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NBA

Are the LA Lakers looking to trade for 76ers' Ben Simmons?

In what would be surely the blockbuster trade of the season, could the want away point guard be on the verge of a move to join LeBron James and co.?

Update:
As the trade deadline approaches, reports suggest that the Los Angeles Lakers could make a move for one of the NBA's most sought after players, Ben Simmons

The story of one of the most debated players of 2021 has taken yet another turn, with the idea that the Los Angeles Lakers are now interested in him

Are the Lakers moving for Ben Simmons?

Having already gone through a series of makeovers since 2018 when they signed LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers are rumored to be considering another one. Only this time it could involve one of the most talked about and sought after players of 2021, Ben Simmons. The trade deadline is of course still two months away, however, momentum is picking up across the league as the varying free agents who were signed during the offseason will become eligible for trades on Wednesday December 15th.

Ben Simmons and the problem of price

As reported recently by the Athletic's Shams Charania, two of the names that have come up are Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons and Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant. There are, however, complications with both players. Where Simmons is concerned, the issue is quite frankly the cost. Simmons will earn more than $33 million this season, meaning for team like the Lakers who can't absorb anymore than 125% of the salary they send out in a deal, plus $100,000. One can imagine with the likes of LeBron James, Anthony Davis or Russell Westbrook that is going to be difficult.

Frankly the Lakers have essentially no wiggle room in terms of matching Simmons' salary outside of the aforementioned trio. In order to arrive at the point required to sign Simmons without releasing one of the three, the Lakers would have let go of a number of players such as Talen Horton-Tucker (earning $9.5 million), Kendrick Nunn (earning $5 million) and an eyeopening eight players who collectively make the veteran's minimum, which currently stands at $1,669,178 against the cap. Releasing a large percentage of the roster is obviously not an option.

Jerami Grant a better option?

Grant for his part is definitely more affordable. The Lakers could potentially match his $20 million salary by offering Horton-Tucker, Nunn and a single minimum-salary player. The concern, however, is that Grant is expected to miss up to six weeks with torn ligaments in his thumb. The Lakers having misfired in their initial run of games find themselves with a present tense need rather than long term, such that trading for an injured player would be seen as very risky. Yet it remains clear that Grant is the much more probable of the two to be signed based on financial conditions. It must be said, however, that any move involving Horton-Tucker would have to wait until January 15th, as he was re-signed using Bird Rights to a deal above the minimum with a raise greater than 20 percent. Be that as it may the reality is the Lakers have been a disappointment this season and even more so considering the level on talent on the roster.

What is the matter with the Lakers?

It is clear that the Lakers don't have a problem with talent, so just where have things gone wrong? In simple form, it's a problem of depth. The Lakers traded most of their depth to land Russell Westbrook and now find themselves dedicating two-thirds of their roster - 10 of 15 slots - to players making minimum salaries. To say that has had a damning effect would be an understatement, especially on their defense. Last season they were No. 1 in the league on defense now they sit at No. 11. It would seem that what the Lakers need is defenders who can shoot which immediately favors Grant as opposed to Simmons. On the other hand Simmons is exemplary in just about every other category aside from shooting. What then is the correct choice?

What then should the Lakers do?

Will the Lakers actually make a move for either player? The reality is there is still much that has to align in order for a deal to be feasible, far less completed. One thing, however, is certain and that is that the Lakers are trying to find equilibrium between a wide array of priorities right here and now. For starters there is the issue of LeBron James' age. The Lakers icon can only be expected to play for a few more years at the level that he currently does. Then there is Westbrook who is perhaps facing his last opportunity to win an ever elusive NBA title. Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka has of course done his best to maintain some degree of balance between the present and the future, but with apparent budgetary cuts imposed by ownership after the loss of Alex Caruso to the Chicago Bulls, it is no easy task that lies ahead. Regardless if there is one take away from recent reports, it is that as much talent as they may have on the roster, the Lakers are still not happy with their team.

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