The Los Angeles Lakers have a good problem with the guards on their roster. Even after losing Avery Bradley and Danny Green in free agency, they have five guards on their roster that are all capable of playing meaningful minutes in the postseason.
However, the good problem they have now has potential to turn into an actual problem in the offseason because Dennis Schröder, Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker are all expected to demand significant raises. The Lakers will have the ability to pay all of them handsomely, but at the expense of a hefty luxury tax bill.
Jeanie Buss, the team’s governor, has already said she’s willing to pay to compete, but according to a report by Bill Oram and Jovan Buha of The Athletic, the Lakers were looking to cut costs where they could at the trade deadline, starting with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope:
In addition to matching salary, trading Caldwell-Pope, who is owed $27 million over the next two years, would have given the Lakers some flexibility when it comes to re-signing both Horton-Tucker and Alex Caruso this offseason. Both players could garner the full mid-level exception on the open market, one source predicted.
The Lakers will be juggling the free agency of Schröder, Horton-Tucker and Caruso this offseason, with the intention to re-sign all three players, sources said.
Caldwell-Pope made it through the trade deadline, as did Schröder, Caruso and Horton-Tucker, but not for a lack of trying on the Lakers’ part. According to the same report from The Athletic, the Lakers’ final offer for Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry included both Schröder and Caldwell-Pope. The sticking point in those negotiations? Horton-Tucker, which may be indicative of the direction the Lakers will go this summer.
As impressive as Horton-Tucker has been in his second NBA season, he won’t cost nearly as much as Dennis Schröder, who recently turned down a four-year, $84 million extension from the Lakers, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Getting out from under Caldwell-Pope’s contract would make it easier for the Lakers to pay Schröder over $21 million annually and keep Horton-Tucker and Caruso, but I’d argue that it’s bad business to trade someone on a good contract to sign someone to a less good contract.
It’s also worth noting that trading Caldwell-Pope is one of the few ways the Lakers will be able to acquire a starting caliber point guard in the event that Schröder leaves for another team in free agency. Schröder may be the better player, but Caldwell-Pope is the real asset for the Lakers. The same can be said of Horton-Tucker, who will be a restricted free agent.
Obviously the Lakers would love to keep Schröder around, and judging by everything Schröder has said this season, the feeling is mutual. However, if Schröder’s price tag gets too high, the Lakers should feel comfortable going into next season with just Caruso, Horton-Tucker and Caldwell-Pope.