Anthony Davis, Lakers’ Free Agency In Focus as NBA Sets Schedule

Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, is expected to become a free agent next week.

Getty Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, is expected to become a free agent next week.

The rumor season has been ripe across the NBA, with potential free agents and trade targets cropping up on the mill repeatedly. There are big names like Chris Paul, Bradley Beal, Giannis Antetokounmpo and relatively small ones like Isaiah Thomas, D.J. Augustin and Delon Wright. But no matter the impact of the name involved, there are plenty of players primed to find new homes in the coming weeks.

Now, we can say exactly when the fun will begin: November 20, two days after the NBA conducts its draft.

And of special note to the Lakers, we have a potential date for teams and players to open the transaction window and begin making trades and opting into—or out of—pending contract years. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, that date will be either two or three days before the draft, meaning either November 15 or 16.

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That is worth noting because L.A. has multiple players eligible for a new contract if they decide to opt out. Most important, though, is Lakers star big man Anthony Davis, who can opt out of the final year of his contract, worth $28 million, and become a free agent. He is expected to do so and to quickly sign a contract with the Lakers shortly thereafter.

Lakers Have Multiple Free Agents on Hand

Davis is the biggest issue the Lakers have to work out this offseason, but he is not the only one the team will need to address.

Starting wing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has already indicated he will opt out of the 2020-21 portion of his contract, hitting the free-agent market, and backup point guard Rajon Rondo will do the same. The Lakers will have to decide whether to bring them back and how much they’re willing to spend to do so.

The most intriguing decision might be that of another starter, Avery Bradley, who has an option worth $5 million for next season. He could opt out in hopes of getting more money elsewhere, but it is unclear how much he could earn on the market. Bradley had a slow start last season but played better as the year went on. He chose not to participate in the league’s restart, though, so was not on the floor as the Lakers fought their way through the playoffs.

The Lakers also have decisions coming on free agents Dwight Howard, Markieff Morris, Jared Dudley, Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith.

And looming behind all that: forward Kyle Kuzma is due for a contract extension, though the Lakers are reluctant to hand him one. Kuzma could be used as trade bait in the coming week.

Lakers Will Begin Title Defense on December 22

The NBA and the players association has already agreed on a season that will begin on December 22 and will run for 72 games, in an attempt to normalize a schedule that has been knocked sideways by the four-month hiatus caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic going back to March. The league finished its season, with 22 of 30 teams taking part in an eight-game restart before undergoing a full postseason.

The Lakers defeated the Heat in six games in the Finals, which ended on October 11. That sets up a bizarre return to action in which Miami and L.A. will have had just 75 days off before returning to action, while eight teams—the Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Hawks, Bulls, Knicks, Hornets, Warriors and Pistons—will have not played since early March.

The rushed period between the draft and free agency figures to cause some problems for front offices, which usually have about 10 days between the draft and free agency to reformulate their plans and arrange their priorities. Now, there will be only a matter of hours between the two.

And once free agency is worked out, it will be right back to the floor for all 30 teams—training camp will start on December 1.

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