Lakers Rumors: Buzz on Ben Simmons Trade, Dennis Schroder and Marc Gasol Amid FA
NBA free agency only officially began on Friday, but the Los Angeles Lakers had the foundation for their 2021-22 squad set even before then. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are still the centerpieces, but several new faces will join them this season.
The reloading process began on draft night, as the Lakers and the Washington Wizards agreed to a deal that would send Russell Westbrook to L.A. Once teams were allowed to begin free-agent negotiations on August 2, the Lakers moved quickly to get several deals lined up.
By Friday, Los Angeles had agreed in principle with the likes of Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Kendrick Nunn, Malik Monk, Kent Bazemore and Wayne Ellington.
Los Angeles had to say goodbye to a few familiar faces along the way, though, as Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell were part of the Westbrook deal—and Alex Caruso joined the Chicago Bulls in free agency. Dennis Schroder also hit the open market, though he remains unsigned.
With free agency entering its second wave, the Lakers may not be quite done making moves. There are some intriguing possibilities left on the proverbial table and at least one missed opportunity worth examining.
Let's take a look at the latest Lakers buzz.
Dennis Schroder in Talks with Boston
Before the Lakers agreed to acquire Westbrook, they were in on Sacramento Kings shooting guard Buddy Hield. In fact, Los Angeles was close enough to an agreement with the Kings that players who thought they were going to Sacramento were blindsided.
"A deal to send Hield to the Lakers for [Montrezl] Harrell and [Kyle] Kuzma seemed all but certain, until it wasn't," The Athletic's Jason Jones wrote. " ... League sources said all the players involved in the much-discussed Lakers-Kings deal expected that trade to happen."
While that deal fell apart, the Lakers reportedly entered free agency still hoping to execute a Hield trade. According to Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer, that maneuver would have involved a Schroder sign-and-trade.
"The Los Angeles Lakers hope to net returning talent in a sign-and-trade involving the 27-year-old, and they have not ended their search for ways to land Buddy Hield," Fischer wrote.
Unfortunately, any chance of working a sign-and-trade may be out the window for Los Angeles. According to Fischer, Schroder is "engaged in conversations" with the Boston Celtics. According to Spotrac contributor Keith Smith, there is mutual interest between Schroder and Boston, but the Celtics are only looking for a short-term deal.
Per Smith, Schroder hopes to land a longer contract and/or more money than Boston can offer, so L.A.'s sign-and-trade dreams may not be dead just yet.
Ben Simmons Interested in a California Team
The Philadelphia 76ers are open to moving point guard Ben Simmons, though they're not going to do so at a bargain price.
"To this point, the Sixers have shown no interest in settling. Leaks around the league line up with that thinking, each reported offer from Philly's end over the last few weeks more ambitious than the last," Kyle Neubeck of the Philadelphia Voice wrote before the start of free agency.
Simmons has not been dealt yet, but he also appears to have no interest in returning to Philadelphia. According to Jason Dumas of KRON4News, the relationship between Simmons and the Sixers is "beyond repair."
"He hasn't returned Joel Embiid's calls," Dumas said during an appearance with 95.7 The Game. "He hasn't been in touch with many other of the players. He's essentially taken a step back and said, 'Hey, all my communication is going to be through my agent.' ... He doesn't want to return to the Sixers."
Dumas also noted that Simmons isn't interested in being traded to a bad team but is "open to the California teams."
While Dumas doesn't specifically mention the Lakers—they share California with the Kings, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors—it does make for an intriguing possibility. The Lakers are expected to be one of the top contenders in 2021-22, and as such, they could be attractive to Simmons.
Of course, Los Angeles is almost entirely devoid of tradeable assets, which makes any Simmons-to-L.A. scenario unlikely. Things could change if Philadelphia eventually decides to drop its asking price, but that doesn't appear to be on the immediate horizon.
Lakers Passed on a Marc Gasol Trade
The Lakers were interested in retaining Caruso, but only at a certain price point. They certainly weren't willing to match Chicago's offer of four years and $37 million.
"From what I have heard and from what you have heard, the Lakers' offer was not close, which belies some luxury-tax concerns," Lowe told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne on the Lowe Post podcast (h/t RealGM).
One interesting aspect of the Caruso pursuit, however, is that Los Angeles could have done a sign-and-trade with Caruso and the Minnesota Timberwolves—a deal that would also have included center Marc Gasol.
"It would have been a sign-and-trade, and [Minnesota] actually would have taken back Marc Gasol. Like that could have been salary cap relief for the Lakers, not just a trade exception," Shelburne said on the podcast (h/t Corey Hansford of Lakers Nation). "So we'll see if they end up needing those exceptions, we'll see if they end up needing those extra tools to build this roster out."
Dealing Gasol would have helped L.A.'s cap situation by clearing his $2.7 million salary from the books. The Lakers would still have lost out on Caruso in this scenario, but they lost out on him anyway while generating no additional cap relief.
While Gasol appeared in 52 games for the Lakers this past season, he was an underwhelming role player who averaged just 5.0 points and 4.1 rebounds.