Chances the Lakers pursue Kyrie Irving, No. 17 pick plans and the big question looming over it all

In Part 1 of our Lakers offseason mailbag, we discuss the potential for Hachimura’s Rui and Russell’s D’Angelo to grow and improve, the targets in free agency, and the retirement plans of LeBron James, without leaving any aspect untouched.

Among the various subjects, one of the most probable topics that sophomore Christie’s Max and other players will discuss is the return of Irving Kyrie, who is a Laker and has the odds of being picked as the No. 17. This is considered to be the biggest fate of the Lakers’ offseason, and it is being discussed in Part 2 here.

(Note: Questions have been revised to make them shorter and easier to understand.)

Are the Lakers more interested in retaining everyone who played in the playoffs and adding someone like Trae Young or Kyrie Irving, Zach LaVine, or DeMar DeRozan as a third star for their team, or are they considering gutting their roster for a first-round pick in 2023 like Malik Beasley or Mo Bamba?

From LeBron James’ aside, the question of the summer is whether the Lakers will pursue a third star to run it back with the group that made it to the Western Conference finals.

It was a dilemma in 2021 that led to Russell Westbrook being misguided. It was an attempt to solve their supplementary ballhandling conundrum, a half-measure, when they traded for Dennis Schröder and the No. 28 pick in the 2020 NBA draft for Oklahoma City. The question arose again in 2020 when they traded Danny Green. In the 2019 offseason, the Lakers attempted to form a big three with Davis, Leonard, and James, trading for Leonard Kawhi and Davis and dating back to each offseason for the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency. Basically, it’s been a question for the Lakers.

In accordance with the newly implemented, more stringent collective bargaining agreement, the Lakers intend to retain as many members from last season’s group as their financial capacity allows. Provided a player meets a specific standard and is considered compatible with James and Davis, the team will solely pursue the addition of a third star.

I think they run it back, or try to upgrade the point guard/lead ballhandler spot (Kyrie Irving, Fred VanVleet, Trae Young, etc.).

What is the probability that Kyrie Irving will become a member of the Los Angeles Lakers this summer? — @IKeepGrindin.

There are many factors that favor the Lakers in going to land the land, but there are certainly many possible factors. It’s a difficult question to answer if I would go low somewhere in the range of 10 to 15 percent.

The Lakers may face the possibility of losing several important players from last season’s team (including Schröder, Lonnie Walker IV, and possibly Hachimura), which could lead to the need for the Lakers to make challenging decisions and operate under a hard-cap. According to Tim Cato of The Athletic, it is unlikely that Dallas will engage in such actions, and this would mean that the Mavericks would need to cooperate. The ideal scenario for the Lakers would be to acquire him through a sign-and-trade with Dallas.

In that situation, the Lakers’ roster would likely consist of several entry-level contracts and a mid-level exception signing, Austin Reaves, Irving, Davis, and James. To make this a possibility, Los Angeles would need to sacrifice its depth and create cap space. However, Irving has not demonstrated any inclination to do so and would need to accept a significant reduction in salary to join the Lakers in free agency, which is a more realistic scenario.

As per the Lakers’ indications, the notion of Irving joining Los Angeles is merely a fantasy. (In the event that this collaboration fails, speculations about Irving joining the Lakers might resurface during the 2024 trade deadline. However, even if Irving signs a long-term contract with Dallas or another team, the possibility of him going to Los Angeles remains theoretical.) Nonetheless, I previously reported this information in mid-March.

There are several hurdles that Irving must overcome in order to get his hands dirty and force his way out of Los Angeles. Unless he is willing to make unrealistic concessions, it is unlikely that the agency or trade will allow Irving to acquire the chance to return to the Lakers’ cave. This is due to the uncertainty surrounding his potential leverage and the offseason, as well as James’ affinity for continuity and prioritizing power star depth over risking the future of the team. While Irving is a better fit for Davis and James next season, Westbrook is a much better player. The Lakers have already tried and failed with the three-star approach.

If it is completed as soon as possible, is it a mutually beneficial situation for both parties going into the upcoming season? What is the probability of securing (D’Angelo Russell) in the $22-$24 million range per year on a two-year deal?

Your proposal is a reasonable outcome for both sides, as it aligns Russell’s contract with the timetables of Davis and James, with an eligible extension becoming available in August 2025 and an option for early termination signed through 2024.

I believe that the Lakers’ offer can put pressure on Russell to come closer to the $18 million annual range. I think it’s a team where he can compete and make a swoop in the current free-agent market, which is the market where the team is located. Considering Russell’s inconsistency in the playoffs, I believe it’s a slight overpayment.

