With the NBA season resumption quickly approaching, next week could prove to be a big one on a lot of fronts for the Los Angeles Lakers and the other 21 teams heading to Disney World to finish the 2019-20 campaign.
This Wednesday (June 24), players will have to let their teams know whether or not they’re planning to go to Orlando to finish out the season. And on Saturday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that one day before is when the transaction window for teams will begin:
Teams can conduct rest of season contracts, substitute players ($183,115 minimum for two years of service), two-way contracts, and waivers during the window. https://t.co/bA9q7J4Axc— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 20, 2020
UPDATE: This date is apparently different than the dates to sign replacement players, which was revealed by Bobby Marks of ESPN:
Teams will be able to sign substitute players from July 1 until Aug. 14 to replace anyone who stays home for whatever reason, including testing positive for the virus or voluntarily opting out.
Teams also can replace a player who tests positive from the last day of the seeding games until the final game of the 2019-20 season. However, the pool of available players is limited to those with zero to three years of service in the NBA. That makes players such as Crawford and DeMarcus Cousins ineligible to be signed unless a team has an open roster spot. And once a team sets its playoff roster, an addition can be made only as a substitute for a player who tests positive.
Right now, NBA teams can bring their two-way players with them into the “bubble,” but those players will only be eligible to be activated as instant replacement players in the case of a teammate getting injured or ill in the playoffs. The Lakers are planning to bring both of their two-way contract players, Devontae Cacok and Kostas Antetokounmpo, but it’s unclear if either will end up getting activated for the postseason.
As far as the rest of their roster, while it’s unknown for certain which players (if any) will sit out, Dwight Howard and Avery Bradley seem like the most likely candidates due to their involvement with a coalition of players asking whether or not resuming the season is a good idea. As of the most recent reporting, the team was confident that Howard would play, but “less clear” about Bradley.
If Howard, Bradley or any other player sits out, one of the first names the Lakers will probably be linked to is their former center DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins, who tore his ACL less than a year ago and never played for the team, has already been connected to the Lakers in rumors, but it is unknown both how ready he is to contribute or how interested the Lakers would actually be in adding a player whose health is such a big question mark. They also may not be his only suitor.
But ultimately this window may not mean much to the Lakers, because beyond Cousins (and, arguably, including him), there just aren’t a ton of players on the market who would likely interest them. If Howard does sit out, it seems likely they’ll just go small a little more often at the five with Anthony Davis (or maybe even small bits of Markieff Morris), or just use Cacok, who at least went through training camp with the team and just finished third in G League Rookie of the Year voting. If Bradley sits out, say hello to more minutes for their most recent signing, Dion Waiters. It should also be noted that if a player is replaced during the tournament due to injury or illness, they can’t return later on.
The good news for the Lakers is that even with the lack of talent available on the market, they should still be well-positioned heading into Orlando. This team had the No. 1 record in the Western Conference when play stopped for a few reasons, but the biggest ones were named LeBron James and Anthony Davis. As much as this week still matters for the purposes of depth around the roster, it’s also true that as long as those two show up healthy and ready to play, the Lakers should have a shot against anyone.