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It’s the second part of our look back at the 2019-2020 Lakers season as the new year begins, and along with it, the team’s outlook starts to take shape atop of the Western Conference. But things for the Lakers, and the world, would soon take a turn for the worse with the tragic death of Kobe and Gigi Bryant. And despite back-to-back wins against the NBA’s elite, the arrival shortly after of the Coronavirus, and the tragic deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans at the hands of police. This would lead to protests against racial injustice and systemic racism that stretched worldwide with the Black Lives Matter movement and full NBA player support of that cause. The combination of these two society-altering events would put the NBA season in peril. We remember these moments from our interviews with Tom Wong from lakerholics.com (full episodes at https://bit.ly/36uHIjW, https://bit.ly/2JrMQwx, https://bit.ly/3g2fXm6, https://bit.ly/33BaxJy, https://bit.ly/3olYnfP ), TJ Johnson from Pop Culture Cosmos(https://bit.ly/3fVD41y, ) and Rafael Barlowe of NBA Draft Junkies (https://bit.ly/37tQjma). Part One of our Lakers Championship rewind covering the start of the season for the team is at https://bit.ly/36uooTM.
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Now that Kyle Kuzma has survived another offseason filled with trade rumors and will become a restricted free agent next season, it’s time for the Lakers to reopen discussions about extending his rookie contract.
It’s obvious the Lakers still think highly of Kuzma and were only willing to give him up in a mega trade for a proven All-Star player like Jrue Holiday so the smart move now would be to invest in his future by extending him. Signing Kyle to an extension before the season starts would accomplish three important objectives: bolster his confidence as a player, increase his value as a trading chip, and reinforce the team’s chemistry and culture.
1. Bolster His Confidence as a Player.
While Kyle Kuzma always seems to play with confidence, it can’t be easy trying to find a role on a team where two of the league’s top five players play your same positions and you’re the constant subject of trade rumors. Watching former Laker teammates who were traded like Brandon Ingram enjoy breakout seasons and receive contract extensions from their new teams has to try Kyle’s patience and start to undermine his self-assurance.
Signing Kuzma to a 3-year extension for $12 to $15 million per year could bolster his confidence and enable Kyle to turn himself into the third star LeBron James said the Lakers needed to win the championship last season. Knowing the Lakers believed in him could be the key to giving Kuzma the confidence to improve his subpar 3-point shooting percentage to the level he needs to enjoy the breakout season everyone’s been eagerly awaiting.
Kuzma has steadily improved his overall game as a Laker, especially his defense against elite wing scorers like Harden. Signing him to an extension would bolster his confidence and be a smart investment by the Lakers.
2. Increase His Value as a Trading Chip
Signing Kuzma to a 3-year extension would immediately increase his value as a trading chip and enable the Lakers to receive fair value in a straight trade for a comparable player or in an aggregate trade for a third superstar. Receiving fair value for a talented player on a rookie contract a year from free agency is a challenge. Signing Kuzma to an extension would eliminate those concerns and give the Lakers another valuable mid-priced contract.
The extension alone would not only confirm the Lakers’ belief in Kuzma but also establish a solid floor to his value and remove the stigma the team did not truly value him and was trying to trade him instead of re-signing him. Perception is reality when it comes to valuing players in trade talks and the act of extending Kuzma by itself would increase his value as a trading chip and give the Lakers a valuable future contract for matching salaries.
For a young player with Kuzma’s potential to have trade value, the Lakers need to show confidence in him by extending him. Investing in him is the best way to increase his value as player and creating future flexibility.
3. Reinforce Team Chemistry and Culture.
One of the strengths of the Lakers as a team and big reason they won the 2020 NBA championship was the strong chemistry and culture Rob Pelinka and the front office and Frank Vogel and coaching staff were able to build. Frankly, that’s an amazing accomplishment that defies reality considering LeBron James and Anthony Davis are the only players on the team assured of a long term future while almost every other player is on a short term deal.
The key to the Lakers’ great chemistry and culture is how they treat and respect their players. That’s why even players who are traded have nothing but positive things to say about the Lakers’ management and organization. The Los Angeles Lakers do the right thing when it comes to their players and always consider them to be part of the family. They understand that’s how smart teams build true championship caliber chemistry and culture
Kyle Kuzma has listened to his coaches and subjugated his personal game for the team and deserves to be rewarded for it. Investing in him by signing him to a fair extension would reinforce the Lakers’ chemistry and culture.
The financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic has halted the rapid annual salary cap increases many teams, like the Lakers, had embraced as their core strategy to pursue superstars like Giannis Antetokounmpo. Suddenly, trades and sign-and-trades have emerged as the better strategies for building championship rosters and chasing superstars as the league struggles to find a way to succeed in an era where arenas are still empty.
Collecting multiple talented young and veteran players on tradable contracts has suddenly become the smart team building strategy. The Lakers should sign Kyle Kuzma to a $12 to $15 million extension before the season starts.
Kyle Kuzma is the Los Angeles Lakers’ version of the American TV series Survivor, the one player everybody thought for sure would end up being traded this offseason but somehow is miraculously still on the roster.
Since we know he had been included in trade offers for Jrue Holiday and Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kuzma’s ultimate survival was not due to his having been declared touchable by the Lakers’ front office but simple serendipity. For some reason, the basketball gods seem to be determined to give Kyle one last opportunity to live up to the promising glimpses of potential that have tantalized the Lakers during his three years in purple and gold.
After Kuzma’s mediocre 2019-20 season and playoffs and Rob Pelinka’s spectacular upgrade of the Lakers’ roster this offseason, Twitter has now declared Kyle Kuzma to be just the 10th best player on the team’s roster. Unless you have forgotten, this is the same Kyle Kuzma whom LeBron James pronounced just three short months ago needed to be the third best player on the team if the Lakers were going to win their 17th championship.
So why is third year player Kyle Kuzma so disrespected and written off at this point by so many Lakers fans and basketball analysts? His coaches will tell you he’s matured as a player, is a better defender, and shares the ball. Kyle’s teammates like and respect him and he’s no longer the unrepentant gunner he once was when he was younger. As a matter of fact, he does everything the Lakers want him to do except shoot efficiently from three.
But what if Kyle Kuzma could fix his broken shot? While it was a small sample size, Kuz shot a team best 44.4% in the 8 regular season games the Lakers played in the bubble after having 4 months off to work on his shot. Unfortunately, Kyle struggled in the playoffs and reverted to shooting just 31.3% as his minutes dropped from 28.0 to 23.0 per game and his improved shot selection from in the bubble disappeared as he kept hoisting shots.
Imagine how differently the basketball world would view Kzma if he could suddenly start shooting 38% from deep? Pundits might have been talking about him as the next great young 3&D player to emerge as a big name star. Had Kuzma shot 38% from three and played 30 rather than 25 minutes per game this season, he would have averaged 16.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game, better stats for the season than Bogdan Bogdanovic.
Considering the form and mechanics of his shot, Kuzma clearly should be a better 3-point shooter and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see a major improvement in his long range shot selection and percentage this season. Given another chance to live up to the hype created his rookie year when he was considered to be the steal of the draft as the 27th pick, Kyle may finally put it all together and become the budding star the Lakers envisioned.
Achieving that goal might not only dramatically transform Kuz’s career but also open the door for the Lakers to give him the rookie extension and opportunity to be a starter he’s been fighting to get the last two seasons. Since James and Davis are going to start at the three and four, Kuzma is going to have to show he can play the two to earn a future starting role on the Lakers, which is going to be a challenge considering the competition.
In the NBA, the positions you can defend are the positions you can play and Kyle Kuzma’s shown promise as a long wing defender who can guard elite wing scorers like Harden and Leonard who are too big for KCP and Caruso. While it’s a long shot, the opportunity is there for Kuzma if he can continue to grow as a wing defender, improve his shot selection and overall game, and somehow fix his broken 3-point shot and start shooting 38% from deep.
Even if a breakout season doesn’t win Kuzma a starting role and extension on the Lakers, it will open doors for a major role on another team and a chance to emerge from the cocoon he’s been trapped in for the last 2 years.
One of the benefits of the Lakers having a deeper and more versatile roster than last season is it gives head coach Frank Vogel and the Lakers’ coaching staff even more options to create nightmare matchups against opponents.
While training camp will finalize the Lakers’ starting and closing lineups and rotations to begin the season, we don’t have to be rocket scientists to figure out how Vogel and his staff are likely going to use their personnel.
The only question regarding the Lakers’ starting lineup is whether coach Frank Vogel will replicate last season’s starting lineup by substituting Wesley Matthews for traded Danny Green or start point guard Dennis Schroder.
While there was rumbling Schroder was not happy coming off the bench for the Thunder, starting Matthews gives Vogel and the Lakers a bigger, better, and more versatile defensive lineup and deeper and more potent bench. Alternating Matthews and Schroder as starters to optimize the matchups depending on whom the Lakers were playing might be a smart option but having clearly defined roles for everybody probably overrules that.
The reason for not starting Dennis Schroder is to be able to use his elite playmaking and scoring at the catalyst to unleash the awesome offensive firepower of Lakers second unit while resting LeBron and AD.
The Lakers not only want to fix the problem they had last year when LeBron or AD were not in the lineup. They want to win those minutes, which is a big reason for making the big trade for Schroder and big signing of Harrell. Schoder and Harrell averaged 18 points per game off the bench last year with Harrell winning 6MOY and Schroder runner-up. With Gasol anchoring the defense, the Lakers should dominate when LeBron and AD rest.
After starting the game with their best defensive lineup and following that with an elite offensive lineup, the Lakers should have the game in control and be able to continue to rest both LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
While the Lakers tried to always have James or Davis in the game, with the quick turnaround from last season and compressed schedule, the Lakers should deploy some load management to limit LeBron’s and AD’ minutes. This is the lineup where the Lakers really need a second modern center to protect the rim, stretch the floor, and allow Harrell to play four instead of five. That’s why the Lakers need to sign someone like Dewayne Dedmon.
Like the starting lineup, the Lakers likely closing lineup is likely to resemble the lineup the Lakers ended games with during their championship run but with Wes Matthews replacing the traded Danny Green at shooting guard.
The beauty of this lineup is its balance at both ends of the court with five players who can stretch the floor shooting threes on offense and switch and rotate on defense. It’s the Lakers’ version of ‘small ball’ with a big lineup. Vogel can also add more offense or defense to this lineup depending on the situation and matchups as we saw during the playoffs. There are few teams in the league who have as deep and versatile roster as the Lakers.
The above ten man rotation is designed to spread playing time evenly among players to rely on the additions to the team to carry a bigger load and reduce minutes played by the players who just played in the Finals.
The duration or content of the four lineups can be adjusted depending on how the game is going and the players are playing. As a beginning template, the four lineups give each of the ten players two 6-minute runs each half. While that works out to 12 minutes per half or 24 minutes per game, the starting and closing lineups with LeBron and AD would likely run 7 minutes per quarter, which means 14 minutes per half or 28 minutes per game.
Again, this is just a template and actual minutes played would obviously vary depending on the score, matchups, foul problems, and who was playing well. But it’s a great blueprint for how the Lakers can optimize their roster. What it clearly shows is how the depth and versatility of the Lakers’ roster can be utilized to dramatically limit the total minutes that superstars like LeBron James and Anthony Davis and older veteran players have to play.
There’s no question this is a year none of us will forget and our prayers and best wishes to all of those who have lost a loved one or their livelihood to this terrible pandemic. Let’s hope a government that cares and prioritizes helping those in need and an arsenal of new vaccines and treatments will transform the world and make 2021 a better and happier year.
But amidst the anguish and tragedies that plague our country and world, there are always silver linings to celebrate: the heroic effort of our medical and public health professionals and support personnel, the workers who risk their lives every day keeping our essential businesses open, the millions of acts of kindness and generosity by people who care for those who need help, the millions of citizens who came out in historic numbers to vote and make our threatened democracy work, and the countless people who are doing everything they can to help and keep their neighbors and friends safe by wearing masks and following public health guidelines.
And last by not least, a special thanks to the Los Angeles Lakers for an unprecedented 18th championship season and masterful offseason that’s been a beacon of hope and cheer amidst the horrors of the last year. Sometimes it’s the little things that bring a smile to our faces and joy to our hearts and remind us that life is still a blessing and happiness possible. Together, we’ll get through this pandemic and come out on the other side stronger and better. Triumph out of tragedy has always been the human sprit so be careful, stay safe, and have a Happy Thanksgiving.
-LakerTom and the Lakerholics Team.
With the Detroit Pistons waiving Dewayne Dedmon, the Los Angeles Lakers suddenly have an opportunity to complete their transition from traditional back-to-the-basket centers by signing their second modern stretch center.
The biggest strategic move Rob Pelinka made during the offseason was the decision to dump traditional back-to-the-basket centers Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee and replace them with modern stretch five Marc Gasol. Signing Dedmon to backup Marc Gasol would be the pièce de résistance to Rob Pelinka’s masterpiece upgrade of the Lakers championship roster, completing the team’s transition from dinosaur bigs to modern centers.
The Lakers abandoning the Howard and McGee tandem that had been a trademark element in their championship run was a harsh reminder of how the value of traditional back-to-the-basket centers continues to plummet. The Lakers not only politely declined Howard’s embarrassing acceptance of a contract never offered but also gave the Cleveland Cavaliers one of their few remaining second round picks just to take McGee off their hands.
The Lakers still need another modern center who can stretch the floor on offense and protect the rim on defense and Dewayne Dedmon desperately needs an opportunity to resurrect his career after a disastrous last season. Backing up Gasol will give Dedmon a chance to showcase his abilities and bounce back after being waived and stretched by the Pistons. Dewayne is the perfect fit for the Lakers and they are the perfect fit for him at this time.
Right now, Marc Gasol is really the only true center on the Lakers’ roster because Anthony Davis prefers to play power forward most of the time and Montrezl Harrell is best suited to play power forward next to a stretch five. Pairing Gasol and Dedmon would let the Lakers replicate the center rotation that worked so well with McGee and Howard last season but this time with a tandem of modern stretch fives instead of traditional low post centers.
Adding Dedmon would also give the Lakers another stretch center who can protect the rim to unleash Montrezl Harrell, a high powered dynamic scorer who clearly needs to play next to a modern offensive and defensive center. The 31-year old Dedmon would also give the Lakers important depth to allow Anthony Davis to rest more during the grind of the regular season and protection in case the 35-year old Marc Gasol were to get injured.
