After taking a lot of heat from some people on this site (guilty!), the Lakers front office has engaged in quite a bit of activity to try to improve the team, starting with the acquisition of Rui Hachimura and concluding with a flurry of trade deadline transactions.
How these moves pan out will remain to be seen, but we can still judge them on what the team gave up vs. what it got back:
- The Lakers successfully dealt an ineffective player in Nunn and a player who wasn't performing to his contract level in Westbrook.
- The Lakers retained the 2029 FRP and a heavily (or is it lightly?) protected chunk of the 2027 FRP
- The Lakers got back young, athletic role players who can score and defend (for the most part) and whose rights they control
- The Lakers got back a starting caliber player whose rights they control
- The Lakers generated nearly $7m in trade exceptions (I'm assuming they can be combined?)
- The Lakers got a defensive big
- The Lakers failed to clear their backcourt logjam and may have created one in the frontcourt.
- The Lakers guards are still weak defensively. That could be a problem come playoff time.
- They gave up 2 contributing role players
- The Lakers got back two expiring contracts with a combined cap hold of $56m, which means they will have to make a decision on each one early on during free agency.
OVERALL GRADE: A-
The Lakers probably did as well as they could given what they had to offer. While none of the players the Lakers got back could be described as stars, they are all competent NBA players...something that has been lacking on the Lakers rosters the past few seasons.
The MAIN reason this isn't an A is the expiring contracts. The Lakers may not have enough cap space to retain one and still make noise in free agency, but they can go over to retain both. In my opinion, that's the best path forward:
- Offer Hachimura 2 years plus a team option at $27-30m...that's more than his minimum qualifying offer, a significant raise for him and still a movable contract.
- Offer Russell 2 years plus a player option at $70-75m - that's probably more than he would get in free agency and he could potentially decline his player option to sign a new deal as a 10+ year vet. (yeah...Russell has been around that long!)
- Flip Russell in December - if I'm not mistaken, a sign-n-trade would hard cap the Lakers and Russell's contract isn't eligible for trade until next December. Until then, the Lakers can artificially inflate his stats by running specific action for him. They will be able to package the 29 pick and what's left of the 27 - as well as warm bodies - to complete a deal.
- The Lakers should still retain a full MLE.
Yes, this path is likely punting on 2022-23 but would set them up for a serious run in 23-24. More importantly: this path fills the Lakers cupboards, which were left bare by mismanagement. They would have both the draft capital and the player personnel to be more aggressive in trade markets and still give them some level of cap flexibility.