The teams have been working to reach an agreement with a third team that would take on Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as part of a potentially larger deal, league sources said.
The Suns want to land a playmaking guard and a draft asset as the price of unloading Ariza, sources said. Phoenix and Los Angeles have made progress in third-team scenarios, although no agreements are close and both teams remain active in multiple trade discussions throughout the league, sources said.
No trade can be completed officially until Saturday, when players like Ariza, who were signed in summer free agency, become eligible to be traded.
Ariza is one of the most important trade assets for the Suns — losers of 22 of 26 games — and their best chance to bolster their backcourt and gain assets. Most contending teams are interested in acquiring Ariza, 33, who was an important contributor to the Houston Rockets in recent seasons.
Caldwell-Pope has veto power on a trade, but the Lakers have shown a willingness to work with his agent, Rich Paul, if there’s a deal that might increase his role and possibly get him signed to a deal this summer with a new team, league sources said. Caldwell-Pope is on a one-year, $12 million contract.
Caldwell-Pope, 25, has seen his minutes drop along with his shooting percentages from last season. He’s averaging 8.5 points in 21 minutes, including 38 percent overall shooting and 34 percent on three-pointers. He signed a one-year, $12 million deal to return to the Lakers this season.
Ariza signed a one-year, $15 million deal with Phoenix this summer. Phoenix is in disarray with a 4-22 start to the season, remaining in pursuit of a guard who’d allow star shooting guard Devin Booker to play more consistently off the ball.
Ariza’s expiring contract allows the Lakers to keep salary cap flexibility into summer free agency. Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka represented Ariza in his career as an agent before he joined the Lakers’ front office.
Ariza is averaging 9.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists this season.