At 7′ 0,” 245 lbs, Dewayne Dedmon averaged 10.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in 25.1 minutes per game while shooting 49.2% from the field, 38.2% from deep, and 81.4% from the line two years ago with the Hawks. Dedmon’s exactly what the Lakers need to balance their roster and he’s healthy and available now for the veteran’s minimum salary. Rob should pick up the phone and offer Dewayne a chance to join the purple and gold.
Playing 18 to 20 minutes per game for the high profile champion Los Angeles Lakers is exactly the opportunity Dewayne Dedmon needs to erase the bad taste of getting waived and change the direction of his career.
Sometimes you have to wait until a masterpiece is complete to appreciate how great a job the artist did. That’s clearly the case with the Los Angeles Lakers’ offseason rebuild by their VP of Basketball Operations Rob Pelinka.
Pelinka launched the offseason by trading for talented 18.9 points per game point guard and 6MOY runner-up Dennis Schroder and followed that by signing 18.6 points per game forward and 6MOY winner Montrezl Harrell. Happy Lakers fans could be forgiven for thinking Pelinka was only making sure the Lakers had enough offensive firepower to take over games when LeBron was resting on the bench or taking a night off for load management.
After all, replacing Rondo and Green’s 15.1 points per game with Schroder and Harrell’s 37.5 points per game was a massive injection of high powered scoring into an offensive roster that was anemic aside from LeBron and AD. Those two moves alone represented a major upgrade on what was already a proven championship roster and would have been enough most offseasons to win Lakers’ VP of Basketball Operations Rob Pelinka votes for EOY.
But that’s the problem with judging a work of art before it is completed because basketball pundits and junkies needed to wait until Pelinka was finished to truly appreciate what an incredible masterpiece he had created. Rob wasn’t going to be satisfied with juicing up the Lakers’ offense at the cost of weakening their defense and losing elite defenders like Green and Howard left holes that needed filling in the Lakers’ championship defense.
The missing pieces of the Pelinka’s defensive solution quickly fell into place as the Lakers’ signed veteran 3&D guard Wesley Matthews to replace Danny Green and former DPOY Marc Gasol to replace Dwight Howard at center. The Lakers not only turbocharged their offense by adding last year’s 6MOY winner and runner-up but also elevated their defense by adding two elite defenders who ranked second and third in NBA defensive rating last season.
The result is Pelinka has given head coach Vogel the most versatile roster in the league. Vogel will have the power to use his deep and diverse roster to create nightmare defensive and offensive matchups court at every position. He can play a dominant defensive starting lineup featuring Caldwell-Pope, Matthews, James, Davis, and Gasol or a juggernaut offensive lineup with high-octane scorers in Schroder, Caldwell-Pope, James, Davis, and Harrell.
Last offseason, Rob was hindered by waiting for Kawhi to make a decision. This season, he made sure not to make the same mistake and the result is a Lakers championship team dramatically better at both ends of the court.
While it will be impossible for the Lakers to clear enough cap space to offer Giannis Antetokounmpo a maximum contract in free agency next offseason, there is a path to make an Anthony Davis style midseason trade for Giannis.
The problem with pursuing Giannis in free agency is the Lakers already have two superstars making 65% of the cap and adding him would mean 95% for three players and the 5% left is not enough money to field a legal team. Teams with one max player like Miami could add Antetokounmpo via free agency but not a team like the Lakers with two max players, not without one or more of the max players accepting a 10-20% pay cut to build a Big Three.
The solution for the Lakers to acquire Giannis Antetokounmpo is to trade for him and then use his Bird rights to go over the cap to sign him to a max contract. Frankly, it’s the only way the Lakers can legally create a Big Three. It’s also the only way to acquire Giannis without having to jettison the entire championship roster they’ve spent the last two years assembling. It’s also why Giannis should want to be traded rather than signed as a free agent.
Giannis has one year left on his contract with the Milwaukee Bucks with annual pay of $27,528,088. If he’s not signed a supermax extension with the Bucks before the season starts, he’ll be a major target at the trade deadline. Were Giannis to demand to be traded to the Lakers ala Anthony Davis, L.A. could end up making the best offer considering other contenders might not be willing to bid more for what might end up being a half season rental.
That means an offer from the Lakers of Dennis Schroder and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, whose salaries total $29,850,000 might be the best trade offer the Milwaukee Bucks receive for superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. The key to making this strategy actually work is the Lakers showing Giannis through their play that they’re the not only best destination for him to win multiple championships but also the team that’s the best fit for him.
Once the Lakers trade for Antetokounmpo, they would then own his Bird rights and would be able, after the end of the season, to go over the salary cap and offer Giannis a new max contract starting at $39,200,000 per year. The Lakers would be deep in the luxury tax with total salaries approaching $160,000,000 but, unlike free agency scenarios where teams were left with only superstars, they would still have their complete championship roster.
The difference between Giannis joining a fully built out championship team via trade versus signing with a contending team with a stipped down roster via free agency becomes a major selling point for him demanding a trade. Any team that’s pared their roster to create $39 million in cap space to sign Giannis Antetokounmpo is realistically going to be another Milwaukee Bucks team that’s going to be relying heavily upon him to win it all.
Demanding a trade is the answer and the challenge is convincing Giannis joining a Lakers championship team with LeBron and AD via trade is better than joining an unproven Miami Heat team without a superstar via trade. That’s where the question of fit becomes important because there’s no team other than the Lakers who have two championship tested superstars to help Giannis carry the load and a proven deep and talented supporting cast.
Of course, the ‘trade and then use Bird rights to max’ blueprint is not limited to Giannis or the Lakers. It’s a strategy every team with two superstars, like the Clippers, Warriors, and Nets, will also be looking for a chance to deploy. That’s why all of the major contenders looking to acquire Antetokounmpo will be watching closely as Giannis will have until the day before the 2021 season to accept or decline the supermax offer from the Milwaukee Bucks.
If Giannis accepts the Bucks’ supermax offer, the focus will then switch to other superstars slated to become free agents next offseason, including Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Jrue Holiday, Rudy Gobert, and Victor Oladipo. Should Giannis decline the offer, the Bucks will need a breakout start to the season or face heavy pressure at the midseason deadline to trade Giannis to prevent losing him for nothing in free agency at the end of the year.
While there’s always the chance the Bucks can work out a sign-and-trade deal for Giannis if they wait until he becomes a free agent next offseason, that’s too great a risk to take as losing him for nothing would be a disaster. Bottom line, Milwaukee has to hope adding Jrue Holiday and other pieces was enough to convince Giannis to sign the supermax. Otherwise, the future of their franchise could be on the line come the midseason trade deadline.
Meanwhile, Rob Pelinka has positioned the Los Angeles Lakers with a collection of valuable assets to pull off a mega midseason deal to land a third max superstar to complement LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Whether Giannis is the main target or not, the Lakers will be primed and ready to deploy their repertoire of trade assets to land whatever available superstar they think is the best fit to help them win the short and long term.
Rob Pelinka and the Los Angeles Lakers have won the NBA offseason by dramatically upgrading their championship roster, setting themselves up for a midseason mega trade, and keeping their cap space clear for 2021.
While there’s still work to do signing veteran centers to minimum contracts and maybe pulling off a blockbuster trade to land Sacramento Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, Pelinka and the Lakers dominated the competition. Without the distraction of waiting for Kawhi, Pelinka was like a chessmaster in a checkers tournament not only filling all the Lakers’ major roster needs but also positioning the team perfectly for even bigger moves in the future.
1. Upgrading a Championship Roster.
Rob Pelinka kicked off the offseason by filling the Lakers’ need for a second playmaker and third scorer by trading shooting guard Danny Green and the 28th pick in the NBA draft for OKC Thunder point guard Dennis Schroder. Swapping 34-year old Green for the 27-year old Schroder not only gave the Lakers a player who fits Anthony Davis’ timeline but also a lightning quick point guard who shot better from deep and had a better defensive rating.
Pelinka then used free agency to fill the 3-and-D hole left by trading Green by signing Milwaukee Bucks’ free agent guard Wes Matthews, a better wing defender and 3-point shooter than Green, with the Bi-Annual Exception. Finally, the Lakers surprised the entire league by stealing backup center and Sixth Man of the Year winner Montrezl Harrell from their crosstown rival Los Angeles Clippers with the full Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception.
Replacing Green, Howard, and Rondo with Schroder, Matthews, and Harrell dramatically upgrades the Lakers’ offense. While Schroder and Matthews are better defenders than Rondo and Green, Howard’s better than Harrell. The real bang for the Lakers is on the offensive side where the addition of Schroder, Matthews, and Harrell adds an astonishing 24.3 points per game, 44.9 points per game vs. 20.6 points per game Green, Howard, and Rondo.
And the Lakers may not be done. They’re still rumored to be working on a blockbuster trade for Bogdan Bogdanovic and looking to sign veteran players to minimum contracts to fill out their roster and center rotation.
2. Setting Up a Midseason Mega Trade.
By collecting attractive assets on favorable midsized contracts, Pelinka has the Lakers perfectly positioned to pull off a midseason blockbuster trade for a coveted third superstar to complement LeBron James and Anthony Davis. With teams looking to move superstars like Giannis Antetokounmpo who are slated to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, the midseason trade deadline could even be crazier than this wild offseason.
Last season, the Lakers lacked assets to make a move at the trade deadline. This season, between Schroder, Harrell, and KCP, Rob Pelinka will have almost $40 million in attractive tradable contracts to pull off a mega trade. That flexibility will also enable the Lakers to tweak their roster in case of injuries or players underperforming and take advantage of opportunities that might arise if the havoc of the coronavirus pandemic panics teams.
Making a midseason mega trade for a third superstar who’s going to be a free agent at the end of the season has big advantages for the Lakers. First, the risk of not being able to re-sign the player can reduce competitive offers. Second, the Lakers would receive Bird rights which would enable them to to over the cap to re-sign the player to a max contract. Realistically, that’s the only way the Lakers could end up with three superstars on max contracts.
Last offseason, waiting for Kawhi kept the Lakers from from positioning themselves for a midseason mega trade. This offseason Rob was able to fill the Lakers’ immediate needs and set the team up for a big midseason move.
3. Keeping Cap Space Clear for 2021.
If there’s been one overriding strategy since Rob Pelinka took over from Magic Johnson at VP of Basketball Operations for the Lakers, it was to clear max cap space for the 2021 offseason to pursue Giannis Antetokounmpo. While the Lakers are not done building out their roster for 2021, there’s no doubt they’re still prioritizing keeping their cap sheet as clear as possible as none of the deals they’ve done so far has been for multiple year contracts.
Dennis Schroder, for whom the Lakers traded Green, has one year left on his contract, Wesley Matthews signed a 1-year contract with the Lakers and Montrezl Harrell signed a below market 2-year deal with a player option. While other teams have signed players to multiple year contracts, the Lakers have stuck to their grand plan to create the max cap space possible to pursue a third superstar to complement LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
That strategy may face its first real test should the Lakers be successful in convincing the Sacramento Kings and Bogdan Bogdanovic to mutually agree to a two-sided sign-and-trade for Kuzma, McGee, and Caldwell-Pope. Bogdanovic and Caldwell-Pope are both looking for long term contracts so the Lakers may have to make an exception if they want to trade for Bogdan or re-sign Kenny. Either way, both would still be valuable trading chips.
While the lower salary cap numbers for next offseason due to the expected lost revenue from the pandemic will make it near impossible to sign a third max contract superstar, the Lakers want the most cap flexibility possible.
The success of the Los Angeles Lakers’ offseason and chances to repeat as champions heads for a reckoning this Friday when free agency starts and the team begins a desperate quest to sign a starting center for the season.
A quick look at the Lakers’ current roster heading into free agency lists the team’s only center as JaVale McGee, whose stock went from starting the for the entire regular season to becoming essentially unplayable in the playoffs. Dwight Howard, the other center from the Lakers’ championship roster last season is a free agent who also was benched during the NBA Finals and has announced he wants a bigger contract than the team seems willing to pay.
While the McGee/Howard traditional low post center tandem was a key part of the Lakers’ regular season success, everything changed after the addition of Markieff Morris, who transformed the offense and defense. Morris’ ability to create better spacing on offense and quicker rotations on defense enabled head coach Frank Vogel to play Anthony Davis more at the center position and transform the Lakers into a championship juggernaut.
The result was both McGee and Howard became essentially unplayable against many matchups by the end of the playoffs, leaving the Lakers desperately needing to sign a starting center heading into free agency. Fortunately, there are only three teams with major cap space left and several quality centers whom the Lakers could pursue with their $9.3 million non-taxpayer MLE who’d be better fits than McGee or Howard.
Heading the list is Suns’ free agent Aron Baynes, a 33-year old, 6′ 10,” 260 lb veteran stretch five who averaged 11.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 22.3 minutes while shooting 35.1% on 4.0 attempts per game. Aron made $5.4 million last season so the Lakers should be able to land him with a big raise by offering him their $9.3 million non-taxpayer MLE and the opportunity to start on a championship team and win a ring.
The Lakers were planning to pursue Baynes last offseason, expecting him to be waived by the Suns after they acquired him in a trade from the Celtics. Unfortunately, Phoenix kept him and he enjoyed a career season for them. Aron would be a great fit on the Lakers and his elite 3-point shooting would open the floor up and make it very hard for teams to pack the paint against LeBron James and Anthony Davis. He should be the Lakers top target.
Second on the list should be 27-year old, 7′ 0,” 240 lb free agent Willie Cauley-Stein who averaged 7.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 23.0 minutes per game last season as three-level defensive center for the Mavs. While Willie is not a stretch five, he’s an elite rim protector who can defend players on the perimeter. Together with Anthony Davis, he would give the Lakers one of the most dominating defensive front courts in the league.
Willie earned just $2.2 million last season so the Lakers should be able to sign him with their $3.6 million BAE. A pairing of Baynes and Cauley-Stein would give the Lakers a modern offensive and defensive center tandem. The Lakers could then gamble on signing the still injured DeMarcus Cousins to replace McGee and become their third center, giving them a deep and versatile center rotation of Baynes, Cauley-Stein, and Cousins.
Finally, the Lakers should pursue free agent Serge Ibaka, a 31-year old, 7′ 0,” 235 lb veteran center who averaged 15.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 27.0 minutes while shooting 38.5% on 3.3 attempts per game. Serge made $23.2 million last year, so the best the Lakers can offer is their $9.3 million non-taxpayer MLE. Unfortunately, that may not be enough to lure him from Toronto but the Lakers should definitely make a run at him.
