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Dennis Schröder expected to have a market in free agency, return to Lakers still possible

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Despite many reports to the contrary, the possibility of Dennis Schröder returning to the Lakers next season still remains.

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2021 NBA Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Much of the Los Angeles Lakers’ plans this offseason have focused on their desire for a playmaker and ballhandler, with one notable omission in the conversation: Dennis Schröder. There have been few reports indicating the Lakers are interested in a reunion with Schröder, and many to the contrary.

However, Los Angeles’ salary cap situation means the likelihood of Schröder returning remains a distinct possibility. On Sunday’s ESPN Woj and Lowe Draft Special, Adrian Wojnarowski dove into Schröder’s upcoming free agent market.

“Schröder turned down that four-year, $84 million extension, which was the most the Lakers could offer him during the season, knowing that there was more out there for him in free agency. And you have teams like Chicago and New York with cap space, New Orleans trying to create the cap space to go get a big point guard, perhaps Dallas in that mix.

“But listen: I think people have to look back at this postseason with Dennis Schröder and remember that he had COVID late in the year and was out for 10 days, and not in the gym, and sick, and then showed up and played in the playoffs. The performance wasn’t there, but we saw plenty of other players who went through that at plenty of points in the year. They traded for him from Oklahoma City a year ago with the idea that they would re-sign him. And like you said, they cannot replace him if he leaves.”

The inclusion of Schröder dealing with COVID last season is rather notable because Schröder himself denied having it. After returning from health and safety protocols late in the season, Schröder held a bizarre press conference in which he claimed he did not have COVID but could not get it again, but also said he was not vaccinated.

And given Wojnarowski’s long history of scoops and exclusives involving clients of Alex Saratsis, who represents both Schröder and Giannis Antetokounmpo among others, it’s safe to probably assume this tidbit is coming from Schröder’s camp.

But whether Schröder had COVID or not, it’s clear the Lakers have searched high and low for his replacement, using both Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as trade pieces to try to acquire an upgrade at point guard.

However, given those previously referenced connections, it’s notable that Wojnarowski said on Sunday that Schröder returning to Los Angeles next season is very much still a possibility.

“They have literally offered Kyle Kuzma and KCP (to everyone). Almost every team I’ve talked to in the league has been offered some combination of Kuz and KCP, sometimes both of them, sometimes one of them, and that’s not going to get them back a point guard of Dennis’ stature.

“And so listen, he’s got options. Chicago, New York, I still think in the end, there is a deal to be made for him to stay with the Lakers. Because all of a sudden now you’re talking about ‘could we go get Ricky Rubio?’ Like some good players, but I still think Schröder is a player who moves the needle. Let’s get him out of a COVID season, get him back with a training camp with this team, and it’s probably going to look a lot different.”

At his best, Schröder served a valuable role on the Lakers. The absence of LeBron James and Anthony Davis changed his role drastically from the start of the season into the middle stages. His play warranted the extension talks in-season, but the sour taste left in the mouths of fans and the franchise after his performance in the playoffs seems to be more lingering.

But considering the Lakers’ financial constraints this offseason, Schröder’s return would still be the easiest option for the Lakers, even if the team seems intent on finding another solution in the coming week.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.