Yesterday, your Los Angeles Lakers made an early splash as trade season heats up, flipping Kendrick Nunn and three second-round draft selections in exchange for Washington Wizards power forward Rui Hachimura, a former 2019 lottery pick still on his rookie scale contract.
Now, Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register is curious about whether or not Lakers team president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka will make further moves to address the other shortcomings of this Lakers roster beyond the issues of size and catch-and-shot triples that the Hachimura deal begins to address.
Until he signs his next contract, Hachimura’s $18.8 million cap hold will impact the Lakers’ projected available cap space this summer, per Goon. Even provided that the Lakers sign him to an annual salary below that number ($10-12 million per year seems about in line with what he would fetch elsewhere, I’m assuming), it could cut into their future flexibility.
That said, before free agency hits, LA could try to make moves while technically over the salary cap (thanks to his cap hold and those of the team’s other free agents), which would give the club a full mid-level exception signing, a biannual exception. Because Los Angeles possesses Russell Westbrook’s Bird Rights, the team could opt to hold onto the overpriced point guard as a free agent, signing him to a deal more in line with his current play. He remains good, if no longer a maximum-salaried piece, and in my opinion could fetch anywhere between $8-12 million on the open market.
Goon notes that another route LA could go would be trying to trade Westbrook’s $47.1 million expiring deal in free agency. This might make more sense, given his erratic output as a scorer and playmaker. With Nunn off the board, LA can still flip its future first-round selections in 2027 and 2029, as well as the expiring deals of Patrick Beverley and Lonnie Walker IV. Walker, of course, has actually been good, so LA would have to either be making a clear upgrade if it wanted to move him.
With LeBron James looking terrific of late, LA has gone 10-9 despite All-Star center Anthony Davis being shelved with a right foot stress injury. Would Pelinka really want to waste another stellar season from the team’s 38-year-old Hall of Famer?