Last but not least, if the Lakers strike out on Baynes, Cauley-Stein, and Ibaka, they probably should consider re-signing Dwight Howard with their $3.6 million BAE as he is a better defender and rebounder than McGee. While Howard won’t give them the modern offensive or defensive center they covet, he did help them win an NBA championship and is still a solid rim protector and physical force on the boards that teams have to respect.
The true modern center has to be able to score and defend at every level. That’s why Anthony Davis is such a dominant force when he plays the five. He can score from anywhere on the court and defend all five positions.
There are modern offensive centers who can shoot the three and defensive centers who can protect the rim and defend the perimeter but Anthony Davis is a unicorn, the mythical player every team covets and cannot find. There are a few young centers like Myles Turner and Christian Wood who can emulate parts of AD’s modern offensive and defensive repertoire but the Lakers’ chances of acquiring either of them don’t appear to be realistic.
While the Lakers were successful playing two traditional low post centers during the regular season, there were crucial moments during the playoffs when both McGee and Howard essentially became unplayable at either end. They clogged the middle and made it easier for teams to pack the paint against LeBron and AD on offense and became liabilities unable to defend stretch fives or guards on the perimeter when hunted and switched.
The time has come for the Lakers to modernize the center position and replace the JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard tandem with a center duo that includes a modern offensive center and a modern defensive center. Replacing two traditional low post centers with a modern offensive center who can score at all three levels and a modern defensive center who can defend all five positions will transform the Lakers at both ends of the court.
MODERN OFFENSIVE CENTERS:
The Lakers best offensive performances in the playoffs came when Anthony Davis played the five, Markieff Morris played the four, and the Lakers used various five out sets to create spacing for Lakers players to attack the rim.
Adding a modern stretch five center to the roster would enable the Lakers to continue to allow Anthony Davis to split his time between the four and five while providing James and Davis with optimum spacing for all 48 minutes:
1. Aron Baynes, Free Agent
The 33-year old Aron Baynes is coming off a career year with the Phoenix Suns, where he averaged 11.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 22.3 minutes per game while shooting 35.1% from deep on 4 threes per game. Those were career highs in 3-point percentages and attempts for a center who transformed his game the last three years to become a modern stretch center after rarely taking a three during the first five years of his career.
Baynes brings the kind of rugged physicality to the game that made Howard so valuable, setting bone crushing screens, boxing out hard on the glass, playing tough positional defense, and being in the right place at right time. Aron made $5.4 million last season so the Lakers might be able to tempt him with a slight raise and part of their $9.3 million non-taxpayer MLE and the opportunity to start on a championship team and win a ring.
2. DeMarcus Cousins, Free Agent
Boogie’s supposedly close to being ready to play after a series of debilitating injuries that threatened to derail his career. If he’s healthy and can play anywhere near his preinjury level, he would be a top candidate to re-sign. Before his injuries, he was on pace to shoot 35.4% on over 500 attempts from beyond the arc. With career averages of 21.2 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 3.2 assists, a healthy Cousins is the prototype modern offensive center.
We know Boogie can score inside and out, is an excellent passer, and had a lot of the same skill set as Nikola Jokic but the big question with is can he still defend or have the injuries cost him the mobility and lift needed to defend? The Lakers can likely sign the 30-year old Cousins to a veteran’s minimum contract and his great history and relationship with Anthony Davis make him a leading candidate to be the Lakers’ modern offensive center.
3. Serge Ibaka, Free Agent
The 31-year old Serge Ibaka could be the best overall fit for the Lakers as a modern offensive center because he’s a superior 3-point shooter, rim protector, and shot blocker than either DeMarcus Cousins or Aron Baynes. The problem is he would be more expensive. Serge made $23.2 million last year, which means the best the Lakers can likely offer is their $9.3 million non-taxpayer MLE. Unfortunately, that may not be enough to lure him.
Serge averaged 15.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 27.0 minutes while shooting 38.5% from deep on 3.3 attempts per game last season. While he’s been linked to the Lakers in rumors, he’s a long shot to acquire. The Raptors want to keep him and he’s already won a ring there. What might make the difference is offering a multiple year deal, which the Lakers may be willing to consider since Giannis may be staying with the Bucks.
MODERN DEFENSIVE CENTERS:
The Lakers best defensive performances in the playoffs came when Anthony Davis played the five, Markieff Morris the four, and the Lakers used speed, quickness, mobility, and athleticism to protect the rim and perimeter.
Adding a modern defensive center to the roster would enable the Lakers to continue to play the aggressive suffocating defense that dominated teams in the playoffs for the entire game rather than just when Davis played the five.
1. Willie Cauley-Stein, Free Agent
The 27-year old 7′ 0,” 240 lb Willie Cauley-Stein is my top pick to be the modern defensive center in the Lakers’ new center tandem. He averaged 7.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 23.0 minutes per game last season. Willie’s real value, however, came at the defensive end where he averaged 1.2 blocks and 1.1 steals for the Mavericks, impressive numbers for just 23.0 minutes per game. Willie has exercised his player option and is a free agent.
I believe Willie is the closest thing to Anthony Davis as a modern defensive center who can protect the rim and block shots and switch onto guards and forwards and challenge shots beyond the arc or stuff drives to the basket. Willie and AD would create a formidable defensive duo of pterodactyls who could put a suffocating lid on the Lakers’ defensive basket. I would offer Willie half of our $9.3 million non-taxpayer MLE and a chance to win a ring.
2. Nerlens Noel, Free Agent
26-year old, 6′ 10,” 220 lb Nerlens Noel is another young, mobile, bouncy modern defensive center who can protect the rim and defend five positions who would be an excellent fit as part of the Lakers’ new center tandem. Nerlens averaged 7.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 0.9 assists in just 18.5 minutes per game. Like Cauley-Stein, Noel’s value was on defense where he averaged an amazing 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals in less than half a game.
If the Lakers can’t sign Willie Cauley-Stein, they should definitely pursue Nerlens Noel, who only made the $1.6 million veteran minimum with the OKC Thunder last season. He would be a perfect candidate for the BAE. Considering the great job Frank Vogel did with old school centers like McGee and Howard, imagine what he could put together with a faster, younger, and more athletic center like Nerlens Noel next to Anthony Davis.
3. Tristan Thompson, Free Agent
The 29-year old, 6′ 9.” 254 lb Tristan Thompson is a former teammate and long time friend of LeBron James, who respects his defensive ability and would love to have him join the Lakers as their modern defensive center. While his blocks and steals stats don’t compare with the younger Cauley-Stein or Noel, Tristan has a well deserved reputation as being a smart and talented center who can protect the rim and defend on the perimeter.
The big issue with Thompson is cost as he’s coming off an $18.5 million contract with Cleveland that many considered to be an overpayment and blame on LeBron James who lobbied heavily for the Cavaliers to sign him. Tristan also started shooting 3-point shots last season, taking 23 threes in 57 games and hitting 9 of them for 39.0%. Thompson merits consideration because of LeBron but only if he were willing to sign a minimum contract.
The Lakers single-handedly restored the center position and going big as a viable option last season and have an opportunity to continue the evolution by rebuilding their center rotation to embrace the modern analytics game. Small ball’s never really been about small being better than big. It’s about empowering players who had the offensive and defensive skills of guards and forwards along with the size and length to play and defend the five.
Replacing their two traditional low post centers with a modern offensive center who can stretch defenses and a modern defensive center who can guard all five positions could transform the Lakers into a juggernaut. Imagine how much better the Los Angeles Lakers would be if they replaced JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard with a center who can shoot the 3 like Aron Baynes and center who can defend 5 positions like Willie Cauley-Stein.
Kudos to the Los Angeles Lakers’ Rob Pelinka for pulling off a trade that not only gives the Lakers a needed third scorer and second playmaker in Dennis Schroder but also for not giving up his primary trading chip in Kyle Kuzma.
Getting Sam Presti to accept Danny Green and the 28th pick in the draft in exchange for Schroder means Pelinka still has enough ammunition left to pull off a second major trade to fill needs and upgrade the Lakers’ roster. Kuzma has starter quality talent and ambitions but plays the same positions as Lakers’ superstars James and Davis. Kyle will become a restricted free agent next offseason so it makes sense for the Lakers to trade him now.
The surprise is not that the Lakers traded for Schroder but that they did not have to give up Kuzma as part of the package. The expectation all along has been that any Lakers package had to include Kuzma, Green, and the pick. Since Kuzma will only make $3.5 million this season, the Lakers will need to include other contracts as salary filler to receive true value for him. That’s why everybody assumed he would be likely be traded with Green.
Without Danny Green’s $15.5 million contract, Rob Pelinka may only have JaVale McGee’s $4.2 million and Quinn Cook’s $3.0 million as salary filler since word is Avery Bradley is likely to exercise his $5.0 million player option. That means the Lakers would be limited to trading for a player or players whose combined salaries were less than 125% of the $10.7 million total salaries they were sending out plus $100,000, which equals $13.5 million.
There are several outstanding players who make less than $13.5 million per year who may be available in a trade for a talented young player with star potential like Kzma and would be perfect additions to the Lakers’ roster. How about trading Kuzma, McGee, and Cook for New Orleans shooting guard JJ Redick, who has 1 year left at $13.0 million, or Houston power forward Robert Covington, who has 2 years left and earns $12.9 million?
The Lakers could also utilize the $10.7 million Kuzma, McGee, and Cook package to pursue a sign-and-trade package for a coveted free agent who wanted more money than available for the $9.3 million non-taxpayer MLE. That might be the difference in convincing Serge Ibaka or Danilo Gallinari to sign with the Lakers and the Raptors or Thunder would be more than willing to agree to a sign-and-trade to acquire Kuzma without giving up anything.
There’s another scenario where a team offers Kentavious Caldwell-Pope a contract for more salary or years than the Lakers are willing to pay, in which case the Lakers could include a KCP sign-and-trade in the Kuzma package. For example, if a team were willing to offer KCP a 3-year contract starting at $15 million per year, the Lakers would be able to offer Kuzma, McGee, Cook, and KCP for a star player with an annual salary up to $32.2 million.
While I don’t think Kuzma, KCP, and filler is enough for the Lakers to land a legitimate star, it does give the Lakers a way to offer a player like Serge Ibaka or maybe Christian Wood a salary that’s greater than $13.5 million. Bottom line, the Lakers have a plethora of options to trade Kyle Kuzma to fill critical needs and Rob Pelinka is not done making deals to upgrade the roster. The trade for Dennis Schroder was just the first domino to fall.
The most distressing rumor an NBA fan can hear is that their favorite team is seriously considering a trade that makes absolutely no sense, which is exactly how I feel about the Lakers trading for the Spurs’ DeMar DeRozan.
No disrespect to DeRozan, he’s a proven veteran 20-points, 5-rebounds, and 5-assists per game former two-time All-NBA player and Los Angeles native who grew up rooting for the purple and gold and idolizing Kobe Bryant. DeMar’s only 31-years old, is obviously available, is a reliable scorer who can get his own shot and create for others, and arguably could fill the Lakers’ need for a third star to complement LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The problem is DeMar’s fit on a defense-first Lakers team whose greatest offensive need is improved 3-point shooting to stop opposing teams from from packing the paint to prevent James and Davis from getting to the rim. The 6′ 6,” 220 lb DeRozan was the 10th worst defender on a Spurs team that was the 24th worst defensive team in the league and shot just 25.7% from deep last season, below his poor 28.2% career 3-point percentage.
So the question is what are the Lakers thinking? How can they seriously be considering trading for DeRozan when his mere presence on the court is likely to downgrade their defense and limit spacing for James and Davis? DeRozan has $27.7 million left on his 1-year contract, meaning the Lakers would have to send $22.2 million in return, which they could do with Green’s $15.4 million, Kuzma’s $3.6 million, and McGee’s $4.2 million.
Why the Spurs would like to do that is simple: Kyle Kuzma. But why the Lakers would swap their best trading chip and valuable expiring contracts for a star player who doesn’t fit and is on an expiring contract is a mystery? Assuming there’s some truth to the rumors and knowing Rob Pelinka’s a savvy and smart basketball executive, let’s see if a DeRozan trade could make sense when viewed in the context of other moves and strategies.
First, adding DeRozan, who can deliver 20-points, 5-rebounds, and 5-assists per game, could be transformative for the Lakers, who clearly lack a player who can get a high percentage shot for himself or a teammate at any time. Second, maybe the Lakers don’t have the assets to trade for a player of the quality of Jrue Holiday, Victor Oladipo, or Myles Turner. Maybe DeRozan is the best available option as a third star to complement James and Davis.
The truth is the Lakers spent most of their valuable trading chips to acquire Anthony Davis and the players they would be giving up for DeRozan are likely not as appealing to other teams as Lakers fans believe them to be. After all, Kuzma hasn’t developed as expected and wants a bigger raise than the Lakers are willing to give him, Green has not lived up to his resume or $15 million salary, and McGee became basically unplayable in the playoffs.
So what are you really giving up in a DeRozan trade? DeMar is arguably a major upgrade at starting shooting guard over Green and neither Kuzma or McGee were significant contributors to the Lakers 2020 championship run. While there are obvious fit issues to resolve, the major objections to trading for DeMar are based on the possibly questionable opinion the Lakers should be able to get a better player than DeRozan for Kuzma, Green, and McGee.
While the fit issues are real and he’s not a good defender or 3-point shooter, DeRozan does have legitimate strengths that fill major needs for the Lakers on offense, namely his ability to get his own shot and make plays for others. DeMar could be the third scorer and second playmaker the Lakers need to complement LeBron James and Anthony Davis. He’s also capable of being a go to player down the stretch who force doubles and finds open shooters.
The problem is how to account for DeRozan’s mediocre defense and lack of gravity from beyond the arc? The answer could be as simple as making changes to the Lakers’ starting lineup and roster to ameliorate those issues. For example, the Lakers could sign a stretch five center like Serge Ibaka or Aron Baynes, whose elite and prolific 3-point shooting can stretch defenses and create spacing for James, Davis, and DeRozan to attack the rim?
Replacing a traditional low post center like Howard or McGee with a modern stretch center like Ibaka or Baynes would transform the Lakers 3-point game and enable them to play 5-out sets to spread defenses and open up lanes. That’s a perfect offensive environment for DeRozan to take advantage of his ability to score in the paint via high percentage jumpers and easy layups or create easy scoring opportunities for teammates with his elite playmaking.
