- G Jalen Hood-Schifino (draft), C Jaxson Hayes (free agent), F Taurean Prince (free agent), G Gabe Vincent (free agent), Christian Wood (free agent)
- G Dennis Schroder, G Malik Beasley
What a difference a half-season makes, and by this, we mean both the first and second halves of 2022-23. In the first half, the Lakers were on the verge of imploding, damaged by nagging injuries plaguing Anthony Davis and LeBron James and embroiled in the discontent caused by Russell Westbrook’s plunging play.
In the second half, GM Rob Pelinka pulled off some masterful moves, James and Davis healed up and the Lakers used the AT&T Play-In Tournament to catapult themselves into the playoffs, where they reached the Western Conference Finals. It was a season of drastic swings, lows followed by highs, and in the end it worked out, except for a championship — which probably was beyond them, anyway. Austin Reaves developed into a very good rotational player, Rui Hachimura arrived from Washington and played the best ball of his young career and D’Angelo Russell proved steady (until he faltered in the playoffs). And of course, James was tremendous at 38 years old while Davis sparkled at both ends when his body cooperated.
You can say with some accuracy that the Lakers’ summer began back in February. That’s when they reshaped the club, infusing the rotation with necessary youth, energy, athleticism and hope.
That took them through the Western Conference Finals, and once the offseason arrived, the task was to maintain the new status quo by retaining some of those important young pieces on the roster.
Contract extensions for Reeves, Hachimura and Russell were therefore paramount for a team that couldn’t do much else given their salary cap restrictions. Lucky for the Lakers, the eventual shape of those deals spared them much pain from a luxury tax standpoint.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) September 4, 2023
They signed Reaves at four years and $56 million, the max they could offer. He was a restricted free agent, and another team could’ve offered more. But, knowing the Lakers would simply match, none bothered — even for a player who enjoyed a breakout year by shooting 52.9% overall and 39.8% from deep.
Hachimura cost three years and $51 million, again a decent price for a young player coming off a breakout campaign.
And Russell re-upped for two years and $37 million, which represented a pay cut. But Russell wanted to remain in L.A. and besides, he had previously cashed in on a rookie max, so he wasn’t desperately chasing a bigger payday.
That left the Lakers with spare change to get Vincent (three years, $33 million), Hayes (two years, $7.7 million, Prince (one year, $4 million) and Wood (two years, $7.5 million).
The New Orleans Pelicans let Hayes play out his rookie contract and skip town, never a positive sign, but the Lakers believe assistant coach Phil Handy — who helped Hachimura, among others — will be a positive influence. There’s a chance Hayes could start at center if only because Davis, as stated many times, would much rather be at power forward, and there are really no other center options on the roster.
Vincent had a solid stint with the Miami Heat last season, starting 34 games at point guard. His acquisition made Dennis Schroder expendable, while Prince slots in as the new stretch shooter, replacing Beasley.
Wood could be a valuable addition to the frontcourt as well. He averaged 16.6 ppg and 7.3 rpg in 67 games for Dallas last season and shot 51.5% overall and 36.7% on 3-pointers. Wood is a capable scorer, but he’s also well-traveled (L.A. will be his eighth team in as many seasons).
The capstone of the offseason, though, was re-upping Davis for another three years at $186 million. Getting him on that deal locks him in through 2028.
So the summer played out much like the last trade deadline for the Lakers. Pelinka put in the work each time. The next move is up to Davis and James.
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