Lakers forward Lamar Odom, sharing a laugh with guard Kobe Bryant before… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
My editor called with the chance to think like an NBA general manager for a day. I jumped at it. Can't be that difficult, no?
The assignment: List five trades that would help the Lakers, would not be laughed at by an opposing team and would be allowable under the NBA's complicated trade guidelines.
The trades target the Lakers' need for speed in the backcourt, better shooters and/or a backup center who can rebound and block shots. Next season's salaries are listed for comparison's sake.
Keep in mind that teams don't like giving long contracts to players who are not superstars. Translation: Nobody is barging through the Lakers' doors and demanding Ron Artest (three more years, $21.5 million).
So, here are the hypothetical trades:
1) Denver point guard Raymond Felton ($7.6 million) and power forward Al Harrington ($6.2 million) for Lamar Odom ($8.9 million) and Steve Blake ($4 million).
The emergence of point guard Ty Lawson makes this trade eminently doable from Denver's side. Odom is the best player in the deal, but the Lakers get a 26-year-old point guard with career averages of 13.7 points and 6.7 assists.
Harrington's contract is a bit steep (four more years, $27.7 million) but he can score from long distance and averages 13.8 points in his career.
The Lakers get rid of Blake's contract (three more years, $12 million) while the Nuggets hope he recaptures the 49-game run he had with them in 2006-07, probably the best of his career (8.3 points, 6.6 assists).
2) Charlotte point guard D.J. Augustin ($3.2 million) and center DeSagana Diop ($6.9 million) for Odom, Devin Ebanks ($788,872) and a 2014 first-round draft pick.
Augustin, 23, is a quick point guard who can score and pass but doesn't do quite enough to break Charlotte's bank for an extension in what will be a contract year.
The Bobcats get out of paying Diop $14.3 million over the next two seasons, fully immerse themselves in "Khloe & Lamar" fever and hope the Lakers crater in a few years with that draft pick.
Diop has averaged only 2.1 points and 3.8 rebounds in his career, becoming a pricey backup to Andrew Bynum.
3) Chicago point guard Derrick Rose ($7 million) for Artest ($6.8 million). Just making sure you're paying attention. Moving along …
3) Golden State small forward Dorell Wright ($3.8 million), center Andris Biedrins ($9 million) and point guard Charlie Bell ($4.1 million) for Odom and Luke Walton ($5.7 million).
If the Lakers want a shooter, they can't do much better than Wright, 25, who led the NBA with 194 three-pointers.
Golden State surely would not mind unloading oft-injured Biedrins, who has three years and $27 million left on his contract … and averaged only five points and 7.2 rebounds last season. If the Lakers shed Walton's remaining contract (two more years, $11.5 million), it takes some sting off acquiring Biedrins' heavy deal.
Bell did not do much as a backup point guard last season and would be a smaller salary dump for Golden State.
And yes, Odom has been in all three trades but is valuable because of his talent level and two remaining contract years, including a partially guaranteed $8.2 million in 2012-13.
4) Cleveland point guard Ramon Sessions ($4.3 million) for Ebanks and a 2014 first-round draft pick.
Sessions was minding his own business, having a terrific January and February, when the Cavaliers traded for Baron Davis. End of fun run. Beginning of Sessions' cloudy future in Cleveland.
Like Charlotte in the earlier hypothetical, the Cavaliers hope the Lakers swan-dive in a few years. They trim two more years and $8.8 million of Sessions while thinning out a crowded point guard situation that also includes Daniel Gibson. Maybe Ebanks will turn into something at small forward for them.
The best part for the Lakers? In Sessions they get a quick point guard who is 25. The second-best part? They finally get something back for Sasha Vujacic. This deal is possible under NBA rules because of the "trade exception" of about $5 million that the Lakers received after sending Vujacic to New Jersey in December.
5) Orlando center Dwight Howard ($18.1 million) for Bynum ($14.9 million).
The mother of them all. The NBA's top center for its second-best center.
Actually, Dirk Nowitzki let slip last week that Bynum was the top center in the league. Was the Magic listening?
Orlando faces a problem after next season when Howard, 25, can terminate his contract and become a free agent. The Lakers face a problem whenever Bynum, 23, grabs one of his knees.
Orlando has to determine that something is better than nothing, because Howard could leave without any compensation.
The catch: Orlando might insist the Lakers absorb the monster contract of fading point guard Gilbert Arenas, who has a staggering three years and $62.4 million remaining. It's worth mentioning that he averaged eight points and shot a pathetic 34% in 49 games with Orlando.
If Arenas needed to be included, the Lakers could stack up enough contracts (Walton, Artest, Blake, Fisher) to make it work under NBA trade rules, but two accountants, a lawyer and a notary would be needed to figure out the math.
My head hurts. I'm through being a GM for a day.