Finally, there’s another reason the Lakers might want to trade for DeMar DeRozan over other star players who arguably fit better like Jrue Holiday, Myles Turner, Buddy Hield, or Chris Paul, which is his expiring contract. While the Lakers are in a ‘win now’ mode, there’s no evidence Rob Pelinka is planning to abandon his grand plan to create maximum cap space to pursue Giannis Antetokounmpo next offseason despite the impact of coronavirus.
Despite Kawhi’s rejection last summer, Pelinka stubbornly refused to sign players to contracts for more than two years, opting to preserve as much cap space as possible to sign Giannis or another legitimate third superstar. While the pandemic may have dimmed the Lakers’ chances of creating the cap space for a third superstar, Rob Pelinka may still be committed to the original plan and unwilling to take on more than 1-year contracts.
That would certainly explain why the Lakers might be looking at DeRozan as their best viable option for a major roster upgrade this season without compromising their plans to pursue a third superstar next offseason. Trading for DeRozan and signing Ibaka or Baynes could be the Lakers best option to respond to the major challenges they’re likely to face as the Clippers, Bucks, Warriors, Celtics, and Heat all upgrade their rosters.
The Lakers have never been focused on winning single championships and Rob Pelinka knows LeBron James’ seeming invincibility will come to an end and the Lakers will need another superstar to complement Anthony Davis. The dream of a Lakers’ Big Three and a superstar to pair with AD may be what’s driving the Lakers to pursue DeMar DeRozan as a 1-year option to repeat as NBA champions while still keeping the big picture plan alive.
While we discussed the Top 4 Moves Lakers Could Realistically Pull Off to Repeat as NBA Champions in our last article, we can’t ignore the possibility the Lakers will be able to pull off a blockbuster trade for a third superstar.
While pundits constantly remind us the Lakers gave up most of their trading chips in their mega deal for Anthony Davis, winning a championship may have elevated the value of several of the remaining players on their roster. Championship resumes for young players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso, and Talen Horton-Tucker and expiring contracts of proven vets like Danny Green, Avery Bradley, or JaVale McGee may be worth more.
The economic landscape in the NBA has also changed dramatically due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the shortened 2021 season being sacrificed as teams and players make moves hoping to setup a normal 2022 season. Suddenly, there are rumors of big name players like Jrue Holiday, Chris Paul, Gordon Hayward, Victor Oladipo, Bradley Beal, Devin Booker, James Harden, and Giannis Antetokounmpo possibly being on the move.
With that in mind, here are the top four moves, with the help of the basketball gods, savvy negotiations, and competitors focusing elsewhere, the Lakers just might magically pull off to repeat as NBA champions:
1. Trade for Jrue Holiday
The top magical move the Lakers could make to improve their chances of repeating as NBA champions would be to trade with the New Orleans Pelicans for 30-year old, 6′ 3,” 205 lb All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday.
Since Holiday will make $26.2 million next season, the Lakers will have to send out $20.1 million in salaries for the trade to be legal. The problem for the Lakers will not be matching salaries but making a good enough offer. Holiday will be one of the top trade targets on the market and the competition for him will be intense so the Lakers need to put together their best offer to have any chance at landing the Pelicans’ elite point guard.
The competitors may include the Brooklyn Nets who may offer Caris LeVert, the Golden State Warriors who may offer Andrew Wiggins and the 2nd pick in the 2020 draft, and the Boston Celtics who may offer Gordon Hayward. But there are so many elite players on the market the Lakers could get lucky as there’s a good chance the short offseason NBA free agency period could turn into a form of musical chairs where Jrue Holiday falls to the Lakers.
Since Holiday would be a perfect fit alongside LeBron and AD, the Lakers should go all in with an offer that includes Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($15M S&T), and their 2020 first round pick. That would give the Lakers a third superstar to go with LeBron and AD and the ability to bring back Rondo, Morris, and Howard to go with Green, Bradley, Horton-Tucker, McGee, and whomever they sign with their MLE.
Holiday would give the Lakers the third superstar, reliable third scorer, and elite second playmaker to defend their championship as well as a two time All-Defensive player with solid experience playing with AD and Rondo.
2. Trade for Myles Turner
While trading for Holiday would transform the Lakers, pulling off a mega trade for 24-year old, 6′ 11,” 250 lb Indiana Pacers’ center Myles Turner could have just as great an impact on the Lakers’ championship window.
Like Holiday, Turner has attracted great interest and will be one of the most sought after trade targets this offseason as the Pacers look to retool their front court around players who better fit with rising star Domantas Sabonis. The Lakers’ major trade competition for Myles Turner will be many of the same teams and same offers they would need to beat to acquire Jrue Holiday: the Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors, and Boston Celtics.
Because Turner is only making $18.0 million, the Lakers only have to offer $14.4 million for the trade to work. Like Holiday, however, the Lakers will need to make an offer that’s tempting enough to beat other teams’ offers. The Lakers need to go all-in if they expect the Pacers to trade Turner to them, making an offer similar to their offer for Holiday of Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($15M S&T), and their first round pick.
While Jrue Holiday qualifies a true third superstar, Myles Turner does not. What he would bring to the Lakers starting lineup though could be just as impactful as he’s the ideal modern center to play alongside Anthony Davis. Turner allows Davis to play his preferred power forward position and has the skills as a center to transform the Lakers into a juggernaut at both ends with his elite 3-point shooting, rim protection, and perimeter defense.
The best analogy why the Lakers should trade for Myles Turner is he’s a mini clone of Anthony Davis and would enable the Lakers to play their version of ‘small ball’ for the entire game rather than just half of the game.
3. Trade for Victor Oladipo
Because of risks due to his subpar play coming back from a quad injury, trading for 28-year old, 6′ 4,” 213 lb guard Victor Oladipo isn’t the slam dunk trading for either Jrue Holiday or Myles Turner would be.
But the payoff could be just as great if Victor recovers 100% to become the budding superstar he was two years ago when he was ranked one of the best shooting guards in league, making the All-NBA and All-Defensive teams. While Victor’s trade value is low right now because of concerns about his injury and the ability to re-sign him, there will still be competing teams looking to trade for him, including the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks.
Since Victor makes $21.0 million, the Lakers need to include $16.8 million in salaries to make the trade work. The Lakers should offer the Pacers Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, and their 2020 first round pick for Victor Oladipo. Considering there’s some risk due to the injury and his free agency status, the Lakers’ offer should be enough to convince the Pacers to accept the offer. From the Lakers’ perspective, there’s little risk of Victor not re-signing.
One of the most appealing aspects of trading for Victor is his potential as a legitimate third superstar who’s young enough to help LeBron James and Anthony Davis win now and then to co-star with AD once LeBron retires. Because the Lakers would receive Oladipo’s Bird rights in the trade, they would then be allowed to go over the cap to re-sign him to a max contract, which is the only sure way to add a third max player to their roster.
While trading for Oladipo is riskier than trading for Holiday or Turner, the upside is greater since he has the potential to be a genuine third superstar whereas Jrue and Myles were just perfect catalysts for LeBron and AD.
4. Trade for Christian Wood
With Anthony Davis committing to re-signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, Christian Wood becomes the preeminent free agent big man this offseason, which means there’s a good chance there will be a bidding war to land him.
While some free agent pundits established Wood’s market value around $10 million per year, other analysts have suggested he could command as much as $15 to $17 million per year based on his breakout 2020 year with the Pistons. The maximum contract the Lakers should offer Christian Wood is a three-year $48 million deal starting at $16 million per year. Combined with a chance to win a championship, that should be an offer he just can’t refuse.
Assuming the Lakers can come to an agreement with Christian Wood on a contract, all that remains is working out an acceptable sign-and-trade deal the Detroit Pistons will accept as equitable compensation for trading him. The obvious centerpiece to the sign-and-trade deal is Lakers forward and Flint, Michigan native Kyle Kuzma, about whom the Lakers and Pistons had already had trade discussions before the trade deadline last winter.
A sign-and-trade between the Detroit Pistons and the Los Angeles Lakers of Christian Wood in return for a package of Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, and JaVale McGee should be enough compensation to facilitate the deal. The Lakers get a player who could transform their team and clear cap space to give raises to AD, KCP, and Rondo and use their MLE and BAE to further upgrade their roster despite being limited by the $138.9 million hard cap.
Pairing 6′ 10″ Christian Wood and his 7′ 3″ wingspan with 6′ 10″ Anthony Davis and his 7′ 6″ wingspan would give the Lakers unprecedented size and length and a monster front court that would be a nightmare matchup.
While fans would like Rob Pelinka to pull off a blockbuster trade for a big name superstar like Bradley Beal, Zach LaVine, or Victor Oladipo, there are lesser, more realistic, championship caliber moves the Lakers can make.
That doesn’t mean the Lakers won’t try to shoot for the moon and pull off a blockbuster move. We all know Lakers’ Exceptionalism is not just a slogan; it’s a mantra that drives the Lakers just like Mamba Mentality drove Kobe. When you’re defending NBA champions, making sure you hang onto key players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, Markieff Morris, and Dwight Howard may be the smart route to take rather than major change.
Sometimes, it’s the little tweaks to fill critical needs that can be the difference makers in a team being able to repeat as NBA champions. After all, the Lakers had great chemistry and were not challenged in the playoffs. That’s why simply adding a third scorer, second playmaker, elite wing defender, or modern center without giving up invaluable core components could be the ideal blueprint for the Lakers to pursue this offseason.
With that in mind, here are four moves the Lakers can realistically pull off to repeat as NBA champions without sacrificing any major contributors who were instrumental to the team winning their 17th NBA championship:
1. Trade for Chris Paul
The most realistic move the Lakers can make to improve their chances of repeating as NBA champions would be to trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder for 35-year old, 6′ 1,” 175 lb future HOF point guard Chris Paul.
Since CP3 will make $41.4 million next season, the Lakers will have to send out $33.1 million in salaries for the trade to be legal. For the Lakers to reach that amount, they would need Avery Bradley and JaVale McGee to opt in. That would let the Lakers trade the following six players with expiring contracts: JaVale McGee, Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Kyle Kuzma, Quinn Cook, and either a re-signed Dion Waiters or Talen Horton-Tucker.
The Lakers would have to accept the $41.4 million due Chris next season and the $44.2 million player option due him the following season, which would mean $85.6 million in salary in a pandemic ravaged NBA economy. That’s a steep price for the Lakers to pay unless Paul gives the Lakers a buyout option for the second year of his $44.2 million contract, a possibility since he does want a chance to play in LA with LeBron and win a ring.
That might be the key to the trade since it would give the Lakers a way to move on from Chris without having to pay his full salary should his play decline dramatically or should he become injured, of which he has a history. And while the Lakers would sacrifice considerable depth to make the trade, they would still field a possible starting lineup of CP3, KCP, LeBron, AD, and Howard with a bench of Rondo, Caruso, THT, Dudley, and Cousins.
A healthy CP3 would give the Lakers a third scorer, second playmaker, and elite on-ball defender to go with LeBron James and Anthony Davis and make them odds on favorites to repeat and win another championship.
2. Sign Aron Baynes
One of the Los Angeles Lakers’ top priorities this offseason should be to to sign 33-year old, 6′ 10,” 260 lb Phoenix Suns free agent center Aron Baynes with their taxpayer $5.6 million MLE or non-taxpayer $9.3 million MLE.
While the Lakers succeeded playing a tandem of traditional centers JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard during the regular season, it became apparent both centers were liabilities and became almost unplayable in the playoffs. The problem on offense was JaVale and Dwight were not threats to shoot, which allowed teams to clog the paint against LeBron and AD, and on defense were too slow to defend against 3-point shooters on the perimeter.
While Baynes is not as good a shot blocker McGee or Howard are, he’s an excellent low post position defender who can protect the rim, control the boards, and has a reputation as both a savvy and capable team defender. He’s a great communicator who always makes the right rotations, defends with size and verticality, and is a rugged banger who would enable Anthony Davis to continue to play the four and roam the paint as a help shot blocker.
Where Baynes shines is on offense, where he’s a high percentage 3-point shooter who can stretch defenses and make it difficult for teams to clog the lane to prevent LeBron James and Anthony Davis from attacking the paint. Baynes only made $5.5 million with the Suns last season so the Lakers could have a great chance to sign him for the $5.6 million taxpayer MLE and offer him a starting role and a chance to win a championship ring.
A stretch five like Aron Baynes would let the Lakers play the modern version of ‘small ball’ basketball that transformed them into an offensive and defensive juggernaut in the playoffs 48 minutes per game going forward.
3. Sign Danilo Gallinari
The Lakers would be smart to convince 32-year old, 6′ 10,” 233 lb OKC Thunder veteran power forward Danilo Gallinari to sign with them for the $9.3 million non-taxpayer MLE and a chance to win a championship ring.
While Gallo earned $22.6 million last season, he made it imminently clear winning would be a bigger motivation than money when he makes his free agent decision for this offseason, which could open the door for the Lakers. Danilo has earned over $135 million during his NBA career, which makes it easier for him to consider joining the Lakers for $9.3 million and a chance to play with LeBron and AD and win his first championship ring.
The blueprint for LeBron James’ teams winning championships has always been surrounding him with 3-point shooting, which is why a sharpshooter like Danilo Gallinari would turbocharge and transform the Lakers’ offense. Gallo’s a 38.0% career 3-point shooter who shot 40.5% from deep last season on over 7 attempts per game, which rank as the third highest 3-point percentage and most 3-point shot attempts in his 12-year NBA career.
The Lakers’ 31.6 3-point shot attempts per game ranked 23rd and their 34.9% 3-point shot percentage ranked 21st in the NBA last year. Their best 3-point shooter was KCP who averaged 38.5% on 3.4 shots per game. While Gallo‘s not a great defender, he’s always been able to produce more on offense than he allows on defense, posting an impressive 5.7 Net Rating and 3.7 Plus/Minus last season, second best on the Thunder behind Chris Paul.
Gallo starting at the four would modernize the Lakers’ offense, opening the door for Anthony Davis to finally move to the five or for Gallo to play small ball five with AD providing critical help side rim protection from the four.
4. Trade for JJ Redick
If the Lakers want to upgrade their 3-point shooting, they should pursue a trade for 36-year old, 6′ 3,” 220 lb New Orleans Pelicans’ shooting guard JJ Redick, who shot 45.3% from deep last season on 6.6 attempts per game.
