Discussions about running it back for the 2021-22 season have dominated the Los Angeles Lakers early offseason mindset. And while that is definitely a feasible option, the Lakers could also face an offseason of monumental change, with 11 players potentially hitting free agency.
As of now, the Lakers have seven unrestricted free agents, three restricted free agents and a player option. They could bring back most, if not all, of them. However, they could completely rebuild the roster around LeBron James and Anthony Davis as well.
Part 1 of this free agency primer will serve as a guide for those players most likely to leave the Lakers this offseason and why they may be on the way out.
Montrezl Harrell: Player Option
Backup center Montrezl Harrell represents the team’s lone player option that’s worth about $9.5 million. Harrell can either accept his player option, meaning he’ll be under contract with L.A. for that amount for one more season.
He can also decline this option, allowing him to reach unrestricted free agency with the Lakers only being allowed to re-sign him for a maximum of $11 million due to not having his bird rights. However, if the Lakers center opts out, it is unlikely he will be back with the team.
Harrell was one of the only players to not express any enthusiasm regarding running it back. Due to his role being completely diminished by the postseason, it would not be surprising to see Harrell playing elsewhere next season.
Dennis Schroder: UFA with Bird Rights
Schroder’s free agency is perhaps the most intriguing of all 11 players as there have been conflicting stories as to where his loyalties lie. On the surface, it would appear that Schroder absolutely wants to stay in L.A., as he has talked about running it back multiple times.
Meanwhile, he turned down numerous contract extensions and wants to see his value in the open market. There is already reported interest from the Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks. Of these three, only the Knicks would be able to sign him using cap space. The other two would likely need to execute a sign-and-trade to get his services.
The Lakers have shown repeated interest in Kyle Lowry, providing an easy way for them to get Schroder to the Raptors if he approves. Beyond that, Schroder’s free agency is extremely unpredictable. However, re-signing him is a perfectly reasonable option given the team’s lack of flexibility if he walks for nothing. Look for L.A. to either re-sign him or execute a sign-and-trade so they don’t lose the asset for nothing.
Andre Drummond: Non-Bird UFA
Drummond’s free agency case is also a tricky one as he has already stated on social media that he will not accept a minimum contract from the Lakers or anyone else.
To re-sign Drummond, the Lakers would need to eat into that $5.9 million MLE, either giving the 27-year old center some or all of that money. L.A. has reiterated its commitment to Drummond on multiple occasions, however, the Lakers will need to seriously consider if it’s worth eating into what little resources they have on a center who can be played off the floor entirely in the playoffs.
Because of this, it would be unsurprising to see Drummond playing elsewhere in 2021-22.
Ben McLemore: Non-Bird UFA
Ben McLemore was another player — like Harrell — who wasn’t overly enthusiastic about running it back. The Lakers can only offer McLemore a veteran minimum or some of their MLE. It’s hard to see L.A. using any of their cap flexibility on a guy who simply didn’t play that much. Because of that, McLemore will likely play elsewhere unless he wants to return on a veteran minimum.
Devontae Cacok: Early-Bird RFA
Devontae Cacok is one of two two-way players on the Lakers books. Very simply, it’s unlikely that Cacok will be on the Lakers next season as giving him a legitimate NBA contract makes little sense given how unproven he is. He is also 24, so the Lakers will want to use their two-way spot on someone a little younger.
Kostas Anteokounmpo: RFA with Bird Rights
Similar to Cacok, it’s extremely unlikely that Kostas Antetokounmpo is on the Lakers next season. They want to reserve their two-way spot for someone younger and with greater potential, and he hasn’t shown enough to warrant an NBA contract.
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