The NBA’s Free agency will start tomorrow, July 1st, at 6:00 AM (Manila time), and as per usual, things are heating up. Unsurprisingly, the Los Angeles Lakers and their ultra-huge market are at the forefront.
Though the Purple and Gold are not even in the realm of being rumoured with big names this time around, like the Damian Lillard and James Harden, who are both likely to be traded this off-season, they have thrown their name in the mix for valuable role players.
The two veterans have each catapulted their stock with their play on recent championship runs – Brook Lopez (34) for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021, and Bruce Brown (26) for the Denver Nuggets just this year.
Lopez, in particular, has turned himself into a two-way threat with his shot-blocking ability and three-point stroke, most notably when he arrived in Milwaukee. In doing so, he became a big part of the Bucks’ jump into title contention. He had 193 blocks and 136 threes this past season, and was one of only three players to post 100-plus in both categories.
What’s interesting is he was a Laker during their rebuilding year in 2017-18, and was included in the purge to make way for LeBron James’s grand arrival in LA during the 2018 off-season.
Bruce, on the other hand, has always been a defense and hustle guy that has a knack for making plays on offense, something that he showed while with the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving-led Brooklyn Nets, and further flaunted with the very team-oriented Nuggets. He is coming off a career-high 11.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.1 steals per game, topped off by quality performances that helped lead to Denver’s first-ever NBA title.
While both appear to be endeared in their respective franchises, note that they have also shown interest in testing the market – given how well they’ve contributed, they ought to look for a payday. Lopez declined an extension in the midseason, and Brown opted out of a $6.8 million player option.
This free agency will be crucial for the Lakers once again; LeBron James will turn 39 years old later this year and could very well leave the team in 2024 (depending on his son, Bronny James, as you know). Anthony Davis, meanwhile, is also a year older, and his tender body will endure more work (hopefully, he gets healthier than ever). Nevertheless, all that is quite the obstacle since there’s already a “championship or bust” vibe surrounding the team. Talk about enormous pressure.
It’s no secret that re-signing Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura are the main priorities, particularly the prior. However, the Lakers have also made moves that will open up a potential signing of Lopez and/or Brown, though it’s almost impossible they get both.
Earlier today, reports came out that the Lakers have waived Mo Bamba and declined the team option for Malik Beasley.
Now, here’s the problem: the cap space it cleared doesn’t appear to be anywhere near attractive for Lopez or Brown. It’s tough to imagine either one leaving a favourable situation and better-oiled team just for $12.4 million, not to mention it’s for the Lakers’ pressure-filled environment.
The Lakers have to make that pitch since it’s going to be a potentially solid addition, but they better have a long list of back-up plans, and act quick at every turn.