With New Orleans committed to rebuilding and looking to trade Jrue Holiday, it’s almost certain the Pelicans will be looking to see what they can get for the veteran Redick, one of the best 3-point shooters in the league. Unlike Holiday who had two years and $53.5 million left on his contract, JJ has only one year and $13 million left on his deal so the Lakers would have to offer the Pelicans a tempting package to motivate them to trade Redick.
While Redick may only be a one or two-year solution, his sharpshooting is exactly what the Lakers need to unleash LeBron James and Anthony Davis. His gravity beyond the arc could be a legit championship difference maker. The Lakers might be able to tempt the Pelicans to trade Redick with an offer of Talen Horton-Tucker and their 2020 first round draft pick along with the expiring contracts of Avery Bradley and JaVale McGee as salary filler.
For the win now Lakers, they would land one of the most feared 3-point shooters in the league without giving up any of the key players who were playoff contributors to winning their 17th NBA championship last season. For the rebuilding Pelicans, they would receive a promising young star in Horton-Tucker, a first round draft pick, and a pair of championship experienced veterans to help mentor their talented young roster.
A dead-eye 3-point shooter like Redick would give the Lakers a proven third scorer and 6MOY candidate who could come off the bench and rain threes on opposing defenses to unleash LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
When the games are over and the offseason begins, there’s nothing as fun, exciting, exhilarating, frustrating, or polarizing for Lakers fans than talking about trades, whom to pursue, whom to trade, who says YES, who says NO.
So here is Lakerholics.Com’s ‘Laker Trade Machine’ with rankings by position, fit, cost, and attainability for every potential trade target the Los Angeles Lakers might be interested in pursuing a trade for this offseason:
RANKING (In order of Importance):
Feasibility: A=Doable, F=Not Doable
Fit: A=Great Fit, F=Poor Fit
Cost: A=Affordable, F=Prohibitive
Age: A=In Prime, F=Too Old
- Dennis Schroder
OKC Thunder, 27 yrs old, 6′ 1″ 172 lbs, $15.5M salary
Pts/Reb/Ast: 18.9/3.6/4.0, FG%/3P%/FT%: 46.9/38.5/83.9
Feasibility: B, Fit: A, Cost: B, Age: A
- Goran Dragic
Miami Heat, 34 yrs old, 6′ 3″ 190 lbs, $19.2M salary (S&T/MLE)
Pts/Reb/Ast: 16.2/3.2/5.1, FG%/3P%/FT%: 44.1/36.7/77.6
Feasibility: B, Fit: A, Cost: B, Age: D
- Chris Paul
OKC Thunder, 35 yrs old, 6′ 1″ 175 lbs, $41.4M salary
Pts/Reb/Ast: 17.6/5.0/6.7, FG%/3P%/FT%:48.9/36.5/90.7
Feasibility: B, Fit: A, Cost: C, Age: D
- Derrick Rose
Detroit Pistons, 32 yrs old, 6′ 2″ 200 lbs, $7.7M salary
Pts/Reb/Ast: 18.1/2.4/5.6, FG%/3P%/FT%: 49.0/30.6/87.1
Feasibility: B, Fit: C, Cost: A, Age: C
- Jrue Holiday
New Orleans Pelicans, 30 yrs old, 6′ 2″ 205 lbs, $26.2M salary
Pts/Reb/Ast: 19.1/4./6.7, FG%/3P%/FT%: 45.5/35.3/70.9
Feasibility: C, Fit: A, Cost: D, Age: B
- Spencer Dinwiddie
Brooklyn Nets, 27 yrs old, 6′ 5″ 215 lbs, $11.5M salary
Pts/Reb/Ast: 20.6/3.5/6.8, FG%/3P%/FT%: 41.5/30.8/77.8
Feasibility: C, Fit: B, Cost: C, Age: A
- Victor Oladipo
Indiana Pacers, 28 yrs old, 6′ 4″ 213 lbs, $21.0M salary
Pts/Reb/Ast: 23.1/5.6/5.2* FG%/3P%/FT%: 47.7/37.1/79.0*
Feasibility: B, Fit: A, Cost: B, Age: A
- Buddy Hield
Sacramento Kings, 27 yrs old, 6′ 4″ 220 lbs, $24.9M salary
Pts/Reb/Ast: 19.2/4.6/3.0, FG%/3P%/FT%: 42.9/39.4/84.6
Feasibility: B, Fit: B, Cost: C, Age: A
- Bogdan Bogdanovic
Sacramento Kings, 28 yrs old, 6′ 6″ 220 lbs, $10.7M salary
Pts/Reb/Ast: 15.1/3.4/3.4, FG%/3P%/FT%: 44.0/37.2/74.1
Feasibility: C, Fit: B, Cost: C, Age: A
- J.J. Redick
New Orleans Pelicans, 36 yrs old, 6′ 3″ 200 lbs, $13.0M salary
Pts/Reb/Ast: 18.1/2.4/5.6, FG%/3P%/FT%: 45.3/45.3/89.2
Feasibility: C, Fit: B, Cost: C, Age: D
- Zach LaVine
Chicago Bulls, 25 yrs old, 6′ 6″ 200 lbs, $19.5M salary
Pts/Reb/Ast: 15.3/2.5/2.0, FG%/3P%/FT%: 44.7/37.5/80.2
Feasibility: D, Fit: A, Cost: D, Age: A
- Bradley Beal
Washington Wizards, 27 yrs old, 6′ 3″ 207 lbs, $28.8M salary
Pts/Reb/Ast: 30.5/4.2/6.1, FG%/3P%/FT%: 45.5/35.3/84.2
Feasibility: D, Fit: A, Cost: D, Age: A
- Maurice Harkless
New York Knicks, 27 yrs old, 6′ 7″ 220 lbs, $11.0M salary (S&T/MLE)
Pts/Reb/Ast: 5.8/3.9/1.1, FG%/3P%/FT%: 45.5/28.0/62.5
Feasibility: B. Fit: C, Cost: C, Age: A
- Rodney Hood
Portland Trail Blazers, 28 yrs old, 6′ 8″ 208 lbs, $6.0M salary (S&T/MLE)
Pts/Reb/Ast: 11.0/3.4/1.5, FG%/3P%/FT%: 50.6/49.3/77.8
Feasibility: C, Fit: B, Cost: C, Age: B
- Joe Ingles
Utah Jazz, 33 yrs old, 6′ 7″ 220 lbs, $10.9M salary
Pts/Reb/Ast: 9.8/3.9/5.2, FG%/3P%/FT%: 44.5/39.9/78.7
Feasibility: C, Fit: B, Cost: C, Age: C
- DeMar DeRozan
San Antonio Spurs, 31 yrs old, 6′ 6″ 200 lbs, $27.7M salary
Pts/Reb/Ast: 22.1/5.5/5.6, FG%/3P%/FT%: 53.1/25.7/84.5
Feasibility: C, Fit: D, Cost: C, Age: C
- Joe Harris
Brooklyn Nets, 29 yrs old, 6′ 6″ 220 lbs, $7.7M salary (S&T/MLE)
Pts/Reb/Ast: 14.5/4.3/2.1, FG%/3P%/FT%: 48.6/42.4/71.9
Feasibility: D, Fit: C, Cost: C, Age: B
- Gordon Hayward
Boston Celtics, 30 yrs old, 6′ 7″ 225 lbs, $34.2M salary
Pts/Reb/Ast: 17.5/6.7/4.1, FG%/3P%/FT%: 50.0/38.3/85.5
Feasibility: D, Fit: C, Cost: D, Age: B
- Christian Wood
Detroit Pistons, 24 yrs old, 6′ 11″ 214 lbs, $1.6M salary (S&T/MLE)
Pts/Reb/Ast: 13.1/6.3/1.0, FG%/3P%/FT%: 56.7/38.6/74.4
Feasibility: B, Fit: A, Cost: C, Age: A
- Danilo Gallinari
OKC Thunder, 32 yrs old, 6′ 10″ 233 lbs, $22.6M salary (S&T/MLE)
Pts/Reb/Ast: 18.7/5.2/1.9, FG%/3P%/FT%: 43.8/40.5/89.3
Feasibility: B, Fit: B, Cost: C, Age: C
- Kevin Love
Cleveland Cavaliers, 32 yrs old, 6′ 8″ 220 lbs, $31.3M salary
Pts/Reb/Ast: 17.6/9.8/3.2, FG%/3P%/FT%: 45.0/37.4/85.4
Feasibility: B, Fit: B, Cost: C, Age: D
- Jerami Grant
Denver Nuggets, 26 yrs old, 6′ 8″ 220 lbs, $9.4M salary (S&T/MLE)
Pts/Reb/Ast: 12.0/3.5/1.2, FG%/3P%/FT%: 47.8/38.9/75.0
Feasibility: C, Fit: A, Cost: C, Age: A
- Davis Bertans
Washington Wizards, 27 yrs old, 6′ 10″ 225 lbs, $7.0M salary (S&T/MLE)
Pts/Reb/Ast: 15.4/4.5/1.7, FG%/3P%/FT%: 43.4/42.4/85.2
Feasibility: C, Fit: A, Cost: C, Age: A
- Robert Covington
Houston Rockets, 29 yrs old, 6′ 7″ 209 lbs, $12.1M salary
Pts/Reb/Ast: 12.4/6.6/1.3, FG%/3P%/FT%: 43.5/34.6/79.8
Feasibility: C, Fit: B, Cost: C, Age: B
- Myles Turner
Indiana Pacers, 24 yrs old, 6′ 11″ 250 lbs, $18.0M salary
Pts/Reb/Ast: 12.1/6.6/1.2, FG%/3P%/FT%: 45.7/34.4/76.8
Feasibility: B, Fit: A, Cost: C, Age: A
- Aron Baynes
Phoenix Suns, 33 yrs old, 6′ 10″ 260 lbs, $5.5M salary (S&T/MLE)
Pts/Reb/Ast: 11.5/5.6/1.6, FG%/3P%/FT%: 48.0/35.1/74.7
Feasibility: B, Fit: B, Cost: B Age: C
- Tristan Thompson
Cleveland Cavaliers, 29 yrs old, 6′ 9″ 254 lbs, $18.5M salary (S&T/MLE)
Pts/Reb/Ast: 12.0/10.1/2.1, FG%/3P%/FT%: 51.2/39.1/61.5
Feasibility: B, Fit: C, Cost: B, Age: B
- Serge Ibaka
Toronto Raptors, 31 yrs old, 7′ 0″ 235 lbs, $23.3M salary (S&T/MLE)
Pts/Reb/Ast: 15.4/8.2/1.4, FG%/3P%/FT%: 51.2/38.5/71.8
Feasibility: C, Fit: B, Cost: B, Age: C
- Nikola Vucevic
Orlando Magic, 29 yrs old, 6′ 11″ 250 lbs, $26.0M salary
Pts/Reb/Ast: 19.6/10.9/3.6, FG%/3P%/FT%: 47.7/33.9/78.4
Feasibility: C, Fit: B, Cost: C, Age: B
- Marc Gasol
Toronto Raptors, 35 yrs old, 6′ 11″ 255 lbs, $25.6M salary (S&T/MLE)
Pts/Reb/Ast: 7.5/6.3/3.3, FG%/3P%/FT%: 42.7/38.5/73.5
Feasibility: C, Fit: C, Cost: B, Age: D
- Dennis Schroder
This is the third of a series of articles from each member of the Lakerholics editorial team recounting how this crazy and unprecedented year and NBA season personally impacted and affected them. Thanks to Blog Editor Sean Grice for suggesting and inspiring the series. We invite every Lakerholic to comment and let us know how this wacky year hit you and yours.
Sometimes it takes a miracle to remind everyone hard times won’t last and a bright light to scare away the constant nightmares. For haunted Lakers fans, the 2020 NBA championship was that shining beacon of light and hope.
Devastated by the death of Kobe, trapped in a never ending pandemic, and submerged in a wave of racial and political injustice, Lakers basketball was our chance to escape to a bubble world where dreams could come true. That was a world where the only worry was losing the game, where the virus didn’t exist, where demands for justice could be heard, challenges could be won and wishes granted, and playing the right way was always rewarded.
Those who know me understand I’m an incurable optimist, a glass half full zealot, and a proselyte of silver linings in every cloud. But I’m also a realist who knows things sometimes have to get worse before they can get better. That’s my lesson for the younger readers of today when it comes to the last ten years of Lakers basketball or last four years of the Trump presidency. That’s just how life works. One step backwards before two steps forward.
My love journey with basketball began when my family moved to Southern California from Wisconsin in 1956. All I played growing up in the midwest was baseball and football. Nobody played basketball in those farm towns. Dropped into suburban SoCal, I quickly discovered basketball was not only the game I loved to play but also the sport which would dominate my life as I played dawn to dusk on asphalt courts with metal backboards and nets.
I developed into a fair high school point guard, started my share of games, made it to a couple of CIF playoffs, played some AAU ball, was never good enough to play college basketball, but became a lifelong basketball junkie. You know me, the guy who opened the high school gym on Saturdays, organized teams in the local summer league, was always willing to ref in the rec league, drove all over SoCal looking for the best gym and games.
I grew up listening to Chick Hearn and modeled my game and shot after Jerry West but didn’t became a Lakers fan until they traded for Wilt in 1970. I’m proud to now have seen all twelve of the Lakers’ championships in L.A. My wife Teresa and I raised a son, grandson, and two granddaughters to love the Lakers and the game of basketball as much as we did. Not an easy thing to do in NorCal with Steph and the Dubs winning championships.
In my years as a Lakers fan, I’ve had many heroes but Kobe was the one who won my heart. I will never forget that morning when I heard he and his daughter and others had died on the way to a basketball tournament. Ironically, I was in the car with my granddaughters Alexa and Mia, both of whom wear 24 on their jerseys, on the way to a basketball tournament where I was coaching them, just like Kobe and Gigi and her teammates.
I remember huddling with the other coaches and the refs and talking about the tragedy and whether or not to continue to play when my granddaughter Mia said we should still play because “that’s what Kobe would have wanted.” The next week was filled with tears but also wonderful memories of how Kobe had embraced girls’ basketball for his daughters as I had for Alexa and Mia. Kobe never smiled more or seemed happier than those last few years.
I’ve lived long enough that losing friends and heroes has become the norm but losing them before their time hurts more because of the loved ones left behind. I’m not a religious person but I do pray for Vanessa and her kids. While I don’t believe in God, I do believe in Karma and watching LeBron accept the responsibility of being the new face of the Lakers gave me chills. I knew then the Lakers were going to win the championship for Kobe.
