As the clock ticks ever closer to free agency, the rumor mill picks up with more and more Lakers ties in recent days. Who are the Lakers aiming to bring in and which players could return?
Let’s take a look at today’s free agency rumors and headlines.
Lakers targeting the wings
With reports of the Lakers picking player options out of Austin Reaves, Stanley Johnson and Wenyen Gabriel, the Lakers roster is running out of wings to head into free agency.
Predictably, it’s the two-way wings the Lakers are targeting with their Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (TPMLE), according to Jovan Buha of Athleticism (emphasis mine).
With free agency less than 48 hours away, the Lakers are focused on two-way wings, league sources say. Most of the what-if scenarios for their mid-level taxpayer exception have centered around signing a wing or two that could come in and start alongside James and Davis. The Lakers believe a player with the right mix of 3-point shooting and multi-positional defense can help bolster James-Davis-Westbrook lineups, which opponents outscored by 3.0 points per 100 possessions last season, according to Cleaning the Glass.
In theory, this makes perfect sense for the Lakers. But in practice, there are some problems. For one thing, good wings are hard to come by and if available, they’ll likely cost more than the $6 million TPMLE the Lakers have and way more than the veteran’s minimum. For two, there aren’t many wing options available in this particular free agent class.
It’s going to create a tough offseason to navigate for the Lakers because of that. There are, however, a few notable targets for the Lakers.
Malik Monk cash in?
Last week, Malik Monk talked about returning to the Lakers and being open to taking a cut to do so. That discount would come from the full TPMLE mid-level exception enjoyed by the Lakers, which, to be fair, is a roughly $6 million pay cut.
But just because he’s open to it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, and as a result Monk is looking for contracts in the market, according to Jake Fischer of Launderer’s report.
The Lakers would like to keep Malik Monk at their taxpayer mid-level, but Monk is also looking for more lucrative deals, sources said, although he told The Athletic’s Jovan Buha he would be open to returning to Los Angeles with a discount.
As noted above, the Lakers are targeting two-way wings and will almost certainly need their TPMLE to do so. Perhaps if things go differently or if the Lakers successfully complete a trade with Russell Westbrook, the situation may arise where Monk is the preferred candidate for the TPMLE.
But as it stands, it’s hard to see the Lakers using that on Monk, a guard who would likely struggle in playoff games, especially when they can only sign one player to a contract like this. this summer.
Hello, Buddy, my old friend
It’s not a Lakers offseason until they’re tied to Buddy Hield. The man the team almost traded last summer is now in Indiana, but he’s still as available as he was last year. According to Matt Moore of Action Networkthe Lakers seem about as interested as last year.
As Indiana continues to take calls for Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner, the Lakers have returned to a familiar target: Buddy Hield.
One of Westbrook’s original notional trading partners was the Pacers with a package from Malcolm Brogdon and Hield. With trade options dwindling for Brogdon, perhaps the two sides come together and see if a trade can be made.
An unexpected addition?
A new name linked to the Lakers on Wednesday was Bulls guard Coby White. Along with Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso — yeah that’ll never sting — DeMar DeRozan and (presumably) Zach LaVine, ball-handling opportunities for White are limited and could potentially make him a target for the Lakers, according to Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Time.
The Lakers could also seek to acquire players via trade, with rival executives believing Chicago’s Coby White could be a target. Moving Talen Horton-Tucker, a player whose dominant skills on the ball are seen by rival scouts as redundant with Lakers stars, could be a way to level up to meet the Lakers’ needs.
White is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is expected to earn $7.4 million next season before entering restricted free agency. A Talen Horton-Tucker swap for White would work out financially while a Kendrick Nunn deal would cost around $751,000. Adding a player like Gabriel could make the deal work, for example.
Last season, White averaged a career-low 12.7 points on 43.3% total shooting, but shot a career-best 38.5% from the line. 3 points. He played 61 games and saw 27.5 minutes per game, but saw his usage rate drop sharply to 19.8% after being north of 22% the previous two seasons.
Determining the logistics of the trade and why the Bulls would do it is a separate matter, but there are reasons the Lakers, with or without Russ on the roster, would be interested in White.
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