After the worst season in franchise history and three consecutive seasons without a playoff berth, the Los Angeles Lakers head into yet another important offseason for the team. The Lakers have a top-3 protected pick and $62.1 million in cap space heading into the summer. Here are three scenarios for LA's offseason.
1. The Dream Scenario
This is your pipe dream scenario. The Lakers strike lottery gold and get the top pick, which turns into Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram. Los Angeles then signs Jordan Clarkson to a long-term, team-friendly contract (between $7-8 million per year) to maintain cap flexibility. The Lakers land Kevin Durant and Al Horford with its two max contract slots, solidifying the starting lineup with star power.
Then, the Lakers sign role players to play on the second unit with Lou Williams and Simmons/Ingram. D'Angelo Russell, Clarkson and Julius Randle emerge as above-average starters and the Lakers become contenders in the Western Conference. Jim Buss would be relieved.This scenario probably also involves a coaching change. If Durant and Horford were to make the decision before the Lakers hired a new coach, Tom Thibodeau would be in the mix. Luke Walton is probably the pipe dream answer here though. Walton leads a loaded Lakers team that finally hits in free agency.
2. The Most Likely Scenario
This scenario is the most likely and probably has LA fighting for a shot at a low playoff seed next year. The Lakers have a 19.9 percent chance at the top pick, and 18.8 percent to pick second and a 17.1 percent chance to get the third selection. That means LA has a 55.8 percent chance of retaining its pick. The Lakers will most likely keep their pick, but it will be hard to say what selection it will be.
If Simmons and Ingram are off the board before the Lakers make a selection, the team will have to decide between several guard prospects, some second-tier big men or international man of mystery Dragan Bender. Free agency hasn't gone LA's way in the last few seasons but with Kobe off the books and a young core in place, there should be some better results this time around.
Los Angeles will have to spend some money and it'll most likely go to second-tier free agents that are solild NBA players. DeMar DeRozan is the biggest name the Lakers have a realistic shot at. Nicolas Batum and Chandler Parsons are certainly in play at the small forward position. The Lakers can go after Ryan Anderson as a stretch power forward and should also be in play for a center like Al Jefferson or Hassan Whiteside. The only problem for Los Angeles is that Jordan Clarkson might get an offer sheet with complex provisions that would hurt the team at the back end of the contract. Clarkson will likely get a long-term deal done in LA and it'll probably be around $10 million per year. There will be a coaching change, but it isn't Walton or Thibodeau replacing Byron Scott.
3. The Longest Course Scenario
Here is the doomsday scenario. The Lakers fall out of the top-three spots in the draft (they have a 44.2 percent chance to turning the pick to Philadelphia) and can't move into the first round from pick #32. Clarkson gets a complicated offer sheet and the Lakers choose to not match, leaving them with more cap room but another empty roster spot. It is likely that this offer sheet includes a huge cap jump in the third year of Clarkson's deal and the Lakers would want to maintain cap flexibility in this scenario.
None of the A or B-list free agents bite on LA's offers and the Lakers have to chase young, high-potential players and short-term veterans. LA might also overspend on players to compensate for empty roster spots. Russell and Randle will be the building blocks going forward and will develop nicely, but a quick turnaround isn't likely. Because LA did not attract any free agents, the Lakers decide to play out another year of Scott's contract in hopes that he will better manage the young players.
A lot of these scenarios hinge on whether or not LA keeps its draft pick, which is the biggest question mark. Clarkson's pending free agency and his potential offer sheets are minor questions, but the Lakers will certainly have to decide if he is going to be a part of their core going forward. Looming above all this is the calls for a coaching change. It'll once again be a busy offseason in Los Angeles.
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