JaVale McGee is reportedly still deciding whether or not to opt in to the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, or if he wants to decline his player option and enter free agency this summer.
Due to the fact that McGee seems exceedingly unlikely to get more than $4.2 million on the open market, it appeared to be a foregone conclusion that he’d pick up his option and stay. But like his teammate Avery Bradley, it seems McGee may value more years on his contract over more money in one year that comes with the possibility of getting traded somewhere he didn’t choose.
The latest sign that this was the case came during the latest episode of the “Maybe I’m Crazy” podcast with Joy Taylor, during which NBA insider Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer made it sound like McGee returning to the Lakers isn’t all that likely:
“JaVale McGee, I’ve heard he’s probably leaving, or they just don’t want him back. And with Dwight Howard, he has some interest around the league that could lure him away.”
McGee has until Thursday to make his decision on whether or not to opt out before free agency begins on Friday, and his choice could have significant ramifications for the Lakers. Opting in would give the team insurance at center and a $4.2 million contract to utilize as salary ballast in trades, while him opting out would get the Lakers closer to being able to offer the full mid-level exception to free agents (but not quite there on its own, it would still depend on how much money Kentavious Caldwell-Pope re-signs for, among other factors that I’m not good enough at math to project).
But in the larger picture, McGee is likely replaceable either way, and when taking all of these reports in conjunction, it’s just beginning to appear that whether through trade or free agency, McGee will not be the Lakers’ starting center for a third year in a row. If that’s the case, the Lakers can thank him for his contributions to their 17th banner, and then pretty easily find someone who can give them similar or better production in free agency.