The Los Angeles Lakers were able to completely rebuild the roster during the 2023 trade deadline to go from one of the most underwhelming teams in the NBA to the Western Conference Finals.
Lakers GM Rob Pelinka called the moves “pre-agency” as it not only gave the team a better chance to contend last season but laid the foundation for this summer. As a result, Los Angeles is in a much better place than the team would have been if it just let Russell Westbrook’s contract expire.
However, there are still some massive variables this offseason that could alter the immediate future of the team. Two of the biggest storylines this summer is the restricted free agencies of Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura, who both increased their value in the NBA Playoffs.
Luckily, the Lakers have the ability to match any offer sheet that the two players sign and they have Bird Rights on Hachimura and Early Bird Rights on Reaves. But at the end of the day, teams with cap space can throw the bag at either player and that could make it a very tough decision for the Lake Show.
Not many teams have ample cap space this offseason and the hope is that the teams with cap space prioritize other free agents. However, that does not seem appear to be the case, as one of the teams with the most cap space look like a threat to steal Reaves and/or Hachimura.
Rockets may be the biggest threat to steal Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura from Lakers.
The Rockets are definitely trying to build something down in Houston. The Rockets now have the chance to build a competitive roster after being at the top of the draft for several years while also hiring Ime Udoka this offseason.
Houston has already been tied to Reaves and the addition of Hachimura as a potential target is worrisome. If Houston really wanted to, the team could sign both players to prominent contracts to put the Lakers in a tough spot.
The Rockets are projected to have $59.7 million in practical cap space by Spotrac with a max of $64.6 million. That is more than enough to pay Reaves and Hachimura above market price while also bringing in other complementary pieces to round out the roster.
The ball would then be in the Lakers’ court. Would they be willing to spend extra knowing they might have a larger cap hit on Reaves in years three and four of his deal? Is the team willing to go back over the luxury tax to keep Hachimura as well? Would LA sacrifice someone like D’Angelo Russell to make it happen?
The decisions of Reaves and Hachimura will dictate the rest of the Lakers’ offseason and if they end up leaving for Houston it could cause a massive snowball effect.