It’s hard to justify paying him over $20 million annually. Even though Schröder, Hachimura, Reaves, and Davis are sometimes behind him, James is the best player on the Lakers, either sixth or fifth. But this conversation would be different if Russell performed better in the postseason. The difference between Russell’s $25 million and $18 million annually could be consequential. Every dollar matters with the new CBA, as teams face increasing penalties for exceeding the luxury tax.

@Dagger112233 — What is your opinion on their inclination? Do you believe the Lakers should retain or exchange the No. 17 selection?

Is it possible that the Lakers are exploring a trade that includes the No. 17 pick?

What is your opinion on how they will use the 17th choice? — @Is_it_right.

Multiple sources from the Lakers organization have indicated that the outcome most likely to happen with the 17th pick is the team keeping it. However, it has been made clear that these sources are not authorized to speak publicly. It is possible that the Lakers could change their decision and trade the pick later on if they receive an enticing offer, which could involve trading for a starting-level player like Myles Turner from the Indiana Pacers. This was discussed in Part 1 of this mailbag, where I expressed my belief that the Lakers should consider this trade to secure an upgrade.

The Lakers scouting department, co-owned by Jesse Buss and the general manager assistant, has a remarkable track record, increasing the likelihood that whoever they draft could eventually be more valuable than the average player in the market.

There is a chance to find a player who can help both now and in the future. Javaris Crittenton was the last non-lottery pick in the teens in 2007. Since 2017, they haven’t retained one of their own first-round picks, but if there is an appealing and obvious offer, Los Angeles will strike.

Which players are least likely to be retained? — @Jrsmithrange. Output: Which players are most unlikely to be kept? — @Jrsmithrange.

It’s difficult to predict because there are numerous possibilities for how the Lakers’ offseason could unfold.

It appears that the roster for the upcoming season becomes uncertain after James ($46.9 million), Davis ($40.6 million), Reaves (approximately $12.5 million if he agrees to the maximum salary allowed under the Arenas Provision), Hachimura ($15 to $18 million), Jarred Vanderbilt ($4.7 million), and Christie ($1.7 million) are included. That is my belief.

The Lakers are expected to return six aforementioned players, including Walker or Schröder and Russell, as free agents. They are pushing to sign players with salaries of $8 million or more, with a team option of $16.5 million for Beasley and a non-guaranteed salary of $10.3 million for Bamba. The Lakers’ roster currently holds empty spots or cap holds, factoring in salaries of around $125 million to $120 million. However, if Beasley and Bamba don’t come back, the Lakers will only have two players.

If it is logical, the Lakers will investigate their possibilities and enhance. However, his comeback is not guaranteed, Russell is more probable than not to return.

The projected value for the third year of the midlevel exception is estimated to be $5 million per year, possibly the taxpayer midlevel exception. Los Angeles would have to utilize this exception if they intend to offer Dennis Schröder an amount exceeding $3.8 million in his initial year as a free agent. Nonetheless, since they lack his non-Bird rights, they are eager to retain him.

I believe there will be interested parties, as they will provide more assured playing time and opportunities to shoot. Walker is currently ranked fourth in the hierarchy of guards, and at most, he will have to compete with the potential comebacks of Russell and Schröder, as well as Reaves’ rise. Given his success in the later stages of the playoffs, he can leverage this into a more prominent position on another team, since I doubt Walker will return.

The Lakers could retain Tristan Thompson, Wenyen Gabriel, and Troy Brown Jr. As veteran-minimum candidates. They should choose them at a similar price. Harrison Shaq, who has a non-guaranteed contract worth $2.4 million for the next season, will be waived.

Will Dennis Schröder come back? — @MulukenGuey.Output: Is there any possibility of Dennis Schröder returning? — @MulukenGuey.

I believe that delving deeper into the Schröder situation is worthwhile.

The primary concern for the Lakers is, fundamentally, what is their most significant requirement during this offseason?

In order to preserve significant salary on their cap sheet, opting to replace Russell with him would require the Lakers to allocate approximately $12.2 million towards Schröder, should they decide to go with the first choice. Should they wish to retain Schröder, they would need to utilize either the taxpayer mid-level exception, projected to be around $5.0 million, or the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, projected to be around $12.2 million.

The limited address to them and, they address to have additional needs. To mitigate this, the Lakers could consider adding a quality backup center or another valuable resource like a wing to their roster-building efforts. The downside is that it would incur additional costs, but using an exception for Schröder could help offset this.

