So, free agency begins today and the Lakers are going to be very active in this period. They really have no choice, really, they currently only have 6 players on the active roster heading into this period: LeBron, Schröder, Caruso, Kuzma, JaVale, and Talen Horton-Tucker. There’s work to do and Rob Pelinka acknowledged that he wants to be agressive and will not let complacency set in when trying to build a team capable of repeating.
First things first, the Lakers have their own free agents to make decisions on. Some of these decisions are easier than others, of course.
Anthony Davis is priority number one. The Lakers will offer him a max contract the second they’re able to. The hope is he re-signs, of course, but the nature of that deal is nearly as big a question (if not bigger) than getting a commitment in the first place. Should he re-sign, I’d imagine the most likely scenario is a 1+1 or a 2+1 contract that gets him max dollars but flexibility on the years to get him closer to the 10-years of league service that can net him a full on 35% max.
How quickly AD makes his decision is also somewhat of an open question, with ESPN reporting he is not likely to make a decision until after Thanksgiving and the New York Times seemingly reporting a decision could relatively soon. We’ll see. All I’m looking for is a commitment from AD and in whatever form it takes would be great for me.
The next priority is KCP, who will decline his play option to become an unrestricted free agent (like AD). I want KCP back. The Lakers have his full Bird Rights and can pay him up to his max. The implication of reports that seem to be coming from KCP’s agent Rich Paul is that he’s open to leaving and is looking for a nice pay increase. The Lakers should take that seriously. I’m not sure what it’s going to take to bring KCP back, but he’s a starter and showed in the run to the championship he can be a high level contributor to winning. That can get expensive. We’ll see how high the ask goes, but upwards of $16-18 million doesn’t seem out of the question. We’ll see what happens.
After KCP, I’m looking at Dwight Howard. Dwight made the minimum last year and also proved to be a valuable contributor, both in the regular season and in the playoffs. I’d like him back, but not sure what the cost for him will be. What I do know is it will take more than the minimum. The Lakers can’t go too high in their contract to him, but making what JaVale does is the least I’d be asking for if I were Dwight. We’ll see if the Lakers balk at that amount.
Beyond those guys, I don’t have strong preferences for any of the team’s other FA’s. It’d be nice to have Morris back. Ditto for Jared Dudley. Morris will surely require more than the minimum. Dudley should not. Avery Bradley would be a nice player to have back and I like his skill set, but if he’s looking for a long term commitment at a raise, I’ll wish him good luck on the open market and bid him adieu. After trading for Dennis Schröder, I do not expect Rondo back. I suppose anything is possible, but that’s my sense of things.
This team will still have needs, however, even if they bring back AD, KCP, Dwight, and Dudley. Another wing for depth is important. If I could move off of JaVale and get a younger and/or different type of big man who is an upgrade, I’d explore that too. Another defensive guard would be nice, but not a priority. Some names that could be out there at some of these positions of need:
- Wes Matthews
- Moe Harkless
- Rodney Hood
- Tristian Thompson
- Nerlens Noel
In terms of spending power, the Lakers have their mid-level exception but it is not yet clear which version of that exception they will use. The tax payer MLE is roughly $5.7 million, the full regular MLE is roughly $9.25 million. The safer bet is that the Lakers use the former and not the latter. Using even a dollar above the tax payer MLE institutes the hard cap and limits flexibility for changing and upgrading the roster throughout the rest of free agency and into the season (at the trade deadline and in the buyout market).
I’d imagine the Lakers don’t want to be hard capped, the gymnastics you would potentially have to perform when making moves while hard capped would make Simone Biles blush. I don’t doubt Rob Pelinka and the front office could manage it, but why put yourself into a corner if you don’t have to?
Lastly, I’m going to keep this thread open and will udpate it as needed when the Lakers sign players. Below will be a list of the Lakers current FA’s and I’ll add to this list if the team signs players from other teams.