Everything was coming up purple and gold as the season approached the home stretch and the Lakers easily beat the Bucks and the Clippers, their main two competitors, in a back-to-back weekend sweep in early March. Those wins catapulted the Lakers to the top of all of the power rankings and had them closing in on earning the number one seed in the playoffs when Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus and everything changed.
Suddenly, America and the world were at war with a pandemic like we had never before seen with with tens of millions becoming infected and a million dying as the reality emerged that the world would be irrevocably changed. The economic fallout only exacerbated the tragedy as millions of jobs and businesses were lost. Then, on top of everything, came a series of horrific racial injustices that triggered an overdue reckoning of systemic racism.
The Lakers and basketball disappeared under the chaotic waves from the coronavirus pandemic horrors and racial justice reckoning that swept the country and became the catalyst in an all out war for the soul of America. There were long periods of time over the next four dark and difficult months when it seemed impossible to imagine the NBA or any professional sports season being resumed or started in the middle of everything happening.
But history has shown us chaos often breeds creativity and the NBA and NBPA came up with an innovative concept to resume the 2020 season in a safe bubble in Orlando and an inspired world class plan to make it happen. With dedicated leadership and execution, the NBA was able to finish the 2020 season, keep every player, coach, and worker in the bubble safe from Covid-19, and crown a league champion after a successful playoffs.
For beleaguered basketball and Lakers fans, the NBA bubble not only provided them with an escape from the drudgery life in the pandemic had become but also a sense of optimism intelligent management could prevail. Considering the federal government’s abject failure to properly manage the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA’s ability to successfully pull off the bubble restored hopes a change in our top leadership could defeat the pandemic.
In the end, that’s what leadership is all about, creating and executing plans to make things better. It’s exactly what NBA’s Adam Silver and the NBPA’s Michele Roberts did to make the bubble succeed and save the 2020 season. It’s also what VPBO Rob Pelinka, head coach Frank Vogel, and co-captains LeBron James and Anthony Davis did to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to their 17th NBA championship despite no fans or home court advantage.
My son, daughter-in-law, grandson, and two granddaughters live next door to us in Mill Valley but it’s been over six months since my wife or I have been able to hug or hold them close because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, we talk through sliding glass doors, FaceTime them on our phones, and enjoy socially distanced and masked picnics at empty beaches and parks or wherever we can find enough space outdoors to be gather safely.
Our morning runs on the bike path have been replaced by an hour on the treadmill and exercise bike in the garage and our trips to restaurants and grocery stores by the ubiquitous deliveries from DoorDash and Instacart. But we’re the lucky ones because we own our home and are retired with money in the bank. We can’t be evicted or have our home foreclosed. We don’t have to risk going to work every day. We didn’t suffer losing our jobs.
I’m still enjoying the glow of the Lakers’ 17th championship and beacon of light that shone through the shear hopelessness and fear of the future the pandemic failures, racial injustices, and Trump presidency have spawned. Preparing to vote for the soul of our country, I have the same inspired feeling I had when LeBron took the baton after Kobe’ death. The beacon of light that led to the Lakers’ championship will also shine brightly on Tuesday.
Would being able pay Chris Paul just $23.1 million instead of $38.5 million for a shortened 50-game 2021 NBA season be enough to motivate the Los Angeles Lakers to trade with the OKC Thunder for the veteran point guard?
It’s an question that shines a harsh light on how the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic on the 2020 and 2021 NBA seasons is likely to alter the economic landscape between big market and small market teams. We already know that the difference in revenues between a big market team like the Los Angeles Lakers and a small market team like the OKC Thunder is in many ways the difference between real dollars and Monopoly dollars.
The NBA estimates a coronavirus afflicted 2021 Season with only 50 games could lead to having 40% of players’ salaries held in escrow and eventually lost due to the decline in their share of league basketball related income. While the owners would also lose 40% of their BRI or basketball related income, they would also not have to pay 40% of their player salaries, which to an extent ameliorates or minimizes their bottom line losses.
The Lakers are worth over $2 billion dollars, second only to the Knicks, with most of that value not subject to taxes until the franchise is sold. The Lakers could easily absorb short term losses to win another NBA championship. Small market teams like the Thunder have to rely on franchise appreciation rather than operating income to assess value and don’t have the resources or liquidity to weather difficult economic conditions like the Lakers do.
Just as wealthy investors become buyers and less secure investors become sellers when times are tough, now could be the perfect time for the Lakers to take advantage and trade for Chris Paul while his salaries are discounted. With the NBA looking at a 40% reduction in BRI for the 2021 season due to fewer games and the likely lack of live fans, Chris’ 3-year contract obligation could drop from $124.1 million to $108.7 million, a 12.5% discount.
Add to the equation the possibility the new CBA negotiated after this season could easily include another amnesty clause, there could be a legitimate opportunity for the Lakers to take advantage of the league’s financial crisis. There may be no team in the NBA who’s more willing to spend money or even pay luxury taxes to win championships than the Los Angeles Lakers. That motivation to win is not likely to wane just because times are tough.
Finally, there’s the reality that highly profitable teams like the Lakers have significant advantages over less profitable franchises when it comes to taking advantages of losses to shield profits and reduce income taxes. Losses by highly profitable teams like the Lakers can be carried forward and backward to dramatically reduce federal and state income taxes for past and future years with the net result of even cutting the losses in half.
Chris Paul would be a perfect fit on the Lakers as the third superstar alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. He would be the second playmaker, third scorer, and elite defender the Lakers desperately need. While he wouldn’t be the young superstar the Lakers want to keep their championship window open after LeBron retires, Chris would make the Lakers odds on favorites to repeat and threepeat the next two seasons.
The looming reduced player salaries for the 2021 NBA season can provide the Los Angeles Lakers with a unique opportunity to add a future HOF point guard who can help them win two more championships at a discount. It’s an opportunity of which the Lakers cannot afford not to take advantage.
In the wake of the 2020 Championship and the stifling reality of a pandemic afflicted 2021 season, the pieces are there for a potential blockbuster trade just waiting to be made between the Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers need a stud guard to be their third superstar to complement LeBron James and Anthony Davis in their quest for more championships and then to take the baton from LeBron when he retires as Davis’ co-superstar. They also need a true modern center whose 3-point shooting can stretch defenses and create spacing to free up James and Davis while protecting the rim and defending the perimeter to allow Anthony Davis to play the four.
The Pacers need to move on from both Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner this offseason as neither play key roles in their future plans. Oladipo wants a max contract he’s not going to get and Turner’s been supplanted by Sabonis. Waiting to move Oladipo will only further diminish what they could get in return as trading for him at the deadline will only yield rental value while keeping Turner will only stifle Sabonis’ emergence as the team’s future.
The Lakers are willing to risk swinging to hit a home run while the Pacers would prefer to patiently wait out the pandemic so there’s a middle ground where both teams can get want they want in a blockbuster trade.
WHAT ARE THE TERMS OF THE PROPOSED TRADE?
Ironically, the more coveted player in the trade is the Pacer’s undervalued center Myles Turner and not guard Victor Oladipo, whose lingering injury and looming free agent status have dramatically lowered his trade value. Considering there’s more interest in Turner rather than Oladipo, it makes sense to break the mega trade down into two separate trades to better be able to judge the merits of the specific offers for each of the Pacers’ players.
Rumors have suggested a Myles Turner trade could even yield the Pacers a borderline star like Gordon Hayward from the Boston Celtics or Andrew Wiggins and the second pick in the draft from the Golden State Warriors. While Hayward’s dubious injury history and Wiggin’s specious resume raise major questions, there’s no doubt that there’s serious interest in trading for Myles Turner by several of the Lakers’ major competitors in the NBA.
That’s why the Lakers are going to have make an offer that includes players whom they would normally consider untouchable in trade discussions if they have any hope of interesting the Pacers in trading Turner and Oladipo.
Here’s the proposed trade for Pacers’ center Myles Turner:
Here’s the proposed trade for Pacers’ guard Victor Oladipo:
WHY WOULD THE LAKERS AGREE TO THE TRADE?
There will be a large number of Lakers’ fans who will understandably be dead set against trading Caldwell-Pope and Caruso, two of the team’s top contributors responsible for the team winning their 17th championship. Realistically, the Lakers cannot expect to trade for two impact players like Turner and Oladipo, who could transform the team into a juggernaut, without giving up serious talent in return. That’s what trades are all about.
The centerpiece in the trade is 24-year old Myles Turner, who would give the Lakers a true modern center to provide 3-point shooting and spacing on offense and rim protection and perimeter speed and quickness on defense. Turner’s a proven 3-point shooter and elite shot blocker, who would be the Lakers’ starting center, replacing traditional low post centers JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard and allowing Anthony Davis to play power forward.
Trading for Oladipo is a gamble that he’ll recover completely to return to be the player he was before the injury and will re-sign with the Lakers but the risk is worth the reward as he could be the superstar guard the Lakers need. Victor is only 28-years old and a former 3rd team All-NBA and 1st team All-Defensive player. That’s the the kind of storied resume that enticed the Lakers to sign Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo, and Dwight Howard.
Imagine Turner and Oladipo replacing McGee and Green next season and the Lakers starting a lineup that would be taller, longer, faster, quicker, and more mobile and athletic at both ends of the court than last year’s squad. Turner and Oladipo would fill the Lakers’ needs for a third scorer, second playmaker, wing defender, and modern center and their version of ‘small ball’ that dominated the playoffs would become their ‘48-minutes’ lineup.
WHY WOULD THE PACERS AGREE TO THE TRADE?
The Pacers have a new coach in Nate Bjorkgren and are on a new course that does not include Myles Turner, who has unfortunately been supplanted by Domantas Sabonis, or Victor Oladipo, who looking to sign a max contract. While the Pacers should receive attractive offers for Turner, Oladipo’s trade value has cratered due to his lackluster play after returning from injury and his looming free agency and continued demand for a max contract.
While Myles Turner has been a mainstay of the Pacers defense, he’s struggled to be productive when paired on the court with Sabonis, who has become the star around whom Indiana is planning on building their team. That’s become common knowledge around the league resulting in Turner becoming a coveted trade target, which is why the Lakers are willing to offer two of their top role players in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso.
The Victor Oladipo side of the trade also gives the Pacers great young talent to help them compete for a playoff spot while rebuilding by adding talented Kyle Kuzma, veteran Danny Green, and the Lakers 2020 first round pick. That’s more than any of the trades being proposed in the media for Oladipo and guarantees the Pacers won’t end up losing him at the trade deadline as a short term rental or next offseason for nothing as a free agent.
Imagine a Pacers’ starting lineup with Brogdon, Caldwell-Pope, Warren, Kuzma, and Sabonis that is better offensively and defensively and a deeper and more diverse bench with Caruso, Green, Holiday, Leaf, and McGee. Pacers’ new head coach Bjorkgren will be able to focus on a set roster with elite young defenders like KCP, Kuzma, and Caruso and veteran leaders and mentors like Green and McGee to help build a strong culture and chemistry.
WHAT ARE THE CHANCES THE TRADE HAPPENS?
Mega trades are always difficult to predict, especially with coronavirus pandemic still raging and the coming offseason and next season slated to be shorter than normal with unprecedented conditions and expectations. Chances are likely small market teams like the Pacers will be seeking to slash expenses by trading Myle Turner to get out of the 3-years left on his contract and Victor Oladipo to avoid having to give him a new max contract.
So the question is not whether the Indiana Pacers are going to trade Turner and Oladipo but what they’re going to be able to get in return for them in a difficult market where there are likely to be a lot more sellers than buyers. The willingness of the Lakers to actually include two of their championship core in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso is also no sure thing. While neither is a legitimate star player, they are proven elite role players.
When you add Kuzma, Mcgee, Green, and a 2020 first round pick, the Lakers’ offer is a substantive offer and the trade machine projections predict the Pacers will end up with a net gain of 15 wins if they complete the trade. Alternatively, adding a modern center like Turner and healthy superstar like Oladipo could transform the Lakers into a championship dynasty. That raises the possibility this trade could be one of those rare win-win trades.
This is the second of a series of articles from each member of the Lakerholics editorial team recounting how this crazy and unprecedented year and NBA season personally impacted and affected them. Thanks to Blog Editor Sean Grice for suggesting and inspiring the series. We invite every Lakerholic to comment and let us know how this wacky year hit you and yours.
As I sit back in my chair exhaling a deep breath after the last Lakers Fast Break podcast of the NBA season, I find myself reflective of how far we’ve come. I spent the last few months listening to Rafael Barlowe’s deep insight, LakerTom’s engaging (and sometimes outlandish) rants, and Jamie Sweet and Sean Grice pointed comments on just how the Lakers pulled through to earn their 17th World Championship (Sorry Bill Simmons, it’s seventeen for the Lakers, deal with it). I’ve had on guests from the outside looking in, some who backed the Lakers and some who were very direct in predicting the team’s demise. The many Laker podcasts hosts that have come onto the program have shared their beliefs and blinding love for the team on what LeBron, AD, and the rest of the team have accomplished so far. And yes, I have had the opportunity to be an invited guest on many other programs and had to sit there and endure the opinions of others who thought mistakenly (or was it through just a blinding hatred of the Lakers or LeBron) that there would be no chance the team could find a way to thrive in this bubble format.
But as I look back on it now, a Lakers fan seemingly destined for me since my birth in Inglewood, California just a block and a half away from the Fabulous Forum, I am filled with a sense of satisfaction. That I could enjoy this moment with my girls, who weren’t old enough to remember their last title victory in 2010, is truly something I will cherish for the rest of my life. But it is also what the team has gone through in this roller coaster of a season that will have me say (as I have done repeatedly on the show) that this has been the toughest season that an NBA team has ever endured. Culminating in my definitive statement that this championship brings along with it the opinion this is the greatest title victory ever.
Oh, I know the nay-sayers will be out there seemingly forever. Miami didn’t have Bam Adebayo for two games, and Goran Dragic for virtually all of the series. The Lakers also didn’t have to match up against the Clippers, the Bucks, or the Raptors, due to those teams’ own (depending on the team) ineptitude, lack of chemistry, or underperforming at just the wrong time. Also, the team (read in -between the lines: LeBron) had months to rest heading into the bubble, and that the only extended travel was the bus trips from the arena back to their extended-stay hotel rooms.
