Lakers Rumors: Evaluating Latest on Big Names Expected to Be Free Agency Targets

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxCorrespondent IJune 28, 2022

Lakers Rumors: Evaluating Latest on Big Names Expected to Be Free Agency Targets

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    Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

    This offseason is likely to be one of change for the Los Angeles Lakers. L.A. already settled on a new head coach in Darvin Ham, and the next step will be retooling a roster that lacked both chemistry and results during last year's 33-win campaign.

    The question, of course, is whether the Lakers can afford to make notable roster changes. Centerpieces LeBron James and Anthony Davis aren't going anywhere, and unless L.A. somehow gets out from under Russell Westbrook's $47 million salary, financial flexibility will be limited.

    Westbrook has until Wednesday to exercise his player option, and he is largely expected to do so. The Lakers, for their part, have a plan in place to make the most of the situation.

    "We've been honest about how we think he fits with this team and what we expect of him next year if he decides to opt in and be here,” GM Rob Pelinka said, per Mark Medina of NBA.com. "He's ready to embrace the philosophy of defense first as well. He made that clear to Darvin and me if he chooses to come back."

    Los Angeles will have some options when the market opens on June 30, though. Here, we'll dive into the latest buzz surrounding L.A.'s upcoming foray into free agency.

Lakers Were Only Team Interested in a Sign-and-Trade for Kyrie Irving

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    Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving also has a player option for the 2022-23 season, and he'll be opting in.

    As ESPN's Kevin Pelton pointed out, though, having an expiring contract instead of a potential sign-and-trade actually increases Brooklyn's trade opportunities.

    "Sign-and-trade restrictions would have made it difficult, if not impossible, for Irving to be traded to a taxpaying team like the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent," Pelton wrote.

    Interestingly, it appears that Los Angeles was the only team hoping to execute a sign-and-trade for Irving.

    "Outside of the Los Angeles Lakers, there are currently no known teams planning to pursue sign-and-trade deals for Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, sources told ESPN," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski wrote on Monday.

    According to Wojnarowski, Brooklyn had "no interest" in the Lakers' proposed trade packages.

    Both the Lakers and Irving were reportedly interested in an Irving-James reunion in L.A. While a trade with the Nets is unlikely, ESPN's Brian Windhorst believes that we may not have seen the last of L.A.'s pursuit.

    "I know that there are people in the league, and we're not talking about ancillary people, we're talking about high-ranking people, who believe that this is not done," Windhorst said on the Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective podcast,

    Landing Irving on a sign-and-trade deal in free agency is no longer an option, though.

John Wall Expected to Join Clippers

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    L.A.'s options in free agency are extremely limited, financially. The Lakers can sign one player to a $6.4 million mid-level exception and otherwise have to look at minimum contracts. Getting a big name to agree to a $6 million deal would likely hinge on them already getting paid via a buyout.

    Houston Rockets point guard John Wall fits the profile perfectly, and according to NBA insider Marc Stein (h/t Jason Reed of FanSided), the Lakers were among teams that could be interested in targeting Wall.

    Wall is getting his buyout from Houston, though it appears that he's headed to the Los Angeles Clippers instead of the Lakers.

    "He will become one of the top free agents in the 2022 class, though Wall intends to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers upon clearing waivers, sources said," Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports wrote.

    It's unclear what sort of player Wall can be in 2022, as he hasn't suited up since the 2020-21 season. The 31-year-old didn't play this past year as Houston worked to find him a new home via a trade.

    No trade materialized last season, and Wall will give the Rockets a little cap relief by taking the buyout.

    "It's expected Wall will give back approximately $7 million in salary to hit the open market, sources said. He picked up his $47.4 million player option before the buyout," Haynes wrote.

    Wall isn't giving up a ton of money, though, and the Lakers have to wonder if Irving can make a similar play to make his way to Los Angeles.

L.A. Might Be Able to Afford Malik Monk After All

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    While most of the recent developments seem to be working against the Lakers, it's not all bad news. Los Angeles might have a legitimate shot at retaining standout shooter Malik Monk in free agency.

    The early offseason buzz indicated that the Lakers wouldn't be able to afford the 24-year-old.

    "Don’t expect the Lakers to get any sort of steal with Malik Monk this offseason. He’s one of the best shooters available, and at just 24 years old, Monk will likely command more than L.A. can offer him," Keith Smith of Spotrac wrote in April.

    However, Monk recently went on record to clarify that he would accept less money to stay in Los Angeles.

    "They might not be able to pay me as much as I want,” Monk said, per The Athletic's Jovan Buha. “But I could be here and be way more comfortable as a Laker than going to any other team and they're paying me $5 million more. So it's just me trying to figure out what team would really want me."

    As Smith noted, Monk should be one of the hottest names on the free-agent market. He averaged 13.8 points this past season while shooting 39.1 percent from beyond the arc. While Monk may take less to remain a Laker, L.A. would almost certainly have to use the mid-level exception to retain him.

    This complicates matters because L.A. may still be holding out hope that a player like Irving can negotiate a buyout. Therefore, the Lakers may not move quickly on a Monk deal, and it's unlikely that the shooting specialist will remain unclaimed long after free agency opens on Thursday.

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