The Los Angeles Lakers’ offseason started earlier than expected after the reigning champions were knocked out of the 2021 NBA playoffs in the first round. General manager Rob Pelinka will look to improve the roster this summer, but it seems unlikely that the roster will be revamped.
LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and Marc Gasol are all under contract for the 2021-22 season. Their salaries add a few million dollars less than the projected salary cap, giving the Lakers little money to spend on free agents. This could force Pelinka to keep players in the direction of free will, even if it means paying too much for them.
Dennis Schroder seems to be at the top of the list. The point guard has been a disappointment in six playoff games, averaging 14.3 points and 2.8 assists per game on 40.0 percent shots. Schröder refused a $ 84 million four-year contract offers during the regular season, an indication that it will not give any discounts to the Lakers.
Schroder hurt his playoff value, but the Lakers probably can’t afford to let him walk. Los Angeles has no way of replacing its regular-season production, in which it averaged 15.4 points and 5.8 assists while taking some of the offensive play load off James’ shoulders.
Magic Johnson added to the intrigue with Schroder, criticizing the point guard on local radio on Friday.
“Schroder, I don’t think he’s a Laker,” Johnson said. “This is just my opinion. I don’t know if they will resign it or not. I don’t think he brings the winning mindset and attitude that we need.
“He’s been fortunate enough to show it in this series and for me he failed in this series. But again, if he comes back a Laker, I’m going to support him, I’m going to cheer him on and all that, but I don’t think he’s a Laker.
Another free agent who had a different level of production in the playoffs is Montrezl Harrell. The sixth man of the year in 2020 played just 39 minutes in the playoffs and LA was edged 18.9 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor.
Harrell has a $ 9.7 million player option for next season. The backup center seemed frustrated with his role diminished, although he might not want to leave so much money on the table and take a chance on the open market.
Talen Horton-Tucker is a restricted free agent. The sophomore has seen an increased role on the squad during the Lakers’ title defense and is considered a starter down the line. It’s hard to see Los Angeles part ways with Horton-Tucker unless he signs a big offer from another suitor.
▪️ $ 121.9M on books
▪️ – $ 13.1M in practical cap space
▪️ Exception of $ 9.5M
▪️ # 22 overall choice
Notable free agents
▪️ PG D. Schröder
▪️ C A. Drummond
▪️ SG A. Caruso
▪️ PF M. Morris
▪️ SG W. Matthews
▪️ PF M. Harrell (opt. Player)https://t.co/HQKREZoQnN
– Spotrac (@spotrac) June 4, 2021
Horton-Tucker and Schroder could be the Lakers’ best hope to upgrade the roster in the near future, whether they improve their game or become part of a trade. Before the trade deadline, Los Angeles reportedly turned down the opportunity to deal with Horton-Tucker, Schroder Caldwell-Pope and prepare compensation for Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry.
After trading a series of future draft picks for Anthony Davis in the summer of 2019, the Lakers are not allowed to exchange a first round for a few more seasons.
The Lakers could use their mid-level exception or sign veterans for minimum wage to improve their three-point shooting. Los Angeles shot 29.9 percent from three points in the playoffs, and the team’s inability to make open looks was a big part of their loss.
Alex Caruso, Wesley Matthews, and Markieff Morris are also moving towards free will. Caruso has played an important role over the past two seasons. It’s unclear what the price would be for Matthews and Morris.
Andre Drummond, the Lakers’ midseason acquisition, was not signed and often didn’t seem like a good fit when Davis was in good health. The center was also benched in the team’s final playoff game.