The Los Angeles Lakers might not have brought in the biggest superstars this offseason, but they have been active.
Deals for Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng seem excessive until you realize how high the salary cap has jumped. Although neither player is Kevin Durant, each will have a positive impact on next year's team.
The team also recently acquired Jose Calderon as a backup point guard, per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, reportedly leaving about $10 million in the salary cap.
This doesn't leave a whole lot of room to make major moves, but the team could be eyeing a few deals to complete the roster before the start of next season.
Before anything gets done, perhaps the biggest question is what happens with Nick Young. As Bresnahan reported, the guard "has two more years on his contract totaling $11 million, but it will be a surprise if he’s not traded or waived before training camp."
Swaggy P averaged only 7.3 points per game last season and has pretty much lost his value on this team. He also almost blew off his hand last week, so he might not be missed.
Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders explains what the team could gain in cap space:
That would provide a little more breathing room and possibly enable the team to go after some more free agents.
One player the squad could target is Maurice Harkless, who has shown a lot of potential at just 23 years old. The Portland Trail Blazers player is a restricted free agent, but the Lakers have apparent interest, per Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:
While this was before Los Angeles added Deng, the team could still use a younger wing who is willing to play defense. It might take some playing time away from Brandon Ingram, but there will be plenty of minutes to go around next season.
Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated reported the Lakers as one of five teams interested in Harkless at the start of free agency, but no one has made a move with an offer sheet yet. If the team still wants to bring him in, it seems like a possibility.
The same could be said about Tyler Zeller, who was on the team's wish list at the start of free agency, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com. Even though the team already added Mozgov, Zeller could provide more of an offensive presence in the post alongside Julius Randle.
With all these small moves, though, Lakers fans are hoping for a blockbuster deal that will make headlines. The biggest possibility is the addition of Russell Westbrook.
One option the team is considering is attempting to renegotiate and extend the contract of Westbrook before he can become a free agent after next season, sources told ESPN.
If Westbrook chooses not to extend his contract this summer, multiple league executives told ESPN they believe the Thunder will consider fielding trade offers for Westbrook.
Turner Sports' David Aldridge later reported the All-Star as being unwilling to renegotiate his contract, which means a trade might be the best option to avoid losing him for nothing the following season. All of a sudden, there is a realistic chance Westbrook ends up in Los Angeles.
Additionally, ESPN.com's David Thorpe called the Lakers the "likely destination for Westbrook" through free agency when discussing hypothetical trades. This gives the options of either waiting a year and signing him for nothing or packaging a deal to get a leg up when free agency comes.
ESPN's Tom Penn explained Westbrook's potential willingness to come to Los Angeles:
The problem is it will cost a lot to get Westbrook now. According to Thorpe, the team would have to give up Ingram, Randle and D'Angelo Russell in a potential deal. This would take away all the work the squad has done to rebuild over the past couple of years.
Then again, waiting for free agency has its problems too, per ESPN.com's Zach Lowe:
In practice, that is a risk, especially given the Lakers can no longer get star free agents to pick up their calls. Everyone will have cap space again next summer, including the crosstown Clippers. Unless you know for sure -- wink, wink -- Westbrook is in, there is value in picking him up ahead of time and securing the right to offer him more years and more cash.
No matter what the Lakers do this season, they are not realistically going to contend for a championship. The best-case scenario is sneaking into the playoffs as a low seed if everything goes well. With that in mind, they would be better off seeing what happens and waiting until next year to make a bold move.
If they can grab Westbrook without giving up any of their young stars, this is a squad that could be a serious contender before too long.
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