Lakers 2023 offseason primer: Targets, outgoing free agents, trades, draft needs and more
The Los Angeles Lakers were one of the final four teams in the NBA, but also a seventh seed. What can and should change to help them reach the mountaintop next season?
Few teams endured more of a roller coaster last season than the Los Angeles Lakers. Until February, the Lakers were embroiled in the Russell Westbrook saga, barely clinging to play-in viability and desperately in need of a reset.
That reset happened at the trade deadline. First, LA swapped Kendrick Nunn and some second-round picks for Rui Hachimura. Then Russell Westbrook was sent to Utah for Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, and D’Angelo Russell. Danny Ainge has always been the engineer of trade deadline heists. That move had fans asking if, somehow, the Lakers had fleeced Danny Ainge
The Lakers were resurgent in the months to follow. They played at a 57-win pace, claimed the No. 7 seed, and ran all the way to the Western Conference Finals. The 1-seed Nuggets ultimately proved too powerful, too connected, and too determined, but the Lakers were very much a real threat in the playoffs.
In the wake of such a complicated season, the Lakers have much to be proud of. Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura were revelations, LeBron James made All-NBA in his 20th frickin’ season, and when healthy, Anthony Davis was every bit the two-way, MVP-caliber force the Lakers once traded their entire future for.
And yet, there are still questions looming over the franchise. Pretty much everyone on the roster is a free agent. LeBron James is suddenly pondering retirement, and the new CBA will add an extra layer of complexity to all future cap maneuverings. Will the Lakers look the same next season? How many changes should they make? These are the questions Rob Pelinka and company are asking themselves in the City of Angels right now.
Los Angeles Lakers outgoing free agents
Again, pretty much the entire roster — with the exception of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Max Christie — is eligible for free agency on some level. The Lakers have a boatload of difficult personnel choices to make.
- D’Angelo Russell, 27, G
- Malik Beasley, 26, G (Club Option)
- Lonnie Walker IV, 24, G
- Rui Hachimura, 25, F (RFA)
- Dennis Schroder, 29, G
- Troy Brown Jr., 23, F
- Austin Reaves, 24, G (RFA)
- Tristan Thompson, 32, C
- Scotty Pippen Jr., 22, G (RFA)
The primary focus will be on three players — Russell, Reaves, and Hachimura. In-season reporting suggested that LA wanted to re-sign Russell, but his stinker of a postseason could spur the Lakers to consider alternatives. It will likely depend on how Russell’s market develops and what other teams are willing to offer him.
Reaves and Hachimura are both restricted free agents and the Lakers want everyone to know they will match any offer sheet. That’s easier said than done, of course, especially if either (or both) balloon into the $100 million+ range.
Lonnie Walker had his moments in the playoffs and he’s still young. His 3-point shooting and flashes of self-creation might be worth another year of investment. Dennis Schroder started 50 of 66 regular season appearances for the Lakers and was essential in the playoffs. He’s a strong candidate to return.
Los Angeles Lakers trade targets
The Lakers are unlikely to make a bunch of small-time trades. The summer will probably play out one of two ways: LA will either run it back or completely shift the foundation of the franchise. The obvious, not-to-secret object of LeBron’s affection is Kyrie Irving. There’s a good chance any Irving-to-LA deal would involve a sign-and-trade with Dallas, especially if the Lakers aim to keep other key pieces like Reaves or Hachimura.
Maybe it ends with a simple swap of new contracts, Kyrie for Russell (a very sad outcome to think about from the Dallas perspective).
The Lakers could also take a stab at Chris Paul if the Suns are indeed interested in trading the veteran point guard. It’s debatable how much CP3 has left in the tank, but he’s an all-time basketball genius and one of LeBron’s closest friends.
Trae Young has been connected to LA, but that feels like standard Lakers theorizing more than an actual possibility.
Los Angeles Lakers free agent targets
The Lakers probably won’t be huge free agent players unless the Kyrie Irving pursuit happens. If LeBron doesn’t end up retiring, the Lakers will be strapped for cash once the inevitable Reaves and Hachimura offer sheets are signed and matched.
In the back of everyone’s mind is the Draymond Green connection. He does talk about LeBron on his podcast a lot. The Warriors will probably re-sign Green, but on the off chance the dynasty implodes, don’t be shocked if Green tries to work his way down the coast.
If the Lakers pursue Kyrie, that will take up the bulk of their resources and creativity. If not, the rest of LA’s free agency plans will probably revolve around keeping the current group together. Russell’s future is an open question, but the Lakers would (and should) like to bring Reaves and Hachimura back into the fold. There’s something to be said for building consistency and continuity with a roster once in a while.
A few smaller free agents the Lakers could pursue with exceptions or minimum contracts: Georges Niang, Shake Milton, Wesley Matthews, Andre Drummond, Austin Rivers, T.J. Warren, Raul Neto.
Los Angeles Lakers NBA Draft targets
Los Angeles owns the No. 17 and No. 47 picks in the 2023 NBA Draft. Since the Lakers are planning to contend next season, the odds of the 47th pick yielding an immediate contributor are very slim (but not impossible!).
Much of the focus will be placed on the No. 17 pick. The new CBA will make it difficult for high-spending teams to shell out money in free agency or make seismic trades. The importance of drafting and developing young talent — even as a contender — has never been higher.
The Lakers are in prime position to add backcourt depth if Russell or Reaves walk. Names like Keyonte George, Kobe Bufkin, Jalen Hood-Schifino, Jordan Hawkins, and Brandin Podziemski are all front of mind in the mid-teens.
If the Lakers are looking for another rim protector to share the load with AD during the regular season, Dereck Lively or James Nnaji are the names to watch.
The Lakers could also target 3-and-D help on the wing with prospects like Dariq Whitehead, Bilal Coulibaly, Jett Howard, or Kris Murray. LA’s lack of wing depth stood out in the postseason once Beasley and Vanderbilt were benched.
For more information on this year’s NBA Draft class, check out our latest Mock Draft and Big Board.
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