The NBA is officially slated to return sooner than we ever thought possible when the 2019-20 season ended in October, which means free agency needs to shake out even earlier so that the Lakers and the rest of the league can have full rosters.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, teams and players want to open up the market as quickly as they can:
The NBA and NBPA are expected to discuss moving up the start of free agency as early as possible to accommodate players joining new teams so close to a Dec. 1 start of training camps, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 6, 2020
A report prior to tonight’s vote to start the season the week of Christmas suggested that the target date for free agency was the week of Thanksgiving and right after the 2020 NBA Draft — which will take place on Nov. 20, as of right now — but could this mean that starting free agency prior to the draft is on the table? Evidently not, according to Woj:
First, there won't be finalized deal between NBA/NBPA until just prior to draft. Teams would be managing FA and draft simultaneously. Also, switching order starts new salary cap year earlier, offering some teams edge in draft-related trades that otherwise wouldn't be possible. https://t.co/GLUZzGROJU— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 6, 2020
One does wonder if this means the league might move the draft up, but whenever the free agent frenzy begins, the Lakers’ top priority is obviously going to be retaining Anthony Davis, who is expected to enter free agency before re-signing with the defending champions. Still, they have to make sure that’s done before they can focus too hard on anything else.
After getting Davis back is taken care of, the Lakers will have to deliberate on how many of Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Dwight Howard and Markieff Morris to retain. Should they get the whole band back together, try and chase other players on the open market, or a mixture of both?
As soon as the league’s cap number for the upcoming season is finalized, we’ll have a better sense of what options are available to them, but with the next season starting so soon after the longest title run in NBA history, the Lakers front office may have to make sure they bring in some fresh legs as well as retaining key pieces of their core so that they can rest their veterans who are still recovering from their most recent run. This expedited rush to free agency in a weird market without a ton of teams with cap space seems set to lead to some fireworks and unexpected opportunities that the Lakers will have to be ready to take advantage of.
But whatever the Lakers do, this is going to be a real test for Pelinka’s management regime. They surely spent time scouting for the draft and preparing for various free agency and trade scenarios during their run to the title and since, but they have undoubtedly had less time to fully devote themselves to doing so than basically any team (besides their opponents in the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat).
And regardless of what order they ultimately come in, with the draft and free agency now taking place so closely together — and right after the season — the Lakers’ level of preparation and planning is going to be put to the test as they look to build a roster than can defend their recent championship. There is no reason at this point to not have faith they can do so, but it still might be their toughest task yet.
We will keep you updated on this site of when free agency will actually begin, but just know it will be soon. So say goodbye to your families and friends, turn on notifications for the biggest insiders, bookmark our Lakers free agency tracker and get ready for rush-fueled chaos on a level we’ve never seen before.
This developing story will update with more information. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.