Lastly (lastly), there’s going to be rumors that start to come out. We’ve already heard that the Lakers may target Kings restricted free agent wing Bogdan Bogdanovic. This would have to be a sign and trade since the Lakers do not have the cap space to sign him to a compelling offer-sheet outright. A deal like this would be tricky and hard to execute. It would also hard cap the team and could, potentially, impact the money available to sign KCP. I’m not saying I wouldn’t want Bogdanovic, but it’d be hard. I’m ignoring these rumors for now.
More on all this later. Free agency is about to jump off. We’ll be here covering it all as best we can. Updates will appear below.
Lakers own free agents
Anthony Davis: Currently still unsigned. Looks like the “decide after Thanksgiving” timeline could be more real.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: (11/20)Per Ramona Shelburne, initial talks with KCP have not been productive. It’s early in the process, but this is worth monitoring. (11/21)Still no update on KCP, but there is reported interest from the Knicks. Same hurdles with the Lakers being hard capped apply when determining the most they can offer KCP while still filling out the roster. It’s not impossible, but there’s challenges. (11/21)KCP has reportedly re-signed with the Lakers on a 3-year contract worth $40 million. I’ll have a more full writeup on him later tonight or on Sunday morning. I will say, though, that I am very happy with this development and think the salary is more than fair for a player who showed what he did as a starter level player who contributed at the level he did on the Lakers run to the championship. Welcome back, KCP!
Dwight Howard: Dwight has signed with Philly on a 1-year deal for the minimum. Dwight thought he had a deal to return to the Lakers, but that fell through via a miscommunication.
Jared Dudley: No news on Dudley yet. Assume he wants to return.
Rajon Rondo: No news on Rondo yet. I assume he’s still looking for a good offer from a contending team and will be patient looking for the right fit/dollar amount. (11/21)Rajon Rondo has reportedly signed a 2-year deal with the Atlanta Hawks worth $15 million. I’m very happy for Rondo, a player I admittedly had doubts about all through his tenure with the Lakers, but was proven very wrong in the playoffs this past season. Playoff Rondo was real and his level of play went up to a level I did not believe he could consistently reach at this stage of his career. But, he did it and the Lakers were a much better team because of it. Congrats to Rajon and I think he’ll be a useful player for a young Hawks team who could use more leadership.
Avery Bradley: (11/20)No news on Bradley yet. I assume he’s still waiting for an offer from one of the teams that was supposedly courting him. It was rumored the Lakersr would get the “first shot” to sign him in free agency, but the Lakers have already made moves and AB is still on the market. (11/21)Bradley has signed with the Heat on a 2-year deal worth $11.6 million. The writing on the wall was there for Bradley. The Lakers are surely prioritizing KCP as their next signing and Bradley could have either waited to see how those negotiations play out or he can take the sure contract in Miami to play for the Finals runner up who project to be a strong contender again this season. Good for Bradley for getting this type of deal and I wish him the best. He’s a good fit out there and will help that team.
Markieff Morris: The Lakers have reportedly re-signed Markieff Morris. The Lakers only had the minimum to spend, but it’s unclear at this point if Morris’ deal is for one or for two seasons. Bringing Morris back is a wonderful get and rounds out the Lakers front court.
Wes Matthews: The Lakers have reportedly agreed to a 1-year $3.6 million contract with Matthews. Matthews could end up starting at SG or come off the bench depending on what happens with KCP.
Montrezl Harrell: The Lakers have reportedly agreed to a 2-year deal for a shade over $19 million with Harrell. This is a full MLE deal and hard caps the Lakers. My guess is Trez comes off the bench. More analysis coming later.
Marc Gasol: The Lakers have reportedly agreed to a 2-year deal with Gasol for the minimum. The contract will pay Gasol roughly $5.3 million over the two seasons. In order sign Gasol, the Lakers traded JaVale McGee to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Alfonso McKinnie and Jordan Bell. Both McKinnie and Bell’s deals are non-guaranteed, but the Lakers will reportedly guarantee McKinnie’s full salary and $580k of Bell’s salary in order to execute the trade. The team will then waive Bell and stretch his salary to open up more room under the hard cap to take on Gasol’s deal. More analysis on Gasol coming in a full post.