0 out of 5
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The NBA offseason is less than two weeks old, and we’ve already witnessed the birth and (likely) death of a “Kyrie Irving to the Los Angeles Lakers” rumor.
On draft day, ESPNs Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic Shine Charania both reported on Irving’s potential departure from the Brooklyn Nets. Wojnarowski even listed Irving’s favorite sign-and-trade targets, including the Lakers.
Four days later, Irving seemingly made a U-turn, announcing his intent to earn a $36.5 million player option to reside in Brooklyn for 2022-23.
Shine Charania @ShamsCharania
Kyrie Irving: “Ordinary people make the world run, but those who dare to be different lead us into the future. I’ve made my decision to sign up. I’ll see you in the fall. A11even.” https://t.co/rpiS8YkSZI
Of course, having an expiring contract and not being part of a sign-and-trade (which “hard cap“his new team) might actually make it easier to move Kyrie, but Wojnarowski noted a mostly disinterested market on Monday.
Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn
ESPN Sources: There are no teams known to be planning sign-and-trades for Nets G Kyrie Irving outside of the Lakers at this time. No sign-and-trades can be formally discussed until after 6:00 p.m. Thursday. Brooklyn is not believed to be interested in available Lakers packages.
In the crazy world of the NBA offseason, it’s likely to make everything impossible, but for now let’s assume Irving won’t get back together with LeBron James.
That means LA has to look for other ways to shake things up (pulling it back after missing the playoffs in 2022 feels like a terrible idea).
It will have access to the mid-level taxpayer exception, which has a starting salary of $6.4 million. And that’s in a summer with very little cap space availablethat could actually go a long way.
The Lakers should probably also be open to trading anyone not named LeBron or Anthony Davis.
Which goals are actually achievable? And what can the Lakers do to be competitive again as early as 2022-23? Scroll down to find out.
1 out of 5
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Yes, a reorganization is likely necessary for the Lakers, but they can do that through trade. And one of the few bright spots of the past season was floorspacer Malik Monk.
Without access to his Bird rights (because he’s only been a Laker for a year), LA would likely have to use his mid-level taxpayer exemption to sign him, which Monk is open to.
“They might not be able to pay me as much as I want,” Monk told The Athletic’s Jovan Buha. “But I could be here and be a lot more comfortable being a Laker than going to another team (which would make me $5 million more.”
Last season, Monk averaged 13.8 points and 2.3 threes while shooting 39.1 percent from deep. And that ground clearance ability showed up in more than just the traditional box score.
When Monk shared the floor with LeBron, the Lakers were minus 0.1 points per 100 possessions. That doesn’t sound great until you realize they were minus 4.3 when LeBron played sans Monk.
There might be bigger names willing to gamble for $6.4M in LA, but it certainly could be worse than bringing Monk back.
2 out of 5
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According to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, the Charlotte Hornets are a team that reportedly had “genuine” interest in Russell Westbrook.
Pairing him with LaMelo Ball and taking ownership away from the young All-Star seems like a bad idea, so maybe getting sweeteners from the Lakers to get Westbrook off his hands is the goal. Perhaps Hayward’s contract ($61.6 million over the next two seasons) is onerous enough to justify going a year without picks against Russ.
Whatever the motivation, if it’s legitimate, the Lakers should pursue it.
Hayward has had a terrible time staying grounded over the past three years (averaging just 48.3 appearances per season), but his game would actually suit LeBron just fine.
On the same track, he hit 39.6 percent of his three-point attempts. That alone should boost James’ drive-and-kick game, but Hayward also has a point up front in him.
That means he could run the offense from the wing when LeBron is off the ground, or act as a secondary creator attacking defenses the superstar already has on rotation.
The lack of durability and an extra year of contract are legitimate concerns, but it’s hard to imagine Hayward would fit anywhere near as poorly on this team as Westbrook did in 2021-22.
3 out of 5
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Almost every team in the NBA will be on the hunt for versatile, interchangeable wings this offseason, and the Lakers shouldn’t apologize ahead of this fight.
And while there may be some older, bigger-name free agents willing to head over to this historic franchise for a mid-level taxpayer exception that might feel like a discount to them, LA should be his search in expand this off-season.
The Lakers have done the “load on veterans from the past” thing before. It’s time to try something new and Hayward’s Charlotte teammate Cody Martin would be a good option and he might not even cost the entire exception.
He checks many of the same boxes as Hayward (though perhaps on a smaller scale), and there are fewer concerns about his health.
He was serving just 26.3 minutes per game, but his pace- and playing-time-adjusted numbers illustrate the point above: 10.5 points, 3.5 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.2 three-pointers per 75 possessions, with one Three point percentage of 38.4.
4 out of 5
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If the Lakers are able to find a taker for Russell Westbrook, they will be in the market for another point guard (or at least a point guard-sized player) even if LeBron continues as the primary playmaker.
Some of his most successful lineups have included guards who could act off the ball and draw attention outside as shooters like Mario Chalmers, Kyrie Irving and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Bruce Brown might be harder to come by than Martin due to interest from other teams, but he would fill that role well when it comes to the mid-level taxpayer exemption.
Although he’s often been a rim runner for the Brooklyn Nets for the past few seasons, Brown began his career as a guard for the Detroit Pistons. And along that winding path, he’s developed a variety of skills that make him one of the game’s most unique players.
In his sophomore season, he averaged 5.2 assists per 75 possessions. The next year, he was averaging 8.7 rebounds per 75 possessions, and in 2021-22 he shot a career-high 40.4 percent from three.
If Brown could tie it all together, he would be an ideal off guard to play alongside one of the best point forwards of all time.
5 out of 5
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The Los Angeles Lakers were reluctant to include sweeteners in the trade to offload Russell Westbrook, but the Indiana Pacers could potentially dissuade them from that stance.
According to Marc Stein, LA allegedly offered Indiana a package that included Westbrook, Talen Horton-Tucker and a draft pick for Malcolm Brogdon, and the Pacers declined.
Given his lack of stamina (he’s only played 48.7 games per season over the past three years), going much further seems unwise. However, the Lakers shouldn’t give up on that idea.
He is a career 37.6 percent three-pointer who ranks in the top 20 all-time for career free throw percentage. And since joining the Pacers, he’s averaged 6.3 assists.
That combination of shooting and playmaking (not to mention his 6’5″ frame and multi-position defense) would make him a great secondary creator and a catch-and-shoot threat to LeBron.