Los Angeles Lakers general manager and vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka has rightfully received plenty of criticism for the way the 2021-22 season has gone. One of the few things he absolutely did right though was signing Malik Monk to a veteran minimum contract.
In his fourth NBA season, Monk is averaging career-highs across the board and has been one of the silver linings in a difficult Lakers season. He has played his way to a regular place in the starting lineup and could be in line for a bigger payday this offseason.
Pelinka, when asked about Monk and his future with the Lakers, said that the partnership has been great for both sides to this point, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
“The partnership has been a win from both sides,” Pelinka says. “Both for the Lakers, in terms of the productivity he’s had for us and then I think on his side, just showing people what he can do in big moments in big games. … He’s a guy that we would see as hopefully a part of our future.”
Both Monk and the Lakers have said throughout the season that they would love to keep this partnership going for years to come. However, keeping Monk may prove to be a difficult task if the team’s salary situation cannot be restructured.
Since Monk is in his first year of a new contract with the Lakers, they do not have bird rights on him, meaning they are limited to two options. They can pay him up to 120% of his current salary — about $2.2 million — or they can use a mid-level exception to sign him.
But with Russell Westbrook’s albatross $47 million potentially on the books in some form, the Lakers will be limited to a taxpayer mid-level exception, expected to be around $6.3 million. At this point, Monk is likelier to get offers in the range of the full mid-level exception around $11 million.
So Pelinka may have a difficult choice with Monk. He may not be able to find a Westbrook trade that sheds enough salary to offer Monk a full MLE, meaning he can offer Monk the taxpayer MLE and hope he takes a discount as a favor to L.A.
Or he could make a bold move like waiving and stretching the final year of Westbrook’s deal, opening up a full MLE that he could then offer to Monk. It’s unclear which L.A. prefers at this point, and that’s a question that likely won’t be answered until late June.
Austin Reaves relishing in starting role
Like Monk, the Lakers have also found a gem in undrafted rookie Austin Reaves. After recently becoming a full-time starter, Reaves spoke about what it means to have that type of role with the Lakers. “It’s an amazing feeling just for me personally.
“Like I said earlier in the year, starting really doesn’t matter but being an undrafted rookie, it’s like the cherry on the top for me,” Reaves said. “It makes it a little surreal. But like I said earlier, starting isn’t the whole thing but it definitely feels good.”
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