Mailbag Monday: Assessing the Lakers’ young players and free agency options

It’s Monday, so you know what that means. It’s time for this week’s Lakers Outsiders mailbag. As always, I want to thank everyone that sent in questions. If you ever want to send us questions for the mailbag, just comment on our Facebook pagetweet at us or send us an email at to let us know and we will get you in there.

No time wasted. Let’s dive right in.

I think it would take a very rare matchup for this to ever happen. Offensively, this would require Brook Lopez to almost exclusively be a floor spacer and just be a spot up shooter from the perimeter. Obviously, he is a very capable three-point shooter, but his offensive game is so much more than that. The Lakers need to provide Lonzo Ball with as much floor spacing as they can in order to let him really play his game. With Lopez and Andrew Bogut on the floor together, the former would be severely underutilized. If the Lakers wanted to allow Lopez to attack inside, him and Bogut together would really clog the lane.

Defensively, it would probably be a nightmare. I like Bogut on that end of the floor and Lopez has some rim-protection chops of his own, but with more and more teams using smaller, faster lineups, they would really struggle to defend speed and quickness out on the perimeter. The Lakers already have enough defensive problems. I would be surprised if we ever see them on the court together, and if we do, it’s probably because their opponent has similar personnel on the floor.

Seeing as Kyle Kuzma is arguably the greatest basketball player of all-time, he would probably be the top pick. If Space Jam 2 ever gets made, they should just cast Kuzma so that he can keep the planet safe.

Okay, in all honesty, this is a tricky question because Kuzma is an older prospect at the age of 22. A lot of people value upside in the younger prospects. Obviously, in a re-draft, other players could move up and down the board as well, but the spot that jumps out at me is No. 7 for the Chicago Bulls (via Minnesota).

Chicago selected Lauri Markkanen, who provides sharpshooting as a big man, but Kuzma has also proven to be an excellent shooter. Right now, I think Kuzma is a better scorer and can just do more than Markkanen. That could obviously change in the future, but Kuzma has been beyond impressive thus far. Maybe I have him a little high, and I’m sure this answer will change in the future, but at this point in time, Kuzma looks to be one of the top rookies of his draft class.

hEy gArY — okay, I’ll stop there.

I think it’s safe to say that they should all at least be wary that it could happen. If the Lakers would trade their best young player at the time in D’Angelo Russell with the primary motive being to clear cap space for next summer, a lot of guys on the roster could be candidates to be dealt, especially Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson.

Because of a provision in the new NBA collective bargaining agreement, Randle’s cap hold is going to be about $12.4 million if the Lakers want him to remain a restricted free agent next summer. If they trade him for expiring money or renounce his rights and make him an unrestricted free agent, essentially waving the cap hold, the Lakers would still need to waive and stretch Luol Deng’s contract because I doubt any team will absorb his salary for the next two seasons after this one is over. They would also need to trade Clarkson to get in the ball park of being able to offer two max contracts like they have hinted their desire to do.

The Lakers have a lot of work still to do if they want to clear the cap space necessary to really pursue their plans next summer. When the NBA trade deadline approaches in February, buckle up. Only Brandon Ingram, Ball and Kuzma appear to be safe.

I think this is more likely than the Lakers landing two stars in free agency. As I mentioned in the previous question, the Lakers still have to make some moves in order to free up enough salary cap space. Could they land two stars next summer? Sure, anything is possible and I think Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka offer so much more personality and charisma than Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss, which could appeal more to players. But we’ve seen their free agency luck in recent years. Until we actually see it change, we should probably keep expectations in check.

I hope Johnson and Pelinka don’t learn the hard away about banking so heavily on free agency, but it would not surprise me if they are dealt a harsh reality check. If they are lucky enough to pull one marquee free agent, I could see them doing everything they can to retain Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The latter offers a solid defensive guard and offensive fit next to Ball, and Lopez is an excellent big that can stretch the floor, which the Lakers definitely need.

Obviously, the dream is to land two All-Star caliber free agents next summer. I’m curious to see what the front office’s backup plan is if that doesn’t happen. It very well could involve retaining Lopez and Caldwell-Pope.

That will do it for this week’s mailbag! Thank you to those of you that sent us questions. Excellent questions this week. I hope to have a bunch more next Monday. Again, if you think of any, send them our way.

Leave a Reply