The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly determined to find a "difference-making playmaker" to pair with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Marc Stein reported the Lakers want James and Davis to spend more time at the 4 and 5, respectively, next season and need someone to lead the offense for that plan to work.
The subtext: The Lakers want someone better than impending free agent Dennis Schroder, who was supposed to be filling that role last season.
Schroder seems determined to maximize his value in free agency this summer, which makes him a prime candidate for a sign-and-trade. The Lakers could then use a trade exception they get for Schroder to acquire a lead ball-handler who they feel is a better fit.
Stein mentioned Lonzo Ball as a potential-but-unlikely target. Ball is a restricted free agent, and the mechanism toward acquiring him seems fraught. The Pelicans would likely want Talen Horton-Tucker, along with more future Lakers draft picks. New Orleans already owns the Lakers' 2022 and 2024 selections, along with swap rights in 2023.
This all assumes the Pelicans do not want to keep Ball, and all signs are pointing toward them retaining him given his close relationship with Zion Williamson.
A more realistic option would be finding a veteran stuck on a team going nowhere, or working out some type of sign-and-trade deal that nets them Kyle Lowry while sending Schroder elsewhere.
The important issue to remember is the Lakers have no cap flexibility; they'll need whatever exception Schroder nets in a sign-and-trade in order to add a difference-maker. If Schroder finds a team willing to give him $100 million over four years in free agency, the sky is the limit for what the Lakers can bring back in a trade. The Lakers could then package Kyle Kuzma, Horton-Tucker and picks, along with the trade exception, and land a borderline star.
All of these are deep-in-the-woods cap mechanisms, but the key will be finding a sign-and-trade partner for Schroder.