But the Lakers 2020 World Championship needs to be thought of above all the rest the team has accomplished, due to the tremendous circumstances the team has had to endure and persevere through during the course of the last twelve months. A new superstar brought in with a blockbuster trade in Anthony Davis, left many questioning whether or not the Lakers gave up too much. The fallout of the Magic Johnson and Luke Walton departures left the team looking for a new head coach. That search finally ended up turning over to Frank Vogel, who was considered an afterthought for the position, with Jason Kidd brought on as an assistant coach seemingly destined to take over his job. Even the pursuit of Kawhi Leonard in free agency left the Lakers scrambling for talent, leaving the optimism with the Davis and LeBron pairing being high, but many questions about the talent around them being just as prevalent.
The 2019-2020 season started out innocently enough, with Anthony Davis coming into the fold and expectations for competing for a championship, all looked well for the team as they took a preseason trip to China. But with one tweet from (and now former) Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey in support of Hong Kong, the Lakers and the NBA (and also the Brooklyn Nets who were traveling with the Lakers) found themselves embroiled in a controversy that turned tense, nasty, and ultimately damaging for the league as a whole losing hundreds of millions of dollars in potential revenue.
Despite the issues overseas and an opening night loss to the rival Los Angels Clippers, the Lakers got off to a great start zooming off to a 24-3 record by mid-December. Their focus on defense and challenges to one another to commit to Coach Frank Vogel’s defensive schemes proved to be an early formula for their success, their growing team chemistry, and a message to the league the Lakers would be thought of as a serious contender to the NBA title. All seemed bright for Lakers fans that the team had indeed turned things around. The positive buzz was as high as it had been in a long time for Laker Nation until the morning of January 26, 2020.
It still hits me every now and then like it was yesterday. I know where I was when I heard the news, I was driving in my car along Maryland Parkway in Las Vegas when my wife had called me from work. “I think you should check the news,” she said. “Why?” I answered. “Because Kobe Bryant was just in a helicopter crash”. “What!” I yelled. And almost immediately upon saying those words, the updates from TMZ and other news sources started leaking out the words I was extremely reluctant to see. Yes, the world had lost #24, and such a tragic event had never before impacted the NBA and its fans before such as the one that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gigi and seven others. I was stunned, deeply saddened, and grieving along with millions of others. It’s something even to this day many of us have yet to recover from fully, as the loss will resonate for quite some time.
However bad this loss affected fans from all over the world who had adored Kobe Bryant, the Lakers dare I say were affected even more. Even a week of mourning and a res-scheduling of games did very little to extinguish the sadness the entire Lakers community felt. But that sense of loss and sadness eventually turned into determination, one that propelled the team going forward. Even a symbolic tribute with the donning of the “Black Mamba” jerseys that Kobe helped design and a patch with Gigi’s #2 she wore on her own team gave the Lakers an added confidence that they would be a force to reckoned with throughout the season. Alas, new challenges would soon come into play in the not too distant future, but not before the Lakers solidified themselves as a championship contender with a pair of convincing back-to-back wins over the rival Clippers and the NBA’s best record-leading Milwaukee Bucks.
The Coronavirus would become a worldwide pandemic, and bring the entire sports world (and life as we knew it) to a screeching halt. For months, we weren’t sure if we would get a continuation of the season, and in what form. Compound that with the continual issues with systemic racism in our society including the murder of George Floyd, and other African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement bringing about a worldwide movement to remind everyone that Black Lives Matter. With the world on lockdown, and racial division in America being at the forefront, it seemed like there would be some truly despondent days ahead.
But with the great desire of the NBA to bring some semblance of their game back to their fans, the decision was made to create a “bubble” after weeks of speculation at Disney’s ESPN Sports Complex in Orlando. The questions arose from coaches, players, the press, and the fans in regards to how safe would this be, and could the league really put this off? Some 100-plus days later and we have our answer and it’s a resounding yes. Months of preparation, following regulations, and confinement, and some initial bad meals did lead to a lot of hardships for everyone there, but zero positive tests out of the thousands taken during that span and the ultimate goal of the Coronavirus not ending the season was ultimately achieved.
Life inside the bubble still had its issues and complications, including a stoppage of play due to the death of Jacob Blake at the hands of law enforcement. Even the Lakers struggled with the bubble concept and were among the teams ready to pull out amidst the walkout. Cooler heads prevailed and despite a horrible performance in the eight-game bubble season, the Lakers headed into the postseason as the top seed in the west, even though many were looking to discount the team’s chances of earning the ultimate prize. I heard it, and I know you did too, all the so-called analysts, social media, and former players who favored the Clippers (see below), the Bucks, or any team facing off against the Lakers as they convincingly made their way through each and every round. Just before the playoffs began it seemed like #Fakers was trending more on Twitter than #Lakers.
Through all the adversity, both internal and external, the team pushed through under circumstances that proved to be more of a mental test than anyone would have imagined. But seeing LeBron knife his way through defenses for layups and dunks, Anthony Davis providing heroics and domination on both ends of the floor, Alex Caruso giving the team grit and hustle the team could not do without, Kantevious Caldwell-Pope chime in with (dare I say it?) “clutch” basket after basket, and yes even Rajon Rondo donning his cape and allowing his “Playoff Rondo” superhero alter ego come to life at just the right time was a sight to behold. Everyone in the rotation had their moments to shine and without the contributions of Dwight Howard, Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, and Markieff Morris, the team may have not reached the top of the mountain so easily.
2020 has been a rough year for everyone. It’s been almost eleven months struggling with a worldwide pandemic, systemic racism, natural disasters, and an economy hit hard by all of those issues that have led to millions dealing with unexpected unemployment. But for one brief moment in time on October 11, as the Lakers grouped together in celebration on that court in Orlando with Finals MVP LeBron and AD holding the trophies, all the negative elements out there got pushed to the side, and Lakers fans like myself could rejoice in a championship ten years in the making. The Lakers earning their 17th championship is a lining for 2020 that isn’t made of silver, it’s paved with purple and gold.
With the salary cap likely to remain flat for next season, it’s going to take creative cap management for the Lakers to re-sign all five of their core free agents and still be able to sign other free agents to upgrade their roster.
While the Lakers would like another reliable scorer, capable playmaker, elite wing defender, or stretch big, they also need to re-sign their own five top free agents to maintain their continuity and win another NBA championship. While Davis is a lock to re-sign a $32.7 million max contract, the Lakers will face a challenge re-signing Caldwell-Pope, Rondo, Morris, and Howard, all of whom will be highly coveted free agents deserving of pay raises.
Since the Lakers are over the cap but below the tax threshold, they will not have cap space to spend on free agents and will have to rely on salary cap exceptions to re-sign their own free agents plus other teams’ free agents. That means the Lakers will be forced to choose between two options with different advantages and disadvantages to sign free agents this offseason. For simplicity, we’ll call the two options the soft cap and hard cap.
If the Lakers choose the soft cap, they can use their Bird rights to re-sign AD, KCP, and Rondo and give them maximum raises but will only have $5.7 million to re-sign Morris and Howard as well as other teams’ free agents. This means the Lakers can pay AD or KCP as much as $32.7 million and Rondo as much as $10.1 million but will only have $5.7 million left to keep Morris and Howard and upgrade their roster with other free agents.
The soft cap is the conservative option since it would allow the Lakers to go over the cap to pay Davis and Caldwell-Pope whatever they need to up to $32.7 million and pay Rondo as much as $10.1 million for the next season. While the Lakers would have no problem paying AD the $32.7 million max salary, they only need to give KCP a raise to $11 million, and Rondo a raise to $6 million to pay them more than what competing teams will likely offer.
That means the Lakers should be able to limit the raises they give AD, KCP, and Rondo to $3.9 million, $2.5 million, and $3.3 million respectively for a total of $9.7 million, which is not enough to justify choosing the soft cap. More problematic is the $5.6 million taxpayer MLE is not enough to re-sign Morris and Howard and upgrade the roster with a key free agent, which means not being able to field a better team to defend their championship.
But if the Lakers choose the hard cap, they’ll have up to $12.9 million to sign Morris, Howard, and other free agents but will be limited to a hard cap limit of $138.9 million for all their player salaries, including AD, KCP, and Rondo. With $119.5 million in current salaries, the Lakers will have $19.4 million available, which by coincidence will leave $9.7 million for Morris, Howard, and other free agents after $9.7 million in raises for AD, KCP, and Rondo.
The Lakers can still make another roster move to increase the $9.7 million for Morris, Howard, and other free agents to $12.4 million by waiving and stretching the guaranteed $1 million of Quinn Cook’s $3 million contract. That will get them close to being able to utilize the full $12.9 million that is available in the form of the $9.3 million non-taxpayer MLE and the $3.6 million BAE allowable to teams who choose the hard cap option.
That $12.4 million should enable the Lakers to keep Morris and Howard in addition to AD, KCP, and Rondo as well as being able to add one or two key free agents from other teams to significantly upgrade next season’s roster. The other advantage the hard cap allows is sign-and-trades, which could enable the Lakers to pursue free agents like Fred VanVleet, Christian Wood, and Maurice Harkless who will demand higher offers than the MLE.
Unless the NBA surprises everybody and raises the salary cap, the Lakers will be forced to become hard capped if they want to re-sign their key free agents and build a better team to defend their championship next season.
With Anthony Davis committing to re-signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, Christian Wood becomes the preeminent free agent big man this offseason, which means there’s a good chance there will be a bidding war to land him.
While some free agent pundits established Wood’s market value around $10 million per year, other analysts have suggested he could command as much as $15 to $17 million per year based on his breakout year with the Pistons. Right now, there are six NBA teams who currently have the cap space to make an offer that high for Christian Wood: the Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat, and Phoenix Suns.
But other NBA teams could also make roster moves to create the cap space to add their names to the list and teams like the Lakers without cap space could expand the competition by proposing sign-and-trade offers for Wood. If the Lakers are serious about trading for Wood, the two big questions are who will be their competitors for him and what should be their ceiling in terms of dollars and assets offered when it comes to consummating a deal?
One thing that still haunts me is how Wood has the same unique skill set to play offense and defense at all three levels like Davis, which also makes him exactly the type of player teams need to match AD at both ends of the court. Davis’ ascension as a unicorn and the best big man in the game today has not gone unnoticed by the rest of the NBA. League GM’s now know the road to the NBA championship now runs through the Lakers and Anthony Davis.
We know the Celtics and Warriors have expressed interest in trading for the Pacers Myles Turner, whose another modern center who can protect the rim and defend in space on the perimeter. Perfect defender for Anthony Davis. Christian Wood falls into the same category and the Lakers should pursue him both to create a juggernaut team and prevent competitors from adding a player to counter the ultimate weapon they have in Anthony Davis.
Players like Christian Wood and Myles Turner are going to ignite an arms race between the elite teams looking for an answer for Anthony Davis and a way to derail what they fear will be another Lakers’ championship dynasty. The Lakers’ likely competition for Christian Wood is not going to come from the Hawks, Nicks, Pistons, and Suns; it’s going to come from teams looking for ways to pass the Lakers: the Heat, Clippers, Warriors, Celtics, and Bucks.
Unfortunately, that levels the playing field to acquire Wood more than if it were just a contest betweens teams offering only the MLE or money instead of an opportunity to win but the Lakers still have one significant advantage. They are the NBA Champions and Christian would be joining the team with the best two players in the world and a better opportunity to win a ring. The only question is how much would the Lakers be willing to pay to sign him?
Besides first year salary, the Lakers need to offer Wood a three-year deal so they will have his Bird rights and be able to go over the cap to keep him once the contract expires, which means compromising their 2021 plans. Since the Lakers will still want to have the option to pursue a third superstar after next season, they need to make sure Wood and his contract are easily tradable if necessary to create cap space to sign that superstar in 2021.
The maximum contract the Lakers should offer Christian Wood is a three-year $45 million deal starting at $15 million per year. Combined with a chance to win a championship, that should be an offer he just can’t refuse. Other teams could offer a few million more but the chance to join the champs and play with LeBron and AD in L.A. should be irresistible for a 25-year old who played for 4 teams in 5 years with a top salary of $1.6 million.
Assuming the Lakers can come to an agreement with Christian Wood on a contract, all that remains is working out an acceptable sign-and-trade deal the Detroit Pistons will accept as equitable compensation for trading him. The obvious centerpiece to the sign-and-trade deal is Lakers forward and Flint, Michigan native Kyle Kuzma, about whom the Lakers and Pistons had already had trade discussions before the trade deadline last winter.
The Pistons are in a difficult position. They would love to re-sign Wood and have the cap space to do it but he has announced that he’s going to leave via Instagram and they don’t want to lose him in free agency for nothing. While they Pistons have over $30 million in cap space, Detroit is not a top destination for free agents, which makes using their cap space to take on salary in a sign-and-trade a resourceful strategy to acquire quality players.
With Wood having agreed to a contract with the Lakers eliminating other potential trade partners, the Pistons would still have leverage knowing the Lakers don’t have cap space and need Detroit to agree to a sign-and-trade. But an offer from the Lakers of Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, JaVale McGee, Quinn Cook, and their 2020 first round pick should give the Pistons more than fair compensation for agreeing to sign-and-trade Christian Wood.
The drawback for the Lakers adding a player via a sign-and-trade deal is it would limit their total payroll costs for the 2021 season to a hard cap of $138.9 million, meaning the Lakers could not exceed that for any reason. Right now, the Lakers have committed $119.6 million to 11 players in 2021. Bradley and McGee are not expected to exercise their player options but Davis, Caldwell-Pope, and Rondo are expected to opt out looking for raises.
Assuming the Lakers re-sign AD to a 1+1 max contract for $32.7 million and give both KCP and Rondo raises to $12 and $6 million using their Bird and Early Bird rights, they would then have $130.3 million committed for 2021. That would leave they with just $8.6 million left to add 4 more players to their roster, making it impossible to use the full $9.6 million MLE and challenging to use the $3.6 million BAE or even sign their first round pick.
But a sign-and-trade of Kuzma, Green, McGee, and Cook’s $26.1 million for Wood’s $15 million would free up $11.1 million in cap space and give the Lakers $119.2 million in salaries for 2021, $19.7 million under the hard cap. That would enable the Lakers to pursue free agents like Dragic, Gallinari, Harkness, and Baynes with their MLE, re-sign Morris or Howard with their BAE, and add other minimum salary players like Cousins or Dudley.
A sign-and-trade between the Detroit Pistons and the Los Angeles Lakers of Christian Wood for Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, JaVale McGee, Quinn Cook, and the 28th pick in the 2020 NBA draft should be a win-win for both teams. The Lakers get a player who could transform their team and clear cap space to give raises to AD, KCP, and Rondo and use their MLE and BAE to further upgrade their roster despite being limited by the $138.9 million hard cap.
