The LA Offseason Revisited

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Updated: November 20, 2021
Pelinka Lebron

In a Dennis Schröder revenge game in Boston, the Lakers got blown out by a Celtics squad without their second-best player Jaylen Brown. It was King James’ first game back after his abdominal injury and the hope was that his return would trigger the switch to engage their once-great defense. Instead, they let a struggling Jason Tatum go off for 37 on 50% shooting from the floor, as the Lakers dip below the threshold of mediocre and now reside as a sub-500 ball club.

Much has been made lately about the news of the Caruso contract and them “choosing” to keep Talen Horton Tucker on the roster instead. However, there are several moving pieces of news that are interconnected that have come out the last 10 days about the Lakers offseason that need to be pieced together to truly understand the roster they could’ve had instead of adopting Russell Westbrook and his 44-million-dollar salary.

Although the Lakers are one of the most lucrative franchises in the NBA with fans all over the States and the globe, many of their beat writers will defend ownership and their lack of spending due to the Buss family not being “as wealthy” as many of the billionaire owners in basketball. Well, the recent news of Staples Center being renamed the very catchy Crypto.com Arena for the price tag of 700 million dollars should have allocated them the funds to do everything in the power to chase a title in the twilight of Lebron’s career. Similar to Golden State selling off a piece of the franchise and pulling in an additional half a billion dollars, it has been used to build the rotation that has put them 1st in the West.

Instead, the Lakers opted to save money and lean on their clout with the vets around the league and sign the vast majority of senior citizen ex-Allstars on the minimum. The focus of most around the league who were critical of the Westbrook trade has pointed to the Sacramento exchange that was available that would have acquired sniper Buddy Hield. Though recent news has pointed out now that according to ex-San Antonio Spur, now 25 point per game scorer Chicago Bull DeMar DeRozan, he thought a sign and trade to the Lakers “was a done deal.”

DeRozan who grew up in Los Angeles and played at USC has been quite public about his desire to return home and play for one of the LA franchises. He is currently making 26 million, but he would’ve likely taken somewhere in the range of 20-23 if it had been for his childhood team. Now, it is unfair to act like anyone was super high on DeMar after his years in Texas, but he has always been a walking bucket who does not need to dominate the ball. He also makes about half as much as Russell Westbrook makes per year.

Another player that was heavily coveted in the offseason who signed with the Nets for 5.8 million was Patty Mills, who also was on the San Antonio Spurs. Both these players could have easily been acquired via sign and trade if not for the Russel Westbrook deal. They could’ve gotten DeRozan for 24 million and Mills for 7 and still retained THT and Caruso. Let me explain.

The Math

 The pieces sent to Washington to match the 44. 2million of Westbrooks contract were:

  1. KCP: 13 million
  2. Kuzma: 13 million
  3. Montrezl: 9.7 million
  4. 22nd pick in the 2021 draft

That is a total of just under 36 million in outgoing contracts.

They also let Caruso and Schröder walk for nothing, which resulted in contracts that could have been used in a sign and trade but instead they acquired nothing in return for these two rotation pieces moving to the East.

The presumed total of a DeRozan and Patty Mills contracts in a sign and trade would’ve been around 30 million dollars. This means to trade for these two players they would’ve needed about 26 million dollars in outgoing contracts. If they would’ve utilized Schröder and sent him to San Antonio for 6 million (the amount he got from Boston), he could’ve been a part of the Kuzma + picks package to get the Spurs to agree in the exchange. The package would’ve looked like this:

  1. Kyle Kuzma (13 million)
  2. Montrezl (9.7 million)
  3. Schröder (6 million)
  4. 22nd pick in the 2021 draft
  5. 2 second round picks

The total of that package comes to a convenient 28.7 million. That means that they could’ve not only got DeRozan + Mills but resigned Caruso and kept KCP their pair of two-way guards who were pivotal in their championship Bubble season. If this would’ve been the route they took their roster would’ve looked like this:

  1. Lebron
  2. Davis
  3. DeRozan
  4. Mills
  5. KCP
  6. Caruso
  7. THT

Now, the pushback would be, that they really believed in all of these veteran players and chose to go with experience and IQ. Well, outside of the Kendrick Nunn signing for 5 million, even after acquiring DeRozan and Mills, keeping KCP, and giving THT his 3-year 31 million dollar contract, they still could’ve signed:

  1. Ariza 2.6
  2. Ellington 2.6
  3. Bradley 2.6
  4. DeAndre Jordan 2.6
  5. Rajon Rondo 2.6
  6. Kent Bazemore 2.4

The reason for this being, is all of these are vet minimum contracts that regardless of how deep a franchise is in the luxury tax, they still can sign as many of these types of contracts as they need to fill out their roster.

The craziest part of the equation though is that the total of Mills + KCP + Caruso = 27 million…17 million less than what they are currently paying Russell Westbrook. The total of Ariza + Ellington + Bradley + DJ + Rondo + Bazemore = 15.5 million. That’s 9 players, 8 of which probably are better suited to finished games next to Lebron that cost less in total than the single contract of Russ.

Apologizes for the geek festival filled with numbers, the basic idea is, the whole narrative that they “chose THT over Caruso” is a fallacy. They could’ve kept not only Caruso and THT but also Kentavious Caldwell-Pope if they would’ve just taken either of the other two deals available (DeRozan with Chicago or Hield from Sacramento). It is obvious to everyone currently following the league that they would rather have the collection of Caruso + KCP + DeRozan or Hield instead of Russell going into the 4th quarter of a playoff game…but the wildest thing is, every single one of those players is a better fit next to Lebron in crunch time. As much credit as Lebron has gotten for his clout in recruiting stars to Los Angeles, the moves that he either created or cosigned may send the Lakers franchise into to the abysm once he fades into retirement.

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