10 players on L.A.’s current roster are set to become free agents this offseason, opening the door for the Lakers to make a number of signings as they prepare for their attempt at a repeat.
With limited financial flexibility (assuming they re-sign Anthony Davis) and time seemingly working against them, the Lakers have to act wisely if they want to get the most out of this LeBron James era.
In a piece by CBA expert Danny Leroux on The Athletic, he breaks down some options for the defending Champs, detailing how Rob Pelinka can turn a summer of uncertainty into one of great gain.
Of course, it’ll start with the assignment of bringing back some of their own:
Unusually, there is a distinct chance the Lakers need to use their Mid-Level exception to retain their own players. Both Howard and Morris are playing on minimum contracts this season, so the only way Pelinka can bring them back for more than a slight raise is by using some or all of the ~$6 million Taxpayer MLE. Caldwell-Pope, Rondo, and McGee could get larger raises off their player option using Bird rights but that path is not available for Howard and Morris.
Once a year, teams can use the mid-level exception to sign a player to a contract for a specified amount, which allows teams that are over the cap to maintain some financial flexibility. Considering Dwight Howard and Marcus Morris are both making the league minimum, the Lakers may have to use some or all of their MLE to increase their pay and convince them to stay.
With whatever remains (the taxpayer’s MLE for 2020-21 is projected to be at $6,025,000), the Lakers will look to bring in someone new, such as a ball-handling, shot-making guard that they’ve been looking for since last summer.
If Pelinka has the MLE available, there are a few different types of players worth considering. The most glaring need even with Rondo’s playoff success is someone who can capably run pick-and-rolls but also shoot reliably, allowing them to both replace and play with James. DJ Augustin may be the best fit in that price range but Raul Neto and long-ago James target Shabazz Napier are lower-cost options.
Other options include two-way wings and bigs who may want to hop on the Lakers bandwagon for a chance at contention.
The front office could also prioritize a wing with Glenn Robinson III, Justin Holiday, Wes Matthews, Maurice Harkless and Alec Burks making some sense or another true center for the rotation like Aron Baynes, Hassan Whiteside or Nerlens Noel. It would also not be shocking to see DeMarcus Cousins return considering he maintained a positive relationship with the franchise through his injury recovery.
Needless to say, the Lakers will be working with a tight budget (as is the case for any superteam), but they should make it work if they play it smart and are able to convince players to lower their financial demands.
It will be interesting to see how it all plays out in the end.