Detroit avoids losing a player who could have left in free agency and, instead of nothing, receives four championship-tested players they could not have attracted in free agency plus a first round draft pick from a sign-and-trade. The Pistons get the home town star they wanted in Kuzma, two quality defenders who are great roster fits in Green and McGee, a deadeye shooter whose contract is only partially guaranteed in Cook, and a first round pick.
While deals proposed by bloggers never happen, the approach outlined is a perfect blueprint for how the Lakers can take advantage of a trade or sign-and-trade to acquire a high impact player while increasing their cap space. The Lakers will need to figure out how to navigate a hard cap to reward key contributors like KCP and Rondo, use their full non-taxpayer MLE or BAE to upgrade the roster, or go after an elite prospect via a sign-and-trade.
The uncertainty of the pandemic and the lack of teams with cap space have given the Lakers a unique opportunity to steal free agent center Christian Wood, who is the perfect player to complement and unleash Anthony Davis.
Pairing 6′ 10″ Christian Wood and his 7′ 3″ wingspan with 6′ 10″ Anthony Davis and his 7′ 6″ wingspan would give the Lakers unprecedented size and length and a monster front court that would be a nightmare matchup. Imagine opposing defenses trying to defend a pair of near 7-footers raining threes and throwing down dunks and opposing offenses trying to score with two athletic pterodactyls challenging shots and protecting the rim.
The Lakers’ novel ‘small ball’ lineups with 6′ 5″ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, 6′ 6″ Danny Green, 6′ 8″ LeBron James, 6′ 8″ Markieff Morris, and 6′ 10″ Anthony Davis dominated defenses and suffocated offenses in the playoffs. While they played a ‘small ball’ style, these lineups used their size, length, and physicality to punish the small ball front courts of the Rockets, modern stretch front courts of the Nuggets, and traditional front courts of the Heat.
What better way to elevate the Lakers to the next level than doubling down on defense and the size and length advantage that won the championship by adding Christian Wood to make them even bigger, longer, and faster. Offensively, they would dominate the boards, second chance points, and points in the paint. Defensively, they would control the glass, protect the rim, and have the quickness and length to challenge shots on the perimeter.
The 25-year old Wood had a breakout season for Detroit after being claimed on waivers from the Pelicans the previous summer and finally receiving an opportunity to start at center when the Pistons traded Andre Drummond. Christian averaged 21.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals, and 0.9 blocks in 33.0 minutes per game in the 16 Pistons’ games he started, while shooting 55.9% from the field, 40.6% from three, and 75.9% from the line.
While the sample size is small, Wood showed he could score at all three levels. He has a sweet stroke from deep, nice pull up jumper from midrange, and top tier athleticism to attack the paint and finish at the rim with dunks. He needs to put on muscle to hold his ground against bigger centers and is raw defensively but has pogostick hops, elite shot blocking instincts, and the lateral quickness and speed to defend smaller players on the perimeter.
While there are safer and surer options in free agency, none possess the raw upside as an impact star player or pure potential to improve the Lakers at both ends of the court than Christian Wood. He’s a can’t miss opportunity. Christian is a modern AD clone with similar talents and skill sets as Davis. He can score at the rim, from midrange, or from deep. He can protect the rim, defend the paint, and guard all five positions anywhere on the court.
The Lakers have an excellent chance of acquiring Christian Wood, who’s already announced on Instagram he’s planning on leaving the Pistons, asking his fans which teams he should consider signing with as a free agent. While the Pistons would love to re-sign Wood, who made $1.6 million last season, they only have his Early Bird rights, which means the most they can offer him is around $10 million per year, basically the same as the MLE.
In a normal offseason, Christian could expect offers between $10 to $15 million per year from multiple NBA teams but this is clearly not a normal offseason with financial uncertainty and only five teams having cap space. Most free agency pundits are projecting Wood’s ceiling this offseason to be the $9.3 million non-taxpayer MLE, which the Lakers fortunately possess while many competitors are limited to the $5.6 million taxpayer MLE.
Should one of the five teams with available cap space offer Christian his full $15 million market value, the Lakers should agree to match the offer and work with the Detroit Pistons to negotiate a sign-and-trade to acquire him. The Pistons would certainly prefer to receive Flint, Michigan native Kyle Kuzma and Danny Green’s expiring contact in a sign-and-trade for Christian Wood instead of having him leave as a free agent with nothing in return.
The Lakers top priority in free agency should be to sign Christian Wood with their MLE or via a sign-and-trade. He’s a future star player and the missing piece to transform the Lakers into a championship juggernaut.
While the Lakers are over the salary cap, they still may be able to re-sign valuable free agent role players with raises as well as signing a free agent third scorer, second playmaker, elite wing defender, or modern center.
The Lakers will have to take advantage of league exceptions which allow teams to go over the cap when signing free agents, synchronized execution of the transactions, and opportunistic use of their MLE in a buyers’ market. The Lakers won’t be able to bring back every role player who contributed to their championship but should be able to re-sign the three most important and irreplaceable role players while giving them well deserved raises.
Those three role players are Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, and Markieff Morris, all of whom were invaluable contributors to the Lakers’ championship rotation and are essential to the team winning next season. KCP and Rondo are exercising their player options to become free agents while Morris will be a free agent when his 1-year minimum deal expires. The Lakers need to re-sign all three and give them well deserved raises.
Caldwell-Pope earned $8.1 million last season and could easily attract offers between $10 to $12 million as a free agent but the Lakers have his Bird rights and are allowed to go over the salary cap up to re-sign him. Kenny proved he was the team’s third best player and a key component of the offense and defense during the regular season and playoffs. The Lakers should reward him with a 2 or 3-year contract for $12 million per year.
Rondo earned $2.6 million last season and proved to be indispensable both as a floor general and playmaker in the playoffs, setting a record for the most assists from a player off the bench in the history of the NBA playoffs. Rajon should attract offers for taxpayers’ MLE, around $5 million next season. The Lakers have his Early Bird rights and should reward him with a 2-year contract for $6 million with the second year partially guaranteed.
Morris was a late addition replacing Avery Bradley before the season restart. As a power forward who could shoot from deep and defend, he was the catalyst that allowed Anthony Davis to play as center for the Lakers. Markieff earned $2.2 million last season but should receive offers of $3 to $4 million as a free agent. The Lakers should use their Bi-Annual Exception to re-sign him to a 2-year $3.6 per year million contract as he is a key player.
By using Bird rights to re-sign KCP, Early Bird rights to re-sign Rondo, and the Bi-Annual Exception to re-sign Morris, the Laker will have their full $9.3 million non-taxpayer Mid-Level Exception available to pursue free agents. With few teams having major cap space, the $9.3 million MLE and a chance to win a championship ring is likely to make the Lakers a major player for all but a half dozen elite free agents like Fred VanVleet or Davis Bertans.
The Lakers should have no problem filling roster needs with the MLE. How about Danilo Gallinari as their third scorer. Goran Dragic as their second playmaker, Mo Harkness as wing defender, or Aron Baynes as stretch big? There will only be five NBA teams with cap space to offer more to Gallinari, Dragic, Harkness, or Baynes than the Lakers and of those, only the Miami Heat had a winning record last season. The Lakers will get one of these.
Finally, the Lakers will end up with two or three roster spots to be filled by minimum salary veterans looking for an opportunity to win a championship ring or revitalize their career like Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo did. Heading the list of players in this category will be DeMarcus Cousins, who spent all of last year on the Lakers’ active roster or working out at their facilities after they waived him to sign Markieff Morris before the restart.
So while the Lakers don’t have cap space this offseason, they’re still going to be major players in the free agent market and should be able to re-sign their key free agent role players as well as signing at least one major free agent.
This is the first of a series of articles from each member of the Lakerholics editorial team recounting how this crazy and unprecedented year and NBA season personally impacted and affected them. Thanks to Blog Editor Sean Grice for suggesting and inspiring the series. We invite every Lakerholic to comment and let us know how this wacky year hit you and yours.
Lakers year in review: 2020 went wackadoo. That’s as succinct as you can get to describe the environment living as a Lakers fan, in this Universe.
My name is Sean Grice. I’m a man, I’m a son, I’m a brother, I’m an uncle, I’m a Type 1 Diabetic, I’m a Paramedic, I’m a lot of things.
I’m also human. I’ve seen the despair in the world. I’ve seen resilience. I’m about resilience. I’m living proof of resilience.
The first memory I have is trying to tie my shoelaces. I was 6. I failed. They were too loose and became untangled and hanging. I was upset, mad at myself. I couldn’t understand why at the time, I started remembering that when I was in HS.
I remember asking Jen DiVincenzo out on a date in grade 5. She said no. Rejection sucks. I learned to adapt. Hearing ‘No’ from women, job interviews, colleges, etc.
Every time I heard ‘No’ I knew all that meant was that I was just closer to a ‘Yes’. Took a while to understand what that really meant.
Hearing ‘No’ can be a trigger. Anytime, anywhere. Some people are capable of hearing the word and moving on, others hear that word and lose their minds. Can’t handle rejection, can’t handle they didn’t make the cut or couldn’t meet someone else’s subjective standards.
I love Basketball. Just as much as Jason Whitlock. For those who missed his thoughts on the Social Justice movement turning him away from the game, here they are:
I’ve never met Jason Whitlock. I’ve never felt the need or obligation to converse with him on social media.
I try to be fair. So I’ll just say this: I’m not a person of colour. I will never know what it’s like to be a person of colour. I try and do my best to listen and understand someone else’s plight through this matrix of life.
Conscience is a matter of choice. Choose to wake up, choose to make a stand, choose to be neutral.
I see ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the court. I stand for the message, I stand for the movement, I don’t stand for bad faith actors, or people with bad intentions on any side. Discussion about societal changes regarding the public’s interaction with police is long overdue. Let’s hope robust, equitable legislation gets passed and real change can manifest in ways we can’t see yet.
It’s fine being Uncomfortable with what’s going on. That’s what protest is, it’s supposed to be uncomfortable.
The issue I see, is that when an Idealogy doesn’t mesh with your social media experience/expectations, then it’s uncomfortable.
Basketball didn’t push Jason Whitlock away. He bailed on the game because he’s uncomfortable with something I don’t understand. Don’t want to understand. Can’t understand.
Let’s say it’s all some ruse, that the movement and messaging is just a giant distraction and ploy.
More people educated on issues, who vote en masse and decide to try and not be symbolic gestures themselves and decide for a better life.
What’s wrong with that?
‘Big Sexy’ as he calls himself, glamorizing obesity, doesn’t have children, he’s not married. He seems like a confused man, like a lot us, yet won’t admit it: that’s called hypocrisy.
Why do I bring this up? Because right now, I’m not married and I don’t have children. I wouldn’t presume to try and criticize a father or a mother for expressing pain and grief over losing a child because of a Covid-19, or Police brutality or complications.
If you’ve never experienced something before, it’s just irrational, judgmental and hypocritical to chime in with your thoughts.
The China crisis, losing Kobe, and Covid-19 shot all our 2020 plans to hell. Craziest calendar year for me as a Lakers fans. The confusion, the anger, the context over what happened in China. What about Kobe? We had all that plus agony and grief.
I periodically cried for a week after he died. He was an example. The way Kobe had the Mamba Mentality for his craft. I adopted it to mine. Obsession with being the best version of yourself.
Covid-19 grinding on our love, grinding on our resources, grinding away at our mental health.
Change is messy, my friends. It’s uncomfortable, it’s bothersome, it’s life-altering…
It’s also fucking necessary. I don’t swear a lot on the blog or in my personal life. That was necessary.
Change got people off the couch, off the stair master, off the phone and it makes people want to accomplish something, sometimes change happening is bigger than you thought and you realize the change isn’t about you anymore, bigger than you, bigger than me, bigger than Laker Tom, bigger than Jason Whitlock.
Since the NBA returned I’ve had nothing but joy running through my veins. Joy for the love of the game, joy for the Lakers champions (LAL 4-MIA 2) from our #17 championship. We’d tie them. We have 11 Titles over the last 40 years. Including 17 trips to the Finals. They would have 4 Titles in the the last 40 years. Including 7 trips to the Finals. In that span, the Lakers have lost almost as many championship finals (6) as the Celtics have appearances (7).
Don’t want to include our shared history with Minneapolis? Cool cool. Good to know
Then one good turn deserves another. We’re not gonna include the 13 Championships they won, when there’s only 8 teams and Tommy Heihnson and Bob Cousy were smoking cigarettes in the Locker Room.
Greenies were the big dogs for the first half of the this league’s existence. Now, in the last 40 years it’s the Lakers turn.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, a great American writer, left some relevant and words of wisdom: “ Families rise and fall in America.”
So do Corporations, Governments and Athletics.
“A Republic, if you can keep it.”
Change is messy. Communication doesn’t have roll around in the mud. Nor does understanding and empathy.
There are things more important than Basketball. A small part of life. The protests for a couple of days hit a mark. I hope it was a spark. Not just a dying ember of change.
Three hours of joy and escape. And yet I’m a little melancholy that we’re all displaced somewhat, both figuratively and metaphorically.
My fandom predates the World Wide Web, the Hubble Telescope, E-Commerce, smartphones and social media.
I’m a Forum Lakers fans. I was rocking Nick the Quick shorts in Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (B.K.T. as we called it) when everyone was wearing Jordan’s and Bulls gear.
I love the Lakers. I’m affirmed in my love for Basketball. This game gets in your blood and it invades your soul like a lightning storm. You can’t get rid of that. If you’ve decided to divorce yourself from Basketball, it’s because you didn’t really love the game, you loved the idea that you’re able to suspend your disbelief that the game of life is unfair and unequitable for everyone because Sports is the ultimate example of men and women from all walks of life coming together for a goal greater than themselves.
Keep visiting the site and if so inclined, post a comment or two, activation only starts with participation. If you’re not all the way in either, that’s cool. I’m not a casual person though. I didn’t spend a summer listening to Slayer cutting my arms with broken glass. I didn’t spend that one summer taking designer drugs for West Coast music festivals.
When I have passion for something it goes into auto overdrive.
Don’t let hate or misunderstanding take you off the golden path. Maybe the symbolic actions from corporate America and world of sports will fade away. People will walk away now. Bye. We’re stronger without you.
Here’s to a hell of a year. One of a kind from a Lakers fan. Till the Editorial of 2021, all the best gang.
All the love I have to give, Lakerholics
Sean Grice Blog Co-Editor
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