The Los Angeles Lakers have some decisions to make with the roster.
The 2020-21 season will begin next month. Soon there will be a flurry of player signings. Championship teams ordinarily return most of their nucleus the following season. Will the Los Angeles Lakers follow that same course?
It is unclear just what path the team will take, so all we can do is speculate. Two important keys to consider:
a) The Lakers are limited under the salary cap, which has not yet been announced. Suffice it to say, without delving into all the mathematics, that GM Rob Pelinka will have to pick and choose carefully how he fills out the roster.
b) Pelinka has a master plan for the 2021-22 season. As of now, no Lakers player is signed beyond this coming season (LeBron James has a player option next year). That will change as he signs some players for contracts longer than one season. But his goal remains in place: to leave enough salary room to add a third-star next summer.
Let’s look at 17 different players and the likelihood each will be back with the Lakers for the 2020-21 season. The players are divided into three categories.
Players signed to the Los Angeles Lakers:
The team has six signed players for the upcoming season. What are the chances each one will return?
1. LeBron James: The Finals MVP, he’ll obviously be back. The odds are 100%.
2. Alex Caruso: He played exceedingly well in the postseason, especially beyond basic statistics, and is almost a cinch to return.
He embodies the Lakers’ defensive emphasis, does so many little things well and has a great connection with LeBron. There’s only the slightest of chances he’ll be traded. His chance of being back is at least 95%.
3. Danny Green: The three-point specialist fell a bit short of expectations as he shot only 36.7% from behind the arc, lower than his career 40% average, and just 33.9% in the playoffs. While his defense wasn’t as stellar as advertised, it was still good enough to be consistently praised by Coach Frank Vogel.
Many fans have already sent Green packing in one trade or another. That is certainly a possibility, although finding a team willing to overpay him next season when he’ll earn $15.4 million, may be difficult. He is also popular with his teammates and is a good guy to have on the team. His odds of returning: 50%.
4. Kyle Kuzma: It was expected that he’d become the consistent third scorer behind Anthony Davis and James. But he failed to do so on a night in, night out basis and averaged a career-low 12.8 points, which then dropped to just 10 in the postseason. However, other parts of his game improved, including his court awareness and his defense.
Kuz could probably start for several teams and ramp up his scoring. He will earn just $3.6 million next season, after which he’ll be a restricted free agent. His name is constantly mentioned as trade bait by fans, and that could happen, but only if the Lakers receive back good value. The chances he’ll return are similar to Green’s, 50%.
5. Quinn Cook: He didn’t end up playing as big a role as many expected, and that was probably due to his mediocre defense. However, he remains an excellent 41% career three-point shooting threat.
Cook’s 2020-21 salary is just $3 million and isn’t guaranteed. So the Lakers could include him in a trade or just waive him. Yet he was a supportive teammate who can still be a better-than-average end of the bench player. Chances he will be back: 60%.
6. Talen Horton-Tucker: The rookie guard played almost the entire season in the G-League, appearing in only 6 regular-season games. But he impressed everyone in the 2 games he played against Houston in the playoffs when he averaged 7 points in 8.5 minutes, shot 50% from the field, hit 2 of his 5 three-point attempts, and used his ultra-long arms to be a disruptive defender.
THT will turn 19 later this month. His upside is obvious to everyone, including Pelinka. Although it’s possible he’ll be included in a trade package, the odds are greater that he will return: 75%.