While the Los Angeles Lakers have their sights set on some of the league’s best free agents, they need to have a contingency plan in the event that they once again strike out on top talent. The Lakers can ill afford to find themselves in a summer where they don’t surround LeBron James with the necessary pieces to win as another bad season likely spells an early departure for the King.
With such uncertainty regarding the team’s ability to land top tier free agent talent, let’s take a look at some of the next options on the board and who, aside from the aforementioned Willie Cauley-Stein, are among the best non-max targets.
Follow the Heavy Los Angeles Lakers page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
Lakers Free Agency: Willie Cauley-Stein & Among Best Non-Max Targets
The hyper-athletic big man out of Kentucky finally hits the free agent market, albeit as a restricted free agent. However, Cauley-Stein looks due for a solid pay raise after making just over $4 million last season on his rookie deal. Averaging 11.8 points per game to go with 8.4 rebounds per game, Cauley-Stein has developed into a two-way force for Sacramento. With the athleticism to switch onto a number of positions, Cauley-Stein is effectively able to anchor a defense.
The Lakers could afford to pay Cauley-Stein a sizable number, especially if they strike out early on some of their bigger name free agent targets. This would make things difficult on Sacramento, who can certainly afford to keep Cauley-Stein but would have to sacrifice their max contract cap flexibility to do so.
As far as fit goes, it doesn’t get much better for the Lakers than Willie Cauley-Stein. Effectively a younger and more athletic JaVale McGee, Cauley-Stein would thrive in a system featuring two elite playmakers. McGee and an ancient Tyson Chandler showed what even a competent big man can do in this lineup so adding an improving and exciting young big might make a lot of sense.
JJ Redick Leads Other Non Max Free Agency Targets for the Lakers
If the Lakers decide to look elsewhere for help in the free agency market, aging sharpshooter JJ Redick might be worth the gamble. With the Sixers expected to make a hard push to keep their four stars together, Redick will likely be the odd man out unless taking a hefty pay cut. Redick shouldn’t be overly expensive to sign and the Lakers could use his veteran presence and outside shot while Lonzo Ball could help take some of the defensive pressure off Redick – who isn’t known for his work on that side of the ball.
Outside of Redick, Danny Green is another possible intriguing option for the Lakers. In need of a ‘three and d’ two-guard, Green is an excellent fit despite not shooting the ball from deep at as strong of a clip as Redick. Green’s defensive chops would help make the Lakers, on paper, one of the best defensive backcourts in the NBA.
How Much Would It Cost For the Lakers to Sign Willie Cauley-Stein?
While not a max contract player, Willie Cauley-Stein should cost a hefty premium on the open market. Going into his age-26 season, Cauley-Stein offers a relatively young option that has already proven himself at the NBA level with a chance to become even better. Hyper-athletic 7-footers also don’t grow on trees, so expect all that to factor into Cauley-Stein’s impending pay raise.
As a restricted free agent, this is where things get tricky. Cauley-Stein is coming off a bit of a down year so he likely won’t be as expensive as he could have been, however, Sacramento has the cap space to keep him around and has actually built the foundations of a strong basketball team over the past two seasons. Especially considering Sacramento isn’t a top free agent destination, there’s a good chance they pay up and match nearly any offer Cauley-Stein gets.
So just how much would it take for the Lakers to pry Cauley-Stein away from the Kings? Likely somewhere in the $18-20 million range per year. The Kings have over $30 million in cap space open heading into the offseason and while the Lakers have more flexibility, they also have more holes to fill on their roster. It is pretty unlikely the Lakers take THIS big of a gamble on Cauley-Stein, especially with their eyes set on some of the top free agents in the class. However, should Sacramento make some early moves to compromise their cap flexibility while Cauley-Stein sits on his qualifying offer, don’t be shocked to see the Lakers come in and make a more reasonable play for the young big man.