Lakers’ potential bargain bin targets with the Mid-Level Exception

Georges Niang, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Georges Niang, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

With only six guaranteed contracts currently on the books for next season, there is an abundance of avenues the Los Angeles Lakers front office can follow this offseason. Yet, while Rob Pelinka has plenty of flexibility in terms of his approach to free agency, the team is semi-limited as to what it can do after inevitably bringing back Austin Reaves and (more than likely) Rui Hachimura.

Let us operate under the assumption that D’Angelo Russell is brought back in the $20-25 million range, Mo Bamba plus Malik Beasley are shipped out in some capacity, Lonnie Walker IV finds a higher price tag elsewhere, and everyone else is rescinded/let go. Those are a lot of assumptions, but a lot of reasonable assumptions.

Assuming all of those puzzle pieces fall into their proper place, there is almost no way to avoid the luxury tax. While that news might seem a bit more melancholy than melodic, the good news is that there are plenty of quality options for the Lakers to chase with the Taxpayer’s Mid-Level Exception this summer.

Bargain bin options the Lakers can sign with the Taxpayer’s MLE:

TORREY CRAIG | COMBO FORWARD | 6’7″ | 221 lbs | 2023-24 AGE: 32

Torrey Craig has more than established himself as a highly-capable wing defender to throw at top perimeter threats across the league. Even more impressive, his stature and toughness allow him to slide down to the 5 in small-ball lineups (and we have all bore witness to Darvin Ham’s admiration for micro ball).

His jump shot has not always been the steadiest and he does not offer much on the offensive side aside from slashing, but his role with the Lakers would be the exact same that it has been at each of his previous stops: defend the opponents’ top scorer for 15-30 minutes a night, move constantly without the ball on offense, and hit outside shots at a respectable rate.

JAE CROWDER | COMBO FORWARD | 6’6″ | 235 lbs | 2023-24 AGE: 33

Over the course of the last year or so, Crowder has been much more known for his off-the-court antics than his on-the-court performance. Once upon a time, Crowder was a $10-15 million per year type of player who brought the type of grit that every team desires from their veterans. And while that same grit lives on, a newly established reputation as a disgruntled diva has tarnished his overall value.

His agents will assuredly seek a high payday for him being that this could be his final non-vet minimum deal prior to retirement, but expect them to settle for less than they ask for (against their will).

SETH CURRY | SHOOTING GUARD | 6’1″ | 185 lbs | 2023-24 AGE: 33

Equipped with one of the most scalding flamethrowers in NBA history, you know exactly what you are going to get from Curry: lights-out shooting, not much else. On a team already stacked with solid playmakers (LeBron, D’Lo, Reaves, AD) and defenders (AD, Vando, Max Christie, Rui), not much else is needed other than shooting.

Adding Curry to the mix would open up galaxies of space for the stars to work with on offense, and he could easily be matched up against the opponent’s least aggressive perimeter threat on defense.

GEORGES NIANG | COMBO FORWARD | 6’7″ | 230 lbs | 2023-24 AGE: 30

Sticking with the subject of shooting, Georges Niang has silently scorched nets since his inception into the league. Unfortunately, his first five seasons were spent in the small markets of Indianapolis (with the Pacers) and Utah (with the Jazz).

Since transitioning to Philadelphia prior to the 2021-22 season, his stroke has become a tad more noticed among fans. A move to Los Angeles would provide Niang’s jumper with the spotlight it deserves. A move to Los Angeles would also provide Niang’s jumper with a lot more action, being that he would be playing next to LeBron and Anthony Davis.

DENNIS SCHRODER | POINT GUARD | 6’1″ | 172 lbs | 2023-24 AGE: 30

Schroder was not spectacular in his second run as a Laker, but he was not terrible by any means either. His secondary playmaking on offense was a luxury, and multiple times during the season he more than proved capable of shouldering the offensive load during the absence of the stars.

But his point-of-attack defense is what distinguishes him from most at the point position. He is absolutely fearless and is always more than willing to pick up full court. Whether he is hounding ball-handlers on their trek up the court or ruggedly wrestling with wings trying to take advantage of his size, getting him back on the MLE would be a steal.

XAVIER TILLMAN | CENTER | 6’8″ | 245 lbs | 2023-24 AGE: 24

Anthony Davis is a one-man wrecking crew down low, but he cannot play all 48 minutes. Given his injury issues, something more along the lines of 30-36 minutes would be a much better target for Darvin Ham and the coaching staff.

So, who gets the other 12-18 minutes at the center when AD checks out for a breather? Mo Bamba could be the answer, but an underwhelming stint post-trade deadline hints at a likelihood that his non-guaranteed contract is either waived or used in a trade this offseason.

Rui Hachimura and/or Jared Vanderbilt could absorb some minutes as the small-ball five as well. However, it would be nice to have another sturdy big body to battle with the likes of Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid.

Xavier Tillman may stand at just 6’8″, but he is nothing shy of a bulldog down low. Paying him the MLE prior to the season to become the team’s enforcer could translate to some potentially lucrative dividends later in the season.

Next. 22 players the Lakers gave up on too early. dark