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BREAKING: Suns trade for Kevin Durant as Pacific Division arms race heats up

By trading for Kevin Durant, the Suns just became the favorites in this year’s Pacific Division, and maybe the 2023 Western Conference as a whole.

Phoenix Suns v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Not content to let the Lakers sit around and have the biggest blockbuster trade in the Pacific Division the day before the NBA trade deadline, the Phoenix Suns came seemingly out of nowhere to incinerate predictions this would be a quiet deal window by sending Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, Mikal Bridges, a total of four first-round picks and a 2028 pick swap the Brooklyn Nets for All-Star captain Kevin Durant.

According to multiple reports, TJ Warren is also headed to Phoenix in the deal, which will add $35 million to brand new Suns owner Mat Isbia’s luxury tax bill on his first day on the job:

What does this mean for the Lakers? Well, for one thing, while their trade for D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley at the cost of just one top-four protected first-round pick and the contracts of Russell Westbrook, Damian Jones and Juan Toscano-Anderson was still a smart, relatively cheap gamble by their embattled front office, their hopes of rallying to come out of the Western Conference just took a pretty massive hit.

The Suns may have struggled relative to expectations with a 30-26 record this year, but that has still been good enough for fifth place in the disappointing West so far this season. The Lakers, at 25-30 by contrast, are in 13th, two games back of even a play-in berth. And with Devin Booker having returned to the lineup yesterday and Durant likely to come back at some point after the All-Star break, Phoenix will be getting reinforcements to a degree that Los Angeles will struggle to match.

Sitting at +3000 to win the championship — per our friends at DraftKings — the Lakers were already a longshot in the title race, but Southern California couldn’t even bask in the glow of the hope of a re-interested Anthony Davis and LeBron James alongside a roster of better-fitting, more evenly distributed NBA players for more than a few hours before the Suns did this? That’s a gut punch for a team already facing an uphill climb to competitiveness.

Still, for those looking for a silver lining — and who don’t believe in a Suns trio of stars with checkered injury and/or playoff histories — one way this move could tangibly help the Lakers is that Brooklyn is going to enter full firesale mode over the next 12 hours or so.

Could that allow the Lakers to swoop in and add someone like a Jae Crowder or Dorian Finney-Smith for cheap with their remaining contracts like Lonnie Walker IV and/or Patrick Beverley and their remaining first round pick, or a second-rounder or two? It seems entirely possible.

Would one more smaller move like that be enough to help put Los Angeles within striking distance of a real playoff run with some positive health luck for their stars and a few breaks along the way? It’s at least possible! And if luck is the intersection of preparedness and opportunity, all the Lakers can do is continue to build towards the former, just in case the latter strikes.

How do you feel about this move, and the Lakers’ own trade in the wake of it? Let us know in the comments below, and for all the latest heading into the NBA trade deadline, check out our Silver Screen and Roll Lakers trade rumors tracker.

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