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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Laying out the trade details

Klay Thompson is heading for a significant salary cut given that he was making $43 million this past season. The Warriors allegedly offered Klay two years and $48 million and were rejected, ostensibly because he wants a third year. Taking a step all the way down to $12.89 million is a tough pill for Klay to swallow.

Perhaps he does anyway, signing as a mercenary sharpshooter for whoever needs him. The way to change the scale, however, is to set up a sign-and-trade where a player who makes less than Klay is sent back to the Warriors.

How much can the Lakers offer in a sign-and-trade? That depends on the player they sent along, as their salary dictates how high the Lakers can go with a contract offer. Here is one potential construction involving combo forward Rui Hachimura:

Klay s-t

Rui Hachimura will make exactly $17 million next season, which means that the Lakers can take back up to $24.25 million in salary without sending out another player. That means the maximum salary that Thompson could make in this construction would be $78 million over three seasons. Let's assume that Klay Thompson agrees to a new contract that starts a little lower at $22 million next season, and over three years is around $70 million.

The other key financial note is that adding a player via sign-and-trade hard caps the Lakers at the first luxury tax apron, so they would need to keep their total team salary under $178 million. To do that in this scenario the Lakers would need to open up about $10 million in space under the apron, and presumably, those savings would come from LeBron James signing a new deal at less than his maximum to bring Thompson on board.

The Lakers would land Thompson without using either of their available first-round picks nor 2024 draftee Dalton Knecht. They could start Austin Reaves and LeBron James as the ball-handlers, Anthony Davis in the middle and both Knecht and Klay Thompson as shooters on the wing. They also would have the ammunition to flip D'Angelo Russell with one or both picks to land another impact player.

We have seen the value of Klay Thompson on the Warriors and understand the Lakers making this investment. What about Golden State? How would they feel about this deal?