High Asset

Without many assets, the Lakers face a somewhat challenging offseason

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Another tough question for the Lakers is what to do with Drummond. Drummond averaged 11.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1 block in 24.8 minutes per game with the team last season (21 total games). It is difficult to say whether Drummond would be a good fit alongside a healthy LeBron and AD since the three did not play in a lot of games together this season. Drummond is still relatively young (he is turning 28 in less than a month) and can produce big box score numbers. He is certainly worth bringing back for another season, but at what price?

The Lakers can only offer him 120 percent of his salary from this season, or they could offer him more money using their mid-level exception. However, considering that Drummond will be looking for more money in free agency than the Lakers can offer and that he didn’t seem to fit particularly well on the roster, it is possible that Drummond will not be returning to Los Angeles next season. 

The next big question for the Lakers is what will happen with Horton-Tucker. Horton-Tucker is only 20 years old (he turns 21 later this year), and has already developed into a quality player with a good amount of upside. The young wing will certainly pass on the Lakers’ qualifying offer to become a restricted free agent.

Horton-Tucker’s situation is somewhat unique, as he only has two years of NBA experience under his belt, meaning the Lakers will have Early Bird Rights instead of full Bird Rights. This is important because it means that another team can offer Horton-Tucker a poison-pill type of contract that would boost his salary significantly in the third and fourth years of that deal; the Lakers would have a difficult decision to make on whether to match this type of offer sheet. Notably, the third year of that possible deal would fall in the 2023-24 season, which is when LeBron’s current contract expires. It is unclear whether the Lakers want to invest a big portion of their future cap space in Horton-Tucker two years from now when James may no longer be wearing a Lakers jersey and the team may be looking to transition.

The next free agent priority for the Lakers is Caruso, a fan favorite who has developed into a quality backup guard and a particularly stingy defensive player. The Lakers want to bring Caruso back on a new deal, but Caruso has performed well enough that other teams are going to at least consider offering him a contract large enough to lure him away from Los Angeles. However, Caruso has expressed his desire to return to the Lakers, who have Bird Rights on Caruso and can offer him a significant raise over the $2.75 million he made last season.

If the Lakers manage to bring Caruso back on a new deal, it’s possible they will look to expand his role and give him more playing time. With Caruso on a relatively small salary over the last few seasons, it was not critical for Caruso to produce big numbers with heavy minutes. But with a bloated cap sheet and a bigger salary, the Lakers may look to get more production out of Caruso if he signs a new contract with the team this offseason.

In terms of the Lakers’ remaining key players, things become a lot simpler.

Harrell has a $9.7 million player option for next season, which means he gets to decide whether he returns to Los Angeles next season or not. Harrell was a solid contributor throughout the regular season, but his defensive limitations were once again exposed in the playoffs. This led to Frank Vogel benching Harrell in Game 2 and Game 3 in the first round against the Phoenix Suns. This may have dropped his value in free agency, enough that he will consider exercising the option and testing free agency next year. However, it would not be shocking for Harrell to test free agency again this offseason, betting on the idea that another team will ignore his playoff struggles over the last two seasons.

Harrell is still only 27 years old, so he should have a few more seasons in his athletic peak, but the back end of a long-term contract could be problematic down the road. 

Morris is a solid forward who can spread the floor and help the Lakers, especially in small-ball lineups. Morris can be streaky in terms of his overall production, but if he is willing to come back on a relatively small deal, the Lakers will not hesitate to re-sign him.

Matthews provided the Lakers with some solid production on both ends of the court. The veteran guard is known for his defensive prowess and three-point shooting. However, Matthews is now 34 years old; we can’t forget his injury history, as he suffered an Achilles tear in 2015. It is reasonable to believe that Matthews can provide more defense and three-point shooting next season, but there is always the risk that his production could plummet as he gets deeper into his NBA career.

Despite those factors, the Lakers would likely bring back Matthews back on an affordable contract if another team does not lure him away.

The Lakers could also bring back Ben McLemore on a small deal, but it’s not clear how big of a priority he is for them this offseason. McLemore is 28 years old, still has plenty of athleticism and can score in bunches. McLemore has never rounded his game out, and it’s unlikely that he’ll have a breakout season, but he is a decent option to have at the end of a rotation. 

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