This will be a pivotal summer for the Los Angeles Lakers, and while they may not have as much money to use on roster improvements as other teams, the organization will surely look to improve the roster that came just short of an NBA Finals trip in 2023.
The Los Angeles Lakers had a frustrating end to their season in May. After storming through the postseason — which included sending the defending champion Golden State Warriors home early — they ran right into the buzzsaw that was the Denver Nuggets.
Related: Top 2023 NBA free agents – Best 100 available with positional breakdowns
While losing one round before the championship series falls short of the legendary franchise’s lofty goals, there were still many positives that came out of the Los Angeles Lakers 2022-2023 campaign.
Darvin Ham very much seemed like the right choice as the new head coach. General manager Rob Pelinka proved his deal-making savviness by succeeding with several trade deadline deals, and the team’s coaching staff deserves serious credit for developing undrafted talent Austin Reaves into a legitimate impact player.
With superstars like Anthony Davis and Lebron James leading the way, the Los Angeles Lakers are not far off from winning the organization’s 17th title soon. That is why they need to be smart with their moves this summer because they do not have tons of money to burn, but they do have a solid amount to use.
Few players are guaranteed for the roster next season, so the team could have a worthwhile amount of cap space this summer, as Silver Screen and Roll explained earlier this year.
“The Lakers could still get to that $31 million figure if they simply did not extend or withdraw qualifying offers to [Rui Hachimura], [Austin Reaves], renounced [D’Angelo Russell] entirely, turned down [Malik Beasley’s] team option, and waived [Davon Reed] and [Mo Bamba’s] non-guaranteed deals. That also includes renouncing Dennis Schröder, Lonnie Walker IV, Wenyen Gabriel, and Troy Brown Jr.”
Assuming they have around $30 million in funds to use in NBA free agency, chances are they will not be able to afford Kyrie Irving for a long-rumored reunion with James. Meaning the below players are realistic options for them on the open market this summer.
Since leaving the Los Angeles Lakers two years ago, Kyle Kuzma has done a lot to grow his value around the league. This season he posted some of the best numbers of his career, including in points (21.2) and assists (3.7). In a small ball front court with James and Davis, he certainly would be an impact addition.
While a reunion with the player they took in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft would have seemed unlikely a couple of years ago, they traded for another former first-rounder in D’Angelo Russell in February, and seem open to his return next season. Kuzma 2.0 back in LA is very possible this summer.
While signing Kyrie Irving is highly unlikely, and really not necessary, one premiere point guard that could be on the Lakers’ radar if they don’t re-sign Russell is Raptors star Fred VanVleet. He has championship pedigree, is a legit 1A point guard in today’s game, and could be had at a rate Los Angeles could afford. Expect the 29-year-old to speak with team officials in July.
Another former Los Angeles Lakers draft pick who has grown a lot since leaving is nine-year veteran Jordan Clarkson. There is no more proof of how respected he has become that despite the Utah Jazz selling off many of their best assets last year, Clarkson was one of the few they kept and he delivered with a career season.
The Lakers need a good, competent, veteran point guard, and one that is preferably not too pricey. Clarkson fits the bill and is still in his prime athletic years.
While Lakers fans will be wondering about players from opposing teams that they could target, re-signing Austin Reaves will be a top priority this offseason. In just a couple of years, he has become their third-best player and a favorite of Lebron James and the fan base. However, there are major fears of a “poison pill” competing offer for the restricted free agent.
As long as they can get him for a fair market rate, the Los Angeles Lakers must re-sign Reaves in July.
While the team received solid contributions from their bench this season and had good depth after the trade deadline, they badly need more offensive punch. That is where a player like 11-year veteran Will Barton could come in.
While his down year this season could be a sign of an age-based decline at 32, he would certainly be a player worth taking a flier on to get more scoring from the bench and at an affordable price on the NBA free agent market.
Two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo is not anywhere near the player he once was after several career-changing injuries, he still is a worthwhile option to improve the Los Angeles Lakers’ bench next season. In 2022-2023 he played the most games he has since 2017-2018 and could be on a late-career upswing that could benefit LA.
Like Barton, he is unlikely to come at a high cost and the team needs to be crafty with the money they have this summer.