The Los Angeles Lakers fell just short of being a model franchise this season. With Kobe Bryant‘s farewell tour getting a ton of attention and taking the focus off basketball, the Lakers fell to 17-65 and had their worst season ever. However, it won’t be long until Los Angeles is back in the playoff picture. With so much estimated cap room, the Lakers are poised to make a run at LA-native DeMar DeRozan and a wingman who can go into battle with him.
They have an outstanding young core of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson if he chooses to re-sign. Moreover, LA is projected to have a top-3 pick in this year’s draft and will more than likely walk away with Brandon Ingram, Ben Simmons, Buddy Hield, or another top prospect — if it falls outside of the top-3, Philly gets their pick. But wait, it gets better. Not only do they have an opportunity to walk away with a top pick, but they also have more cap space than anyone else at more than $60M.
DeMar DeRozan has been reported as saying he would have no problem going to the Lakers as he’s California born and breed; grew up in Compton and played at USC, which is right down the street from the STAPLES Center. Since Roy Hibbert was righteously overpaid this past year and will be a free agent, the Lakers should let him walk and make a run at a star center: Al Horford, Hassan Whiteside, Andre Drummond. For argument’s sake, we’ll use Whiteside because he’s the most deserving of a ~$90M-ish contract. (I simply don’t feel comfortable giving a large sum of money to a player who can’t be on the floor in the closing minutes of a ball game.) Below, I’m going to run through how the Lakers can sign two all-stars this summer.
All contract information was collected from Basketball-Reference.
Lakers’ Guaranteed Contracts
*Brandon Bass is a player-option and they could be up three-million more if he decides to leave.
*The $5.3M for the top-3 pick is an average of what 2015’s first three picks will be making in 2016-17 because the rookie scale contract will increase.
DeRozan and Whiteside
Deservingly, both of these guys will be getting max contracts. DeRozan has emerged as an excellent slashing guard who had a career season while Whiteside left his mark on almost every single game he played.
DeRozan had a career-high 23.5 points per game and rose his three-point percentage to 34% — while not a knockdown shooter, it’s a huge improvement on his 28% last year. He’s also fantastic at getting into the lane, creating contact, and finishing his free throws. With 555 made free throws (2nd in the league) out of 653 attempts (third in the league), DeRozan hits a remarkable 85% of his foul shots. A pick-and-roll between him and Whiteside, with shooters spacing the floor, has such potential lethality.
Count Blockula, as he’s so accurately called, led the league in blocks (269), blocks per game (3.7), and defensive rating (94.5); was third in total rebounds (865), rebounds per game (11.8), and field goal percentage (60.6%); and was seventh in PER (25.7). While he doesn’t have much of an offensive game, he’s decent enough in the post to warrant respect; he’ll get his money’s worth on defense and catching lobs.
With the rise of the salary cap, the starting point of max contracts will also increase. Players with less than six years of experience (Whiteside) will start bids at an estimated $21.1M; those with seven-to-nine years experience (DeRozan) will begin with $25.3M and anyone with more than ten will start at $29.5M.
If I were looking to sign these two, DeRozan would get a four-year, $104M contract which works out to $26M per year; Whiteside would get four years also, but at $88M. Those contracts are under the presumption that neither guy would take less than a max deal if the team can afford it.
Since the Lakers had 15 players under contract this year, I used that as the benchmark for the remaining salaries. It’s safe to assume that LA is going to do whatever they can to resign Clarkson, who qualifies for the Gilbert Arenas Provision, leaving them a decent chunk of change to play with.
If they really wanted to make a run, they could try to coax one more big name and form their own big three. The only con is that they’d resemble the Miami Heat from a few years ago and have almost no one on the bench.