Hoops Rumors is looking ahead to offseason moves for all 30 teams. We’ll examine free agency, the draft, trades and other key storylines for each franchise as the summer approaches.
State Of The Franchise
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The Kobe Bryant era has ended in Los Angeles, and it’s hard to say whose name might be attached to the next era.
Bryant wrapped up his 20-year career in April and took with him the only bit of star power on the Lakers’ roster. Unless this is the year L.A. lands a top-level free agent, the franchise will rely on a youth movement built around recent lottery picks D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, along with Larry Nance Jr. and possibly Jordan Clarkson if he re-signs. Los Angeles also has the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, although the front office may decide to trade it for veteran help.
The Lakers are coming off a 17-65 season, the worst in their 68-year history. After being one of the league’s elite teams for decades, L.A. has strung together three consecutive last-place finishes. With a fan base and a front office that is used to winning, there is a lot of pressure throughout the organization for an immediate turnaround.
Former coach Byron Scott was criticized for relying too much on veterans and being too harsh toward younger players. That might have been OK if he were winning, but the steady stream of losses turned the fans — and eventually management — against him. Scott was fired in April and will be replaced by Golden State lead assistant Luke Walton when the Warriors are finished in the playoffs.
Walton became the hottest name on the coaching market when he led Golden State to a 39-4 record while head coach Steve Kerr was sidelined by a back ailment. Walton is expected to bring many of the Warriors’ concepts with him to Los Angeles.
The loss of Bryant’s $25MM salary and the expiration of Roy Hibbert‘s $15.5MM contract give the Lakers a massive amount of cap room heading into free agency. With Brandon Bass planning to turn down his $3.135MM player option, Los Angeles will have a little more than $23MM in guaranteed salary against a cap projected at $92MM. Lou Williams, who signed a three-year deal in free agency last summer, is currently the highest-paid Laker at $7M per season.
The most important decision regarding the current roster will involve Clarkson, who will be a restricted free agent after making a league minimum $845,059 this season. Under the Gilbert Arenas Provision, the Lakers must tender a $3.2MM qualifying offer to have the right to match whatever deal Clarkson receives in free agency. The second-year guard has expressed a desire to stay in L.A. and play for Walton.
Another intriguing decision involves Nick Young, who still has two more seasons and more than $11MM left on his contract, but who got into a highly publicized spat with Russell over a failed prank involving a video. The Lakers may attempt to trade Young or buy him out to eliminate any friction with their young point guard.
Free Agent Targets
The Lakers always swing for the fences in free agency, but they have a recent record of whiffing on elite names. With tons of cap room and the glamour of Los Angeles to offer, the Lakers will chase all the best free agents on the market. They’ll certainly try to get a meeting with Kevin Durant and are rumored to be planning a strong push for L.A. native DeMar DeRozan. Some other names to watch are Hassan Whiteside, Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Harrison Barnes, Nicolas Batum and Ryan Anderson.
The Lakers secured the No. 2 pick on lottery night, guaranteeing them Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram, who are considered the best two players in the draft. Simmons is a 6’10 combo forward out of LSU who is celebrated for his scoring, passing and rebounding. Ingram is a 6’9″ small forward out of Duke who may be more ready for the NBA next season than Simmons is. Either has a good shot to be a starter with the Lakers and make an impact right away. However, Los Angeles is expected to listen to offers for the pick, and many should be coming, considering how highly Simmons and Ingram are viewed. L.A. will also have the second pick in the second round — No. 32 overall.
The clock is running on the famous guarantee from 2014 by Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Jim Buss, who said he will resign if he can’t turn the Lakers into contenders within three or four years. The team regressed on the court this season, and Bryant’s retirement tour seemed to carry more importance than actually winning games. Turmoil in the locker room and among the coaching staff combined with an awful on-court product to produce a nightmare season for Lakers fans.
Hope comes in the form of Walton and his Golden State pedigree, the addition of Simmons or Ingram and a promising young foursome already in place. The Lakers have the foundation for a nice, slow build back toward contention, but that’s not the way things are typically done in L.A. — not with pressure from celebrities in high-priced seats and the cross-town Clippers grabbing all the headlines.
The current group of youngsters probably can’t make good on Buss’ guarantee, so the organization will again pin its hopes on free agency and possibly a blockbuster deal involving the No. 2 pick. It remains to be seen if the Lakers can land their next star and start their next era, but the offseason in L.A. should be much more exciting than the regular season.
- Lou Williams ($7,000,000)
- Nick Young ($5,443,918)
- D’Angelo Russell ($5,332,800)
- Julius Randle ($3,267,120)
- Larry Nance Jr. ($1,207,680)
- Anthony Brown ($874,636)
- Total: $23,126,154
Restricted Free Agents (Qualifying Offers/Cap Holds)
- Jordan Clarkson ($2,725,003/$2,725,003)
- Ryan Kelly ($2,155,313/$3,276,075)
- Tarik Black ($1,180,431/$1,180,431)
- Marcelo Huertas ($1,074,636/$1,074,636)
- Totals: $7,135,383/$8,256,145
Unrestricted Free Agents (Cap Holds)
Other Cap Holds
Projected Salary Cap: $92,000,000
- The cap hold for Bryant will be the maximum salary for a veteran of 10 or more seasons. The number shown here is an estimate based on the projected cap figure.
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.