The Los Angeles Lakers can go in countless directions this offseason.
They can prioritize continuity, as Rob Pelinka indicated at exit interviews. They can clear out basically everybody besides LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Austin Reaves to create $35 million in cap space. Or, they can settle somewhere in the middle.
The Lakers will aim to stay under the $162 million luxury tax line to avoid harsh repeater penalties. They are reportedly determined to avoid the “second apron” of $179 million, which would trigger crippling roster-building limitations.
In terms of free agency, let's start with their current roster. The organization intends to match any offer for Reaves, even up to $100 million, according to The Athletic. By all accounts, they're hell-bent on re-signing Rui Hachimura, who could demand $16-$20 million annually. (Due to Hachimura's $18.8 million cap hold vs. Reaves' $2.2 million cap hold and their Bird rights, the Lakers can take care of Rui first, proceed with other transactions, then formally ink Reaves later). Los Angeles is likely to guarantee Jarred Vanderbilt's $4.5 million 2023-24 salary.
The Lakers can renounce the rights to D'Angelo Russell and let him walk. Or, ideally, they could include DLo — and Malik Beasley's $16.5 million team option and Mo Bamba's $10.3 million contract, both of which they have to decide to pick up by June 30 — in a trade. (Klutch clients Fred VanVleet, Dejounte Murray, and Trae Young have been floated as possibilities.) Russell wanted $25 million from the Minnesota Timberwolves but seemingly damaged his value in the conference finals. If his market is tepid, the Lakers can bring him back at two years, $40 million.
Depending on how things shake out, the Lakers may be unable to retain Lonnie Walker IV and Dennis Schroder and sign quality rotation players. Theoretically, the Lakers could use the $12.2 nontaxpayer mid-level exception on Schroder and the $4.5 million bi-annual exception on Walker IV (or Wenyen Gabriel) — or divvy it up — but those players may see more lucrative offers elsewhere. (Schroder is tight with Darvin Ham and Walker IV is a Klutch client, so perhaps they'll help the Lakers out.) Alternatively, the Lakers can deploy the $5 million taxpayer MLE. Using more than $5 million of the NTPMLE and/or the BAE would trigger the hard cap, around $169 million. Troy Brown Jr. and Tristan Thompson are free agents, as well.
Between their finances, the middling free agent class, Pelinka labeling their trade deadline approach as “pre-agency” and his emphasis on continuity, I wouldn't expect the Lakers to be major players on the open market.
Kyrie Irving is the flashiest name available. The mutual interest between him and LeBron to reunite is well-known. However, as Jovan Buha reported in February, that ship has probably “sailed.” The Lakers would have to shed everybody on the roster not named LeBron, Anthony, or Austin, then hope Irving takes $12 million less than his annual max value. (The Dallas Mavericks sending Irving to Los Angeles via sign-and-trade is apparently a “pipedream.”)
The Lakers can theoretically pursue Los Angeles native James Harden should he decline his $35.6 million option from the Philadelphia 76ers. On paper, Harden might thrive alongside LeBron and AD, but he seems to want a long-term max extension and the culture fit is iffy; Harden seeks carte blanche from his employers and isn't exactly known for delivering in high-stakes playoff games.
VanVleet can turn down his $22.8 million player option, though his path to Los Angeles is smoother via sign-and-trade. LeBron's good buddy and Klutch client Draymond Green can decline his $27.5 million option, but the Lakers cannot sign either player without blowing up their squad. (VanVleet makes more sense. The Lakers don't really need Green — their defense is elite with AD and spacing is a weakness.)
Realistically, any external signings will represent marginal upgrades. And that's totally fine for a team that came within four wins of the Finals. Here are a few names that might make sense for the Los Angeles Lakers with NBA free agency about one month away.
Brown may play himself out of the Lakers' price range, especially if he shines in the Finals. It's hard to imagine the Denver Nuggets guard settling for anything less than the full mid-level. He'd be a great fit for the Lakers, though — for any team, really. Maybe the Lakers can re-sign Russell and add Brown at the expense of Schroder.
Max Strus may, too, earn a hefty bag thanks to his integral role in a Finals run (0-for-10 Game 1 notwithstanding). The 27-year-old could potentially command upwards of $20 million — and the Miami Heat may overpay to keep him. But the career 37.1% 3-point shooter would be a nice replacement for Beasley and Walker IV if the Lakers let Russell walk, or if his market proves cooler.
Jordan Clarkson would also make sense as a dynamic sixth man, but he's also looking for $20 million after averaging a career-high 20.8 points per game.
DiVincenzo is coming off a fine season with the Golden State Warriors — 12.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists per 36 minutes, 39.7% from 3 — but he didn't necessarily increase his value out of the Lakers' price range. One would expect him to turn down his $4.7 million player option for 2023-24, even though he said Golden State feels like home. If he does, the Warriors — facing a gigantic luxury tax bill and second-apron consequences — may be forced to let him go.
DiVincenzo offers shooting, athleticism, and perimeter defense. His incessant off-ball movement would jell with high-IQ passers like LeBron and Reaves. The 26-year-old is familiar with Ham and his system, thanks to his three-plus seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Bamba and Gabriel are decent options behind AD, but the Lakers could use more size in the backup center role, as evidenced by Ham's decision to try Thompson on Nikola Jokic in Game 4 (he did OK!).
Reid, 23, will be a highly-coveted unrestricted free agent after four seasons with the Wolves. The Lakers are reportedly interested, and it's easy to understand why. Reid averaged 22.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per 36 minutes in 2022-23. He shot 53.7% from the field and 34.6% from 3 on 6.2 attempts per game. Over his last two appearances against Los Angeles, the 6'9, 264-pound center — nicknamed Big Jelly — put up 38 points and 19 rebounds.
Brook Lopez would be the dream signing, but he vastly outperformed the MLE and is expected to stay in Milwaukee. Reid would be a logical option for the Lakers.