The Los Angeles Lakers are weighing whether to re-sign Dennis Schroder. If they don’t, general manager Rob Pelinka will look to execute a sign-and-trade for the 27-year old point guard rather than lose him for nothing.
After all: in the sign-and-trade era, anything is possible.
Re-signing Schroder may cost the Lakers upwards of $20-$25 million per season. Compared to other guards making that money, anything above $20M would be an overpay. Yet, that’s reportedly what Dennis wants, and the Lakers — who traded a first-round pick for Schroder — may prefer to hike up their already-exorbitant luxury tax bill rather than see him walk out the door. Plus, they can always trade him later.
As we’ve covered, the Lakers have multiple down-roster veterans to re-sign, will splurge to bring back Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker, and face two large unknowns with Andre Drummond (will either side want to do the taxpayer midlevel exception here?) and Montrezl Harrell ($9.7 million player option). All of those decisions factor into what they do with Schroder.
On Wednesday, we may have gleaned a bit into the Lakers’ thinking re: a Schroder deal. Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reported the Lakers are exploring “sign-and-trade opportunities” with Schroder (who they nearly traded in March).
“The point guard appears to be looking for a greater role and a bigger payday, neither of which the Lakers seem willing to provide…League sources expect Chicago and New York to emerge as Schroder suitors, and both could be conducted via sign-and-trade…Meanwhile, Los Angeles continues to gauge rival teams’ interest in Kyle Kuzma…although Schroder does carry a higher trade value around the NBA.”
Most of that is not new information, including the Kuzma trade-gauging. In recent months, Woj and Shams have listed the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks as potential landing spots for Dennis the Menace.
The two notable tidbits: the Lakers supposed unwillingness to re-sign Schroder rather than overpay, and his trade value compared to the younger (25), cheaper ($13 million), and more versatile Kuzma.
Schroder had a productive-if-underwhelming 2020-21 season and he fell out of favor with the fanbase, and possibly the team, down the stretch. He’s more of a ball-stopper than a floor-general, and that reared its ugly head in the playoffs and prevented him from truly meshing with LeBron and AD. He may have also rankled some feathers within the front office — thought he remained effusive of the organization — by turning down the extension (the untimely stint in health and protocols didn’t help).
The latest trade buzz comes on the heels of reports that the Lakers are attempting to upgrade the third-playmaker spot, implying the team may be moving on from Schroder.
The Lakers probably won’t bring back all three free agent guards, and Pelinka made a point to name Caruso and THT as part of the “core” he wants to keep around (Kuzma, too, FWIW).
Financially, a Schroder sign-and-trade is not that challenging to pull off, all things considered, though it would require the approval of Schroder and him to reach an agreement with any prospective trade partner. Fortunately, it sounds like the Lakers may have found two franchises with cap flexibility in major cities that may interest him.
The Knicks and Bulls are at different stages of development as they (try to) ascend the Eastern Conference. Both teams need play-making in the back-court. Schroder had perhaps the best season of his career in 2019-20 under Billy Donovan with the Oklahoma City Thunder (18.9 PPG, .534 eFG%), and his competitiveness and grittiness align with Tom Thibodeau’s…everything.
Just for a hoot, let’s lay out one possible sign-and-trade scenario with each suitor that would make sense for the Lakers.
Lakers trade Dennis Schroder, 2027 first-round pick to the Bulls for Lauri Markkanen (S&T)
The Bulls, nor any other team, will enjoy as much cap room as the Knicks during this free agency period. However, Chicago could get to about $37 million.
The Bulls want a playoff-ready lead guard to buoy Zach LaVien and Nikola Vucevic, though they’d prefer one who is less score-first and a better shooter. (For instance: Lonzo Ball.) They already have 2o-year old Coby White.
Interestingly, Chicago has seemingly moved on from Lauri Markkanen, who said he’s going to turn down his $9 million option.
The 24-year old doesn’t fill the Lakers’ need for more play-making and ball-handling on the perimeter (nor athleticism), but he does provide shooting and spacing, both stated areas to address by Pelinka.
The Lakers shot a below-average 35.5% from three on low-volume in 2020-21 and under 30% in the playoffs. Markkanen’s scoring average was a career-low in 2020-21 (13.6 PPG) but he shot the best mark of his career from behind the arc (40.2%). Schroder, who shot 33.5% from three last season, has only posted one reliable long-range shooting season (38.5% in 2019-2o, under Donovan).
The Lakers are seeking talent that will enable AD and LeBron to play more 4 and 5 (smart). Markkanen, a 7’0 footer, doesn’t exactly do that, but he would open up the lane and allow AD to play center.
Chicago explored a Markkanen-for-Ball swap. If Lonzo should land elsewhere, the Lakers could target the same structure for a Schroder deal, this version as a sign-and-trade rendition. It’s unlikely the Bulls value Schroder quite as high as Lonzo, so the Lakers may have to toss in that 2027 first-rounder — the next one they can trade after this year’s (No. 22).
Another potential option: Lakers swap Schroder for Garrett Temple, Tomas Satoranksy, and a conditional first-round pick. Neither gelled with Donovan and could be on the move. Both would add wing depth, Satoranksy offers quality shooting, while Temple is a capable ball-hander, cagey defender, and top-tier locker room guy.
Lakers trade Schroder to the Knicks for Reggie Bullock (S&T), and a 2023 first-round pick
The Knicks are more flexible — and thirsty — than any team in the NBA this offseason. In addition to their $50+ million in cap room, New York has amassed real assets, including R.J. Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin, and numerous first-round picks. Leon Rose is ready to make waves.
The Knicks can easily absorb Schroder into their space in a trade or sign him outright. As long as Rose is considering the S&T route, Pelinka should at least inquire about Quickley and Toppin. More realistically, the Lakers should be satisfied to recoup a first-round pick for Schroder and snag Bullock — a quality two-way wing who’d enhance L.A.’s shooting, bench, and culture.
Bullock, 30, is a free agent, so he would have to agree to return to L.A., where he played 19 games during the ugly post-groin injury 2018-19 campaign.
This season, he was excellent for Thibodeau —.442/.410/.909 splits, 60.6 TS%, 64 double-digit scoring games, 4.6 Win Shares, 0.6 DBPM — and is rightfully expecting to cash in. It’s not unreasonable for him to chase a deal in the $13-$15 million per year range, a figure the Lakers would have to match to get his seal of approval. (As with Markkanen, convincing players to contend with LeBron and AD in Los Angeles is not the hardest sell.)
Bullock is solid, but he’s a role player. Schroder is more impactful. The Knicks, with their ample space, assets, and dearth of lead guards, could like the idea of adding a splashy play-maker like Schroder — even to replace Derrick Rose in a Sixth Man role, as Dennis excelled doing with OKC — before pursuing DeMar DeRozan, Tim Hardaway Jr., Kyle Lowry, Spencer Dinwiddie, etc.
Two weeks away from free agency, there are still a million variables at play, and it’s decidedly unclear what order the dominos will fall.