The Los Angeles Lakers face a difficult decision about Dennis Schroder’s future this offseason, but the team could turn to veteran alternatives if their current point guard’s asking price continues to rise. Chris Paul is under contract with the Phoenix Suns through the 2021-22 season but has a player option he can exercise to become a free agent this offseason.
The Lakers do not have cap space this summer, but it should not be completely discounted that Paul would try to orchestrate a sign-and-trade to join his good friend LeBron James at the end of their careers. There would have to be mutual interest and the Lakers would need to be willing to sign Paul to a lucrative long-term deal. The Athletic’s Sam Amick noted that Paul could opt out of his current deal, which would earn the point guard a $44.2 million salary next season, in favor of seeking a longer deal.
“I mean first and foremost, I love it here [Phoenix],” Paul told The Athletic. “I don’t know how many years I’ve got left. I don’t really think about that either. I feel too good. Seriously, this summer, I have no clue. As much as I’m involved in the union and stuff like that, I don’t know what anybody’s teams are, (what their) caps are, I don’t know none of that stuff. I just play. And like I say, I’m lucky to have my brother, my brother who helps. I focus on playing.”
Still, if the opportunity arises, the Lakers would be in position to pull off a sign-and-trade for Paul if they sent out younger options to Phoenix, like a package built around Schroder and forward Kyle Kuzma. A problem for the Lakers, though, would be a collision of NBA rules governing sign-and-trades and a separate rule for contracts that extend past a player’s 38th birthday.
The team must sign Paul for at least three years under league sign-and-trade rules and because Paul turns 38 before the third year of such a deal, the final year would be considered “deferred compensation” and would be (for cap purposes) divided and added to the first two years of the deal. Thus if Paul signed a Lakers contract for three years and $30 million per year, it would count as $45 million against the cap for the first two years and zero in the third year. In terms of matching salaries for the trade, the Lakers would have to match $45 million, not $30 million.
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Schroder Reportedly Turned Down a 4-Year, $84 Million Extension Article
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported in March that Schroder turned down the Lakers’ four-year, $84 million extension offer. It was the maximum the Lakers could offer Schroder at the time. It is unclear whether Schroder just wants to explore all of his options in free agency, or is looking for even more money than the Lakers offered. As The Athletic’s John Hollinger points out, it will be interesting to see how Schroder’s market compares to veteran free agents like Paul.
“But once Schröder stayed put, his free agency future became a matter of which sort of point guard — and how old — teams prefer,” Hollinger detailed. “At 27, he’s much younger (and less accomplished) than the Paul/Conley/Lowry crowd and more of a known commodity than Ball (though smaller).So is Schröder worth the kind of $80-plus million deal that ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported he turned down last month? We’ll find out how teams feel about that question a few months from now.”
‘Team Banana Boat’ Has Yet to Happen
For years, we have heard James talk about building “team banana boat” featuring Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. During a 2017 Bleacher Report interview, James mentioned his desire to ultimately play with his three friends on the same team together before he ended his career.
“I really hope that, before our career is over, we can all play together,” James told Bleacher Report at the time. “At least one, maybe one or two seasons—me, Melo, D-Wade, CP—we can get a year in. I would actually take a pay cut to do that.”
With Wade retired, it appears unlikely to ever come to fruition, but James could at least team up with one banana boat member. We know James’ affinity for Paul, but the question is if the Lakers would pay up for the Suns guard given their mounting luxury tax situation.
The Lakers also want to retain Talen Horton-Tucker and Alex Caruso who are both set to hit the free-agent market as well. If the talks with Schroder stall this summer, we can at least expect to hear some rumblings about Paul and the Lakers.
Paul is 35 years old which is eight years older than Schroder. If Paul opts out, the point guard is also likely to command a higher annual salary than Schroder given his production this season. Paul is a big reason why the Suns are fighting to be the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The 11-time All-Star is averaging 16.2 points, 8.7 assists and 4.6 rebounds while shooting 38.4% from behind the three-point line this season.