As 2019 NBA free agency gets underway at 3:00 p.m. PST, the Los Angeles Lakers front office seems to have a clear plan in place for use of the team’s remaining cap space.
The first option for the Lakers is unquestionably signing Kawhi Leonard as they have a meeting set up with him shortly after free agency begins. If the Lakers are unable to convince Leonard to sign with them, their other options are dwindling as Kyrie Irving has already committed to the Brooklyn Nets while Klay Thompson is heading back to the Golden State Warriors and Kemba Walker is planning to sign with the Boston Celtics.
With that in mind, it seems the second-best option for the Lakers currently is a reunion with D’Angelo Russell. After the Net sign Irving, they are expected to renounce the rights to Russell, making him an unrestricted free agent.
The Lakers reportedly reached out to Russell and his representatives for a meeting and there is expected to be mutual interest in a reunion despite how they parted ways when he was traded to the Nets just two years ago.
Despite the Lakers having interest in Russell, it appears they are unwilling to offer him his full max contract, according to Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner of Los Angeles Times:
The Lakers aren’t likely to offer Russell a maximum contract, which would be $27.285 million per year, but they could get close.
With Brooklyn no longer in the mix, it is unclear what Russell’s market will look like so the Lakers may very well be able to offer him less than his max and still sign him. The Minnesota Timberwolves are believed to have interest in the 23-year-old, but they currently do not have cap space so they would need to trade some of their high-contract players before signing him or complete a sign-and-trade with the Nets.
If the Lakers are able to convince Russell to sign for around $20-22 million per season, then that would leave them with $10-plus million in cap space to pursue other free agents. Some potential fits could include Patrick Beverley, Seth Curry, and Danny Green.
While Leonard and Russell seem to be the first two options for Los Angeles, signing Jimmy Butler can also not be ruled out yet as well as splitting up their cap space among three or four role players to help add depth around LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Kyle Kuzma.