It turns out that if one wants to figure out whether or not a Lakers free agent is going to return on a favorable deal, the place to find out isn’t Twitter, or Reddit or even this website. The place to go is a player’s Instagram comments, where earlier this year Dennis Schröder simply replied “no” when a fan demanded he take the team’s extension offer, and where Andre Drummond just gave us the latest on his own free agency.
Drummond — who will be an unrestricted free agent in August — cannot re-sign with the Lakers unless a) the team renounces a ton of their current players’ cap holds and creates cap space or b) he is willing to accept one of their exceptions, either the mid-level worth around $9-10 million, or the veteran’s minimum of around $2 million. That’s because as a midseason buyout free agent who played on a pro-rated minimum contract this season after leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Lakers do not have Drummond’s Bird Rights, which would allow them to exceed the cap to re-sign him.
There has been some hope among the fans that do want to see him back that he will take a favorable deal like the minimum if he does return so that the team wouldn’t have to use the mid-level — their main weapon in free agency — to re-sign him, but Drummond made it clear in the comments underneath one of his recent Instagram posts that he’s not interested in taking another massive pay cut:
For a player who is coming off of a contract that paid him nearly $100 million over four years, that’s a semi-understandable response. Of course he doesn’t consider himself a minimum player. It’s probably why he was noncommittal about returning to the team at exit interviews. He knows what they have to offer.
For the Lakers though, this slightly complicates things, even if it’s probably not a surprise to them. The team has long said they hope to keep Drummond long-term, but if he’s not willing to take a minimum contract to do so, the front office has their work cut out for them. They’re either going to have to figure out a creative way to get far enough under the cap to offer him a more palatable deal, or use one of their only weapons to improve the team on re-signing a player whose fit was mixed at best. And no matter how critical one is of Drummond’s play or fit with the Lakers, someone is going to offer him quite a bit more than the minimum. There isn’t much doubt about that.
At mid-season, getting Drummond was a completely justified play to add talent. Planning one’s offseason around getting him to re-up, however, is a significantly bigger gamble. We’ll see how the front office approaches it all in the weeks and months to come, but it’s clear at this point that Rob Pelinka, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the rest of the Lakers’ brain trust have some big decisions and hard work ahead of them this offseason.