The Lakers were eliminated from the postseason six weeks ago. Next season has already started for them. The NBA Draft is two weeks away. Free agency is a few days after that.
For the Lakers to properly cleanse their palate and retool their roster, they have some difficult decisions to make. That starts with their own free agents. There are many of them — as much as two-thirds of the roster, depending on player options (Montrezl Harrell) and non-guaranteed contracts (Alfonzo McKinnie).
As with almost any situation in the NBA, there are pros and cons to every choice they make. Here’s a look at the case for and against the Lakers re-signing or retaining each of their impending free agents.
The case for: Dennis Schröder’s lightning-quick speed and finishing ability gave the Lakers the type of point-guard scoring option they haven’t had in decades. He arguably impressed more on the defensive end, where he pressured ballhandlers full court and welcomed the challenge of defending an opponent’s best perimeter threat in certain matchups. He was probably L.A.’s third-best player.
The reality is it’s impossible for the Lakers to replace Schröder with a similarly valued player. The difference between Schröder and a veteran’s minimum point guard is steep. Plus, the Lakers have two greater rotational needs for next season — an above-average 3-and-D wing and a better-fitting center — and spending their taxpayer midlevel exception on a point guard to replace Schröder would be an inefficient use of their limited resources (depending on which players are available, of course).
Even if the Lakers are forced into re-signing Schröder to an unpalatable contract, they’re in win-now mode, and he’s theoretically better than the alternative options. His market is also lower than he thinks it is, and there’s a chance the Lakers are able to retain him on a reasonable deal.
The case against: Last season showed that some of the growth Schröder displayed in Oklahoma City might have been a mirage. His 2-point percentage (decent) and 3-point percentage (subpar) declined and were nearly identical to his career averages. Other than foul-drawing, there wasn’t an area in which he improved in Los Angeles. If anything, his Thunder tenure confirmed that Schröder is best suited for a sixth man role, running a bench unit and closing games when it makes sense.