The Lakers won’t have many avenues to do so, but they could look to swing relatively big when free agency starts on Friday. A familiar name and face in Bruce Brown, who helped the Nuggets sweep the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals en route to an NBA title, is reportedly a target for the Lakers.
It’s a move that would cost the Lakers the full mid-level exception, something that would require some cap gymnastics.
One team with significant interest in signing Bruce Brown away from Denver is the Los Angeles Lakers, multiple sources told @denverpost.— Mike Singer (@msinger) June 28, 2023
The Lakers could offer him the full MLE ($12.3M annually). Nuggets can only offer up to $7.8M this year.
Because of their proximity to the luxury tax, the Lakers would need to shed some salaries to use the full non-taxpayer mid-level exception. The most logical targets are Malik Beasley and Mo Bamba, two big contracts that the Lakers could get out of without penalty in the coming days.
Jovan Buha of The Athletic reported on Friday morning that the Lakers are “increasingly confident” that, whatever the cap gymnastics required, they can lure Brown:
The Lakers are increasingly confident they can sign Nuggets free-agent wing Bruce Brown Jr. for the non-taxpayer midlevel exception starting at a projected $12.4 million, multiple league sources not authorized to speak publicly on the matter told The Athletic.
There are multiple paths for the Lakers to open up cap flexibility under the luxury tax line (a projected $165 million), but the most realistic is to decline Malik Beasley’s $16.5 million team option and waive Mo Bamba’s $10.3 million non-guaranteed contract. The deadline for Los Angeles’ decisions on Beasley and Bamba’s contracts is Thursday.
If the Lakers sign Brown, they could still retain restricted free agents Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura, as well as unrestricted free agent D’Angelo Russell. While Brown could sign for more than the midlevel exception with a team with cap space, the most the Nuggets can offer him is a contract starting at about $7.8 million.
The softened markets for D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, and Rui Hachimura have made this a more feasible option than perhaps it seemed in weeks and months prior. If the Lakers can sign their trio of noteworthy free agents to reasonable or even team-friendly deals, this possibility becomes a lot more real.
Brown would be a very welcome fit for the Lakers. He’s a tremendous role player that does a bit of everything, averaging 11.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game last season, landing in Denver after two seasons in Brooklyn. He was a particularly valuable member of the rotation for the Nuggets in the playoffs and Finals. SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell ranked him as the 16th-best free agent on the market this summer.
Not only would Brown fit well with the Lakers, it would also hurt the Nuggets, a team that serves as perhaps the biggest competitor for the Lakers. Denver did not have a particularly deep rotation in the playoffs and taking away someone like Brown, who averaged 26.5 minutes per contest in the playoffs, would hurt them as much as it would help the Lakers.
There are still a number of things that need to happen, but with decisions on Beasley and Bamba due on Thursday, that should serve as the potential first signal of what way the Lakers may look to go in free agency.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.