I expect the Clippers, Lakers, and teams like Golden State, Denver, and Boston to try to address the exception in their trade, as the talent in the wing position for the Los Angeles Lakers isn’t oozing in a more modernized way. I would guess that the Clippers would prefer another player in the wing rotation who is more reliable than Beasley, Brown, or Walker, considering that they were weak spots in the rotation during the playoffs.

The Lakers, aiming to retain the group as extensively as they can, highly appreciate Schröder’s contribution in the playoffs of 2023 and choose to retain him, possibly. However, they already possess a strong base at the point guard position with James and the probable comebacks of Reaves and Russell (or his substitute). If it entails addressing the team’s requirements on the perimeter or the forward position, Schröder is likely dispensable.

How can the Lakers improve their shooting? The main difference between Denver and them was their ability to score and the long droughts they had.

I believe these are technically two distinct inquiries, although shooting is applicable in both cases.

Following the previous season, James, in addition to Davis, has been eagerly awaiting an improvement in his shooting ability. The younger players such as Reaves, Hachimura, Vanderbilt, Russell, and Christie, have the potential to shoot more accurately and consistently. Through individual growth and the acquisition of new players either through signings or trades, the Lakers can enhance their shooting capabilities.

Consequently, a superior group of shooters would expand the area near the basket even further and generate improved opportunities. The offense will heavily rely on James’ aggressive drives and Davis’ dominance in the interior. However, there will always be a cap on the number of shots they can take, considering James and Davis are the main players. The Lakers prioritize enhancing their 3-point shooting for the upcoming season.

The Lakers’ offense struggled to generate consistent offense when LeBron James didn’t return from his typical foot injury burst against Denver and the Golden State series. The absence of Anthony Davis was a significant issue, particularly during a stretch of games where the Lakers’ offense stagnated. I believe the biggest factor holding them back is shooting. I don’t think the offense itself is the only thing to blame, but I do think it’s a major factor.

In an offensive manner, the Lakers cannot afford to keep things as they are. They must introduce additional shooting by incorporating all three positional archetypes: centers, forwards, and guards.

Is Darvin Ham going to discontinue his three-guard lineups in the upcoming season? — @DoingTheDada.

According to Cleaning the Glass, in a small sample of 188 possessions, the Lakers surpassed their opponents by 46.2 points per 100 possessions during the regular season. Despite criticism from fans about Ham’s smaller lineups, Cleaning the Glass states that the Lakers’ trio of Russell, Reaves, and Schröder worked well together. The effectiveness of this trio will probably be influenced by the composition of the roster in the upcoming season.

The team performs even more effectively (with an improvement of 8.4 points per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass) when Walker takes over for Russell. Similarly, when Walker substituted Reaves, it proved to be beneficial (with an increase of 3.0 points per 100 possessions). Los Angeles’ lineups, consisting of Walker as one of the three guards, were also quite prosperous, especially when considering the playoffs, which serve as a true indicator.

The Lakers should only deploy three-guard configurations in certain matchups. This is because their guards often suffer from mismatches and opponents crashing the offensive glass, especially in the playoffs and earlier in the season.

Additionally, it is important to adapt and acknowledge the self-imposed restrictions of those lineups. By learning from last season, Ham can also understand the necessity of reducing the number of small-guard options. Therefore, the front office must carefully consider their approach to roster construction.

What level of improvement do you anticipate Max Christie will make in his second year of the upcoming season? — @Eyyjack.

From January 25th to January 6th, Christie averaged a shooting percentage of 47.6 percent on 3-pointers and an overall shooting percentage of 52.5 percent. He also averaged 2.3 rebounds and 5.3 points during that stretch. He appeared to be the eighth man on the team for a few weeks in January, and he showed the caliber of a rotational player. I think he should have been given a chance to play in the playoffs, even if it was only briefly. I expect Christie to make a considerable jump in his sophomore season.

During the course of the season, Christie has progressively focused on improving his physique, however, his lack of strength was a noticeable flaw in his gameplay. Given his stature and physique, his ability to grab rebounds is quite impressive. From both a collective and personal standpoint, he possesses a strong understanding of basketball. He consistently maintains a proper stance and effectively utilizes his hands. Even during the Las Vegas Summer League, his defensive skills were exceptional.

In terms of offense, Christie must display more self-assurance and assertiveness, akin to Reaves during his first year in the league. Whenever he has an open opportunity, he should take the shot. There were instances where he hesitated or opted to make an extra pass when he should have taken the shot.

There’s a chance that Christie works his way into the Lakers’ rotation permanently next season, potentially as the ninth or eighth man depending on the makeup of the roster. He’ll have an important role defensively, and he needs to improve his ability to handle the ball on the wings and continue knocking down 3-pointers at an above-league-average rate.