Lakers Linked to Former $85 Million All-Star: ‘Top of the List’

Rob Pelinka

Getty The Lakers could target Raptors star guard Fred VanVleet.

The Los Angeles Lakers will likely need to make some additions this offseason to once again become an NBA championship contender. The Athletic’s Shams Charania labeled Kyrie Irving and Fred VanVleet as the two stars that should “be at the top of the list” for Los Angeles.

“I think Kyrie Irving and Fred VanVleet have to be at the top of the list,” Charania explained during a May 25, 2023 interview on “The Pat McAfee Show.” “I’m not saying either are likely for the Lakers, but I think if you’re the Lakers you have to look at both of those guys and see if there are any options you can exhaust.”

VanVleet has one season remaining on a four-year, $85 million contract and is slated to have a $22.8 million salary in 2023-24. The guard has a player option that allows him to become a free agent and forego the final year of his current deal.

Raptors Star Fred VanVleet Made the All-Star Team in 2021-22 & Won an NBA Championship in 2019

VanVleet made his first All-Star roster during the 2021-22 season and played a significant role during the Raptors’ 2019 NBA championship run. The veteran averaged 19.3 points, 7.2 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 34.2% from long range in 69 starts this past season. If the Lakers make a run at VanVleet or Irving, it would likely mean replacing D’Angelo Russell who will be a free agent this offseason.

Los Angeles is projected to have an estimated $29.5 million in cap space this summer, but this does not take into account the team’s own free agents like Austin Reaves or Rui Hachimura that the team will want to re-sign. The Lakers would likely need some help in order to land VanVleet (assuming the former All-Star opts out) via a sign-and-trade.

Lakers Rumors: LA Likely Needs to Sign-and-Trade D’Angelo Russell to Land Fred VanVleet

VanVleet is another Klutch Sports client, but the Lakers may need the Raptors to take back Russell in a sign-and-trade. This would require Russell to agree to sign with the Raptors, and Toronto to also have a desire to add the guard. The Athletic’s Jovan Buha believes that Los Angeles’ preference is to sign-and-trade Russell, but his value took a hit after a poor performance against the Nuggets in the Western Conference finals.

“My read on the situation is that the Lakers would prefer to use D’Angelo Russell in a sign-and-trade, but I’m not sure the market is there,” Buha wrote on May 31.

“Landing Kyrie Irving for Russell is shaping up to be a pipe dream, especially with Dallas unlikely to help Los Angeles out. Fred VanVleet, a Klutch client, looms as a possibility, but adding him would require Toronto to agree to terms with Russell (or take on the Beasley and Bamba contracts).”

NBA Rumors: Fred VanVleet’s Next Contract Could Give the Guard An Average Annual Salary Topping $30 Million

It remains to be seen what VanVleet could command on the open market, and whether Los Angeles will be willing to meet the guard’s asking price. HoopsHype’s Yossi Gozlan believes Bucks guard Jrue Holiday could be a frame of reference for VanVleet’s next deal. Holiday has a four-year, $134 million contract with an average annual salary of $33.7 million, much higher than VanVleet’s current deal.

“Fred VanVleet is expected to become an unrestricted free agent this summer when he declines his $22.8 million player option,” Gozlan detailed on April 12. “He remains extension-eligible through June 30, but he can receive more this offseason as a free agent.

“He could be looking at a contract that puts his annual salary on par with other veteran guards like Jrue Holiday, Kyle Lowry, and Jalen Brunson. VanVleet already could’ve gotten that salary range in an extension if the new higher extension limits that are set to be implemented in the new CBA were already in place.”

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