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The challenge facing the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2022 NBA offseason is astronomical.
They must navigate a tough financial crisis, a shortage of greenfield assets, an uncertain future with LeBron James, and serious questions around Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook to have a summer so productive that they forget the colossally disappointing 2021-2022 campaign.
It seems unbelievable, but the James-Davies duo have already proven themselves to be the backbone of the championship, so perhaps the right changes could lift this club up again.
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The trio of James, Davis and Westbrook is expensive.
Together they are making almost $130 million from next season’s books alone. Spotrak. Those contracts are more than enough for Los Angeles to face an estimated $149 million luxury tax, and that’s not counting money still owed to Talen Horton-Tucker ($10.3 million base salary) or Kendrick Nunn (5 .3 million dollars) plus something else. they spend on free will.
Admittedly, there isn’t much to spend, at least. They will have an exemption for mid-level taxpayers, but that’s about it. If the front office does not make any deals, it will have to fill the rest of the roster with the minimum number of contracts.
Last summer, the Lakers missed mid-range (losing to Nunn, who lost all season with a knee injury) and a few minimum trades (DeAndre Jordan, Trevor Arisa, and Kent Bazemore). This time, they should capitalize more on these arrangements and uncover as many deals as possible.
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The first question to decide is whether to sell Westbrook.
The 33-year-old has just had one of the least productive seasons of his career and is set to become one of the best players in the NBA. five most valuable players next season when he chooses the player option. He also looks like a fish out of water on this offense as he doesn’t shoot well enough to add value to the ball and isn’t productive enough to spend too much time on it.
A trade seems like the best option here, but it would require some serious concessions from the Lakers. They may have to forgo a first round or two. They may have to revoke a bloated contract or two. They may have to do all of the above. The cost will be significant, and even if Los Angeles finds a better player, they won’t walk away with a better player.
Beyond the Westbrook conundrum, the Lakers must decide how hard they are willing to push without any guarantees from James regarding his future. He only signed for next season and cannot sign an extension until August.
If the 37-year-old chooses greener pasture next summer, this franchise could be hit hard if it sacrifices even more long-term assets before he leaves.
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Don’t look for bursts from this squad on the loose. There just isn’t enough money to do it.
The Lakers look set to throw their biggest asset (MLE) at Malik Monk and hope that’s enough after his breakout campaign.
The 24-year-old should generate some serious interest as a former lottery player who just converted 47.3% of his field goals and 39.1% of his three-pointers, and it’s entirely possible that Los Angeles won’t make the highest offer he’ll receive.
However, as long as the Lakers offer is close to the maximum dollar he owns, he seems like a relatively safe bet to stay. He sounds interested in staying, and our crystal ball sees him making a short-term deal that allows him to re-enter the market in a year or two to sign a longer, more lucrative contract with the Lakers.
This will be the biggest wave of free will. As for some of the off-season bonus picks, we don’t see Westbrook traded or James renewed, but we do see Los Angeles trading in the second round of this draft to get younger and sportier.