In the end, it was a rather surprising offseason for the Lakers, if not the splashiest. They brought in point guard Gabe Vincent on a three-year, $33 million deal from the Heat and were able to keep Austin Reaves on what turned out to be a bargain deal worth $54 million over four years, without the so-called “balloon payments” the Lakers feared.
Had Reaves gotten another offer in free agency that L.A. had to match, the deal could have been worth nearly $100 million, but that offer never materialized. They also got a good deal on D’Angelo Russell, paying him $37 million over two years, a huge cut from the $31 million he made last season.
The Lakers still have roster spots to fill, and will probably sign two more players. But the most important remaining part of the summer is approaching fast, on August 4. That is when star big man Anthony Davis is up for a contract extension (he has until the start of the season to sign one) and there are indications that the Lakers are reluctant to give Davis an extension — unless he is reasonable.
“They entered the summer with AD on the backburner,” one Western Conference exec told Heavy Sports. “They would like to keep it there, keep that extension on the backburner. They do not need to do it right away. I’d say they’re reluctant and you can understand that at this point.”
Missed Games Continue to Hinder Anthony Davis
The executive pointed out that, as good as Davis was last season (25.9 points, 12.5 rebounds), reliability remained an issue. Davis missed 26 games in 2022-23, after having missed 42 the previous season and 36 in 2020-21. Davis is 30, and the outlook for his ability to stay healthy is only getting shakier.
That would certainly make the Lakers unsure about giving Davis a max three-year deal worth around $170 million. For Davis to get that, he would have to opt in on his 2024-25 season, at $43 million, then have as many as three years tacked on beyond that. But Davis’ fate is tied to that of LeBron James and James has a player option in 2024 — his Lakers future remains uncertain, especially with the likelihood that his son, Bronny, enters the NBA in 2024.
James has said he hoped to play with Bronny in the NBA.
“They want to see if (Davis) can stay healthy,” the exec said. “They want to see if this group continues to be what it looked like it could be down the stretch last year. And most of all, they want to see what LeBron does next.
“But they had some things break their way with free agency, with Reaves and Russell. They have a lot of manageable contracts, good assets. There’s no contract on their books that you say, ‘They could never trade that one.’ There’s no Russell Westbrook this time around. So if you can take a chance and get Davis to extend on something that is not the max, if you get him to sign a deal that recognizes that the market might not be great for a guy so injury-prone, it is a risk worth taking.”
Can the Lakers Be Outspent in 2024?
The Lakers also must do their best to forecast the free-agent market in 2024, and more specifically, to gauge the willingness of teams to spend when next summer comes around. We have seen a pretty severe reaction to the restrictions in the new CBA this summer, but the expectation is that after having made adjustments this year, most teams will be more prepared next summer.
If the Lakers fail to lock up Davis with an extension this year, and if it looks like James will look elsewhere, too, then Davis would be a threat to leave, too—if there was a team willing to pay him.
Davis’s hometown Chicago Bulls always emerge as a candidate to land Davis should he leave the Lakers, but they would have to move off some salary—Coby White and more—to have a chance at making a serious offer to Davis in 2024. If Davis wants to get Chicago-approximate, though, he could do so by signing with the Pacers or Pistons, each of whom will have serious money available in 2024.
“There will be a bit more money on the market in 2024,” one Eastern Conference exec said. “That would make them nervous. But nervous enough to give (Davis) $60 million a year? I doubt that. Because the Pacers aren’t giving him million $60 per year and you do not want to bid against yourself. It’s got to be reasonable for both sides. If Davis would play ball and sign for less, two years and $80 million or something, then maybe something gets done.”