from Bulls — LaVine, Caruso — and one player from Magic — Isaac.

Assuming the Bulls are willing to trade LaVine to the Lakers for just matching salary, what’s missing from the above trade is the draft capital L.A. would have to give the Chicago for Caruso and Orlando for Isaac.
Since the Lakers included Reaves in the trade for LaVine, the Bulls should be satisfied with L.A.’s 2029 or 2031 first round draft pick as additional compensation for Alex Caruso. Pick should have at least top-5 protection.

The other key to the Lakers being able to pull off a blockbuster three-team trade to add a third star, POA guard, and modern center is getting D’Angelo Russell to accept his player option so he can be included in the trade.
What the Lakers may need to do is guarantee D’Angelo Russell a new 3-year contract with 3rd year player option for at least $23 million per year via either a sign-and-trade or new contract if actual S&T cannot be negotiated.

The bigger question for the Los Angeles Lakers would be what kind of draft capital would they have to offer the Orlando Magic to motivate them to trade Jonathan Isaac, who’s become an extremely valuable rotation player.
Although only 26-years old, Isaac has essentially missed almost three full seasons due to injury so the Lakers trading for him or the Magic re-signing him to a bigger contract could be a major gamble despite his elite talent.

Ideally, the Lakers’ offer to the Magic should include a sign-and-trade for D’Angelo Russell, Maxwell Lewis, and L.A.’s 2029 or 2031 first round pick plus and an additional pick swap but not the Lakers 2024 first round pick.
Assuming the Pelicans will opt to allow the Lakers to keep #17 pick in this draft and instead take their 2025 first round draft pick, L.A. could then use their #17 pick on Zach Edey as backup center and the #55 pick on Bronny.

The Los Angeles Lakers have always been a franchise willing to shoot for the moon and never afraid of thinking big. The Lakers need a third star, POA defensive guard, and modern two-way center to win a championship.

The Lakers’ Depth Chart

The strength of the Lakers’ new roster is the starting lineup of Alex Caruso, Zach LaVine, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Jonathan Isaac, which boasts three elite defenders and five players who can shoot the three ball.

There was no question that surrounding LeBron James and Anthony Davis with D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, and Rui Hachimura did not provide enough size or defense for the Lakers to compete for a championship.
But replacing Russell and Reaves with Caruso and LaVine and moving James and Davis down a position from power forward and center opens a lineup spot for Isaac to start at center next to AD in a two-bigs lineup.

The Lakers’ new starting lineup of Caruso, LaVine, James, Davis, and Isaac should be a dramatic improvement in offensive firepower and scoring over last season’s starting lineup with LaVine being the main difference maker.
LaVine should thrive as the Lakers’ third superstar, alongside James and Davis and when replacing one of them in the lineup. Ideally, the Lakers should be able to have at least two superstars on the court all the time.

Defensively, the Lakers’ new starting lineup would boast an elite point-of-attack defensive guard in Alex Caruso as well as a second elite switchable defensive big to protect the rim alongside Anthony Davis in Jonathan Isaac.
What’s impressive about the Lakers’ starting lineup is every player defends. There’s no DLO or Reaves or easy mark for teams to target and the lineup has championship size and length with three All-Defensive quality starters.

The Lakers’ reserves provide a diverse mix of versatile skills that can help contribute at both ends of the court and include three valued returnees from last year in Max Christie, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Christian Wood.
Add the players the Lakers select with the #17 and #55 picks in the draft, (for example, center Zach Edey and guard Bronny James) and the Lakers would start free agency with a solid 10-man rotation and five open spots.

By taking on LaVine’s bad contract, the Lakers acquired the third superstar they need without giving up picks, which then allowed them to expand the LaVine trade to use their draft capital instead to acquire Caruso and Isaac.

The Lakers’ Salary Cap

The above salary cap shows how the Lakers can add a third superstar, POA defensive guard, and modern two-way center and still have a deep and diverse roster without exceeding the dreaded second luxury tax apron.

While the new CBA makes it nearly impossible to build a championship team with three superstars earning more than $40 million per year, it can be done by targeting the right superstar, POA guard, and modern center.
For the Lakers, the key is the Bulls willingness to move LaVine with no draft capital in return, which would enable L.A. to use their available 3 picks and 4 swaps to trade for the POA guard and modern center they need.

Despite the salary cap hit and worrisome injury history, the opportunity to trade for a legitimate superstar like LaVine for just matching salary is hard to resist, especially if you then use the draft capital for Caruso and Isaac. With LeBron turning 40 next season, the Lakers would be smart to find his replacement sooner than later. LaVine would give L.A. the third superstar James wants while still keeping the trading chips for a guard and center.

The trades for Caruso and Isaac were specifically structured to give the Lakers cap space room for the dump of LaVine’s salary. The Lakers most L.A. Afford was Caruso‘’s $9.8 million and Isaac $17.4 million per year.
Were the Lakers to trade for players with combined salaries greater than $27.2 million, they would then exceed the second tax apron, which next season brings draconian financial taxes and non-competitive penalties.

Of course, Alex Caruso as the POA defender could easily be Marcus Smart, or Luguentz Dort, or Herb Jones and Jonathan Isaac as the modern two-way big could be Lauri Markkanen, Alperen Sengun, or Myles Turner.
The key is finding a starting elite point-of-attack defensive guard and a starting modern two-way center with combined salaries not greater than $27.2 million who would perfectly complement James, Davis, and LaVine.

Even if the Lakers decide not to trade for Zach LaVine, they should use their available draft capital to trade for an elite starting POA defensive guard and a starter quality modern two-way center rather than on a third superstar.

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