So Kobe Bryant wants out from the Lakers. That won't be an easy task for someone who's due to make more than $87 million over the next four years. Undaunted, SI.com takes a crack at the five most logical trading partners.
Chicago Bulls: What better way to take control of a weak East than dealing for the game's best clutch scorer? With an abundance of young talent, the Bulls could offer a package of Luol Deng or Ben Gordon, this year's No. 9 draft pick and Ben Wallace (his bloated contract would have to be included in almost any deal to match Bryant's significant bounty. The deal would offer the Lakers a big step up in rebuilding quickly and offer the Bulls the superstar they might need to separate themselves from the rest of the conference.
Atlanta Hawks: Don't laugh. If the Lakers are forced to part with Kobe, they surely would prefer to ship him East, and the Hawks need something to bring fans to Philips Arena. A Joe Johnson, a Josh Smith and this year's No. 11 pick would help the Lakers turn the page into a new era quickly and allow Atlanta to keep this year's No. 3 and get a gate-attracting star.
Philadelphia 76ers: Yes, he was booed when he played in the All-Star Game in Philly a few years back, but Kobe, you have to imagine, would welcome a chance to play hometown boy makes good. With three first-round draft picks, a veteran in Andre Miller who doesn't really fit on a rebuilding club, an Aaron McKie -- whose expiring $7 million contract will offer significant cap space in the summer of 2008 -- and a rapidly improving Andre Iguodala, the Sixers have plenty of assets to help the Lakers rebuild and provide Kobe a chance to win over the fans he once angered.
Phoenix Suns: Think Kobe would have run out of gas in Game 5 against the Spurs? While owner Robert Sarver is no fan of the luxury tax, the opportunity to grab one of the game's biggest stars and capitalize on Steve Nash's final few years might be too much to deny. And with Shawn Marion's bloated contract -- and sensitive feelings -- never a big hit in the Suns' front office, Phoenix has the makings of a deal (which would likely have to include next year's first-round draft pick they have from Atlanta). Who knows, it might just get the Suns past the Spurs and Mavs and into the Finals it so desires.
New York Knicks: East Coast media bias? A little. Logical? A little. Obviously, Kobe would salivate at the chance to bring his act to the NBA's biggest stage. Would a Lakers team desperate to keep him out of the West and not finding any suitable deals elsewhere accept a collection of promising prospects such as Channing Frye, David Lee, Renaldo Balkman, the No. 21 pick in this year's draft and two years of Steve Francis to get Kobe out of their sight? Would the Knicks include Eddy Curry if Andrew Bynum accompanied Kobe?
Minnesota Timberwolves: At one level, trading Kobe to the Wolves for Kevin Garnett makes sense salary-wise and in giving both superstars a welcome change of scenery. At another, though, a Bryant for Garnett deal doesn't get either player or either team any closer to where they want to go. But with Kevin McHale and Mitch Kupchak involved, you never know.
New Jersey Nets: The Nets aren't enamored of paying Vince Carter $60 million for the next three years; might they warm to the idea if they were paying Kobe Bryant? Of course, it takes two to tango, and while a signed-and-traded Carter might provide L.A. a lite version of Kobe, the Nets would have to include any remaining youth they have at their disposal -- Marcus Williams, Antoine Wright or Josh Boone -- for this deal to make sense for the Lakers.
Any of the above deals make sense to you? Or do you have a better one to offer.