The Los Angeles Lakers are going to have to make deals on the margins in free agency this year. Like last year, the Lakers’ avenues towards improvement are almost entirely limited to veteran’s minimum deals.
As a result, the Lakers will have to rely on the promise of “minutes and shots” to potentially attract free agents on under market deals.
On that note, let’s look at some of the latest rumors and reports.
The nature of filling out a roster with veteran’s minimum contracts each summer means that if a player outperforms their deal, there aren’t many ways the Lakers can retain them.
So, when they hit on Malik Monk, like they did last year, it means they’re going to struggle to keep him around next season. Short of offering him their lone taxpayer mid-level exception, there isn’t any other way to offer him a payday even close to what he’s earned, meaning he could be on his way out after one year in purple and gold.
Late on Wednesday night, longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein hosted a Spotify Live with Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report where he discussed Monk’s free agency.
“When Monk told (The Athletic) that he was willing to go back to the Lakers for under the mid-level, I was like ‘huh?’ Because I had heard that he basically could go back to the Lakers for the mid-level right now, if he wanted to. It seems like there is very mutual interest there. But he definitely is looking for more, a bit more, the numbers I’ve heard are between $8 million and $12 million, which the taxpayer is at $6 (million). The one team I heard — and I’m not saying this is a done deal or it’s gonna happen — (and) it’s a very different situation than L.A., but I know that there’s mutual interest, the one team that I’ve heard to look out for, for him not to go to the Lakers, is the Sacramento Kings.”
Watching Monk leave would be tough enough as is. Watching him leave for the KINGS? Oof. But there isn’t a lot the Lakers can do here other than really hope Monk loves Los Angeles enough to take a significant pay cut and stay. And even then, that’s assuming the Lakers want to use their taxpayer mid-level exception on him and not someone else...
Gallo returns to Los Angeles
The Lakers clearly have a need for players taller than about 6’4” and one of the intriguing names on the market could be Danilo Gallinari. A player reportedly included in the deal that will send Dejounte Murray to Atlanta, Gallinari is an intriguing player due to his deal being non-guaranteed.
While it’s unclear exactly how they would potentially acquire him, the Lakers are expected to have some interest in the forward, according to Davide Chinellato of La Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy.
Lakers will be inquiring about Danilo Gallinari when free agency starts at 6pm ET, per sources. Gallo will be traded from the Hawks to the Spurs by July 6, but San Antonio won’t guarantee his 2022-23 contract.— Davide Chinellato (@dchinellato) June 30, 2022
Lakers can use the taxpayer midlevel exception at $6.5M #NBA75
On Thursday afternoon, reports surfaced that the Spurs would be waiving Gallinari after the trade became official, opening up a path for him to become a Laker. According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, though, the Lakers interest in Gallo may not be reciprocated.
Will be seeking the mid-level exception with BOS, MIA and CHI among the teams he has interest in, a source close to Gallinari told ESPN https://t.co/H3V2WTEsCG— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) June 30, 2022
Last season, Gallinari averaged 11.7 points on 43.4% shooting from the field and 38.1% shooting from beyond the arc across 66 games. For his career, Gallo is a 38.2% 3-point shooter. At 33 years old, Gallo wouldn’t do much to bring youthfulness to the team, but would still provide outside shooting and size on the wing.
Does he have enough left in his legs to still play at a high level? The Lakers may be asking similar questions.
The Los Angeles Blakers
If the Lakers are in the business of acquiring former Clippers, why not go after one of the greatest in franchise’s history? Coming off his own disappointing season, Blake Griffin appears to be an option for the Lakers this summer, and a serious one.
Also mentioned during the discussion between Fischer and Stein was Griffin’s future and how it could be back in Los Angeles.
Fischer: ”Blake Griffin, it sounds like he’s not going back to Brooklyn”
Stein: ”I agree.”
Fischer: ”It sounds like he’s going to go to Los Angeles? The Clippers would be a pretty weird funny, silly outcome with the whole exit there, so the Lakers would make more sense in that regard, but I can’t tell you which one is more likely. Marc, do you have a better read on that than me?”
Stein: ”I have heard a couple teams on Blake that are not Los Angeles, but I have not confirmed them yet, so until I can confirm them, I’m not going to say them. I need two sources before I give those away. But I will say I have heard a couple other destinations that are not in Los Angeles.”
Fischer: ”I know there’s a couple other teams, but those are the ones I’ve definitely heard the most and I’ve heard from multiple people. But I’ve also heard from several, several people not to expect him to go back to Brooklyn regardless.”
Objectively, the funniest outcome is Griffin playing for the Clippers years after their memorable free agency pitch and subsequent trade months later. For the Lakers, it’d smell an awful lot like last summer when they signed a host of veteran free agents well past their basketball expiration date.
Griffin played 56 games for the Nets last season, but from February 26 on, he only played seven regular season games and two of the team’s four first round playoff games. He never reached double figures in scoring in any of those games and was a virtual non-factor in the must-win portion of the team’s schedule.
There are a lot of reasons the Lakers shouldn’t sign him, but that typically means very little to them based on recent seasons.