This offseason will make or break LeBron’s legacy as a Laker. His Russ experiment turned out horrible, so now the FO needs to clean the house. So, let’s look at what LAL can do this summer:
Keepers on current roster:
1) Lebron James (2022-23 salary 45 mil)
2) AD (38 mil)
3) Austin Reeves (1.6 mil)
Assets at hand:
1) 2027 & 2029 firsts
2) 2026,2028 first round swaps
3) 7 second rounders
Projected 2022-23 salary cap is 121 mil, tax apron for hard capped teams will probably be around 150 mil.
So, lets look at this summer FA class (restricted FA and the Beard are not included):
1) Stars: Bradley Beal (proj max for 2022-23 42.35 mil) and Zach Lavine (36.3 mil)
2) Starter level players:
a. Guards: Jalen Brunson (proj salary for 2022-23 15-20 mil), Tyus Jones (mid level), Malik Monk (mid level), Dennis Schröder (mid level)
b. Wings: Pat Connaughton (15-20 mil), Kyle Anderson (5+ mil), Nicolas Batum (5+ mil)
c. Bigs: Jusuf Nurkic (10+ mil), Thaddeus Young (5+ mil), Bobby Portis (mid level), Chris Boucher (5+ mil)
3) Injured/older/bench/flyer type guys: Ricky Rubio, Delon Wright, Bruce Brown, Gary Harris, Bryn Forbes, Victor Oladipo, Austin Rivers, T.J. Warren, Joe Ingles, Markieff Morris, Thomas Bryant, Isaiah Hartenstein, Serge Ibaka, Robin Lopez, JaVale McGee, Jalen Smith
I think there are 3 main scenarios for the FO office:
1) Star hunting:
a. To sign a max FA this summer a sign and trade in some form with Russ’s expiring deal needs to happen. Theoretically dumping Russ with 2027 unprotected first and 2026-28 swaps to OKC for Dort and Kenrich Williams creates a 43 mil trade exception, which can be used, along with THT, Nunn and a 2029 first for Beal or Lavine. This is a stretch, as there are no indications that Beal or Lavine want out this summer.
b. Signing one of those two pushes the team salary (along with LJ, AD, Reaves, Dort, Williams and 6 min cap holds at 1.5 mil) to 140 mil with Beal or 133 mil with Lavine.
c. This means, with a hard cap of 150 mil (because sign-n-trade was used) is implanted on LAL, ~10-17 mil is left to fill out the roster
d. LAL will need to sign one quality FA to tax mid level (~5 mil), from list above players like Thaddeus Young or Nicolas Batum can be a fit. I know they are super old, but younger guys will command a bigger salary.
e. Go the ring chasers’ route again and fill out the rest of the roster with flyers and vets
2) Balanced roster:
a. Trade Russ with a 2027 first for a player like Gerami Grant, creating a 26 mil trade exception.
b. With LJ, AD, Reaves, THT, Nunn, Grant and 6 min cap holds at 1.5 mil, total team salary is 129 mil. That’s 21 mil under the tax apron. If THT and Nunn can be traded, that clears about 15 mil of the cap sheet.
c. With a 26 mil trade expetion, full mid level and bi-annual exceptions at hand, players like Brunson or Connaughton (with trade exception, if THT and/or Nunn is traded for 0 salary), Tyus Jones, Bobby Portis, Batum, Thaddeus Young (mid level/bi annual) can be targeted.
d. Go the ring chasers’ route again and fill out the rest of the roster with flyers and vets
3) Low risk low return
a. Trade Russ, Nunn and THT, with 2027 first for Wall and Wood
b. This move brings the total salary up to more than 156 mil. This is why I doudt the Lakers will go this way, that’s a lot od money for a team with such a meh roster.
So, to sum up, Lakers can get a new big 3 with LJ, AD and Beal or Lavine (klutch client). That will take a lot of effort and luck, as there are no indication either player wants to leave this summer.
Dumping Russ and preferably THT/Nunn is a must to fill out the roster with quality players. Getting good wing defenders is crucial for this team, adding shooting would be great too. But most importantly, the FO has to show a high level of creativity and given a longer financial leash by the Buss family.