Grade the Trade: Warriors send franchise icon to join LeBron in heartbreaking pitch

Klay Thompson is planning to leave the Golden State Warriors, and he is considering joining the Lakers to team up with LeBron James
Chris Paul and Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors and LeBron James and Austin Reaves, Los Angeles Lakers
Chris Paul and Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors and LeBron James and Austin Reaves, Los Angeles Lakers / Harry How/GettyImages
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How could Klay Thompson join the Lakers?

Klay Thompson is an unrestricted free agent this summer, which means that he can sign anywhere he likes. The problem is that most teams in the league are operating without cap space, which means to sign Klay Thompson they would need to use a salary cap extension and hope it represents enough salary.

Both the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers have similar situations to offer Thompson in free agency: the Full Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception, starting at $12.89 million. If the No. 1 goal for Klay is signing with a contender, then he may not be able to do better than $12.89 million. The Dallas Mavericks can offer that contract after unloading Tim Hardaway's on the Detroit Pistons, while the Lakers would need LeBron James to sign for significantly less to open up the space.

The Lakers could merely tell Klay that LeBron will take less money to improve the core significantly and that they are prioritizing him, trying to entice him to LA where his father starred and does radio play-by-play activity for the team. However, with Dallas able to match the same deal and the Warriors comfortable paying more, the Lakers can't be confident that they are the ones with the inside track to signing him.

A different approach to adding Klay Thompson could come through a sign-and-trade. A team that is over the salary cap can sign any player to any contract up to the max if they send back enough matching salary to make that relevant (and the original team can afford the deal).

That means the Lakers could send one or more players back to the Warriors in exchange for Klay Thompson. In doing so, the Lakers would have a chance to sign Thompson to a larger contract than the MLE, enticing him to pick the Lakers over another option.

Let's look at what such a trade and what such a contract would look like.