The Los Angeles Lakers have been very busy since NBA free agency started on Friday and have already built out a rotation that looks good enough to compete for the NBA Championship.
Many pundits and fans alike have penciled the Lakers in as the biggest winners of the offseason thus far. After all, the team was able to retain a core that made the Western Conference Finals while also improving on it.
Better yet, the Lakers were able to do so for a cheap price. While the rest of the league was going crazy by giving out asinine contracts, the Lakers were able to build out their roster at a reasonable price. This has huge implications not just for next season but for the immediate future of the franchise.
None of this would have been possible without the cooperation of another Western Conference team: the Houston Rockets. Houston really could have thrown a wrench in LA’s offseason but instead, decided to max a borderline all-star like a max superstar. Lakers fans should be sending flowers to Fred VanVleet and Rockets GM Rafael Stone.
Rockets’ Fred VanVleet overpay made the Lakers’ offseason possible.
The Rockets deciding to sign VanVleet to a three-year, $130 million contract is a real sliding-door moment for the Lakers. If VanVleet instead decided to return to Toronto or the Rockets decided that was too much then it could have really hampered the Lakers’ plans.
Houston was named as a potential suitor for both Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura this offseason. While the Lakers had the ability to match any deal that either restricted free agent signed, it would have made things a lot more expensive.
Hachimura could have gotten as much as $25 million from a Rockets team that was willing to pay Dillon Brooks $80 million. As great as Rui is, the Lakers may not have matched an offer that paid him $8 million more than he is currently making.
Houston also could have offered Reaves a max offer sheet. The Lakers would have been forced to match but it would have given Reaves a cap hit of over $30 million in years three and four of the deal instead of the average cap hit of $14 million that he currently has.
Instead, what really happened is the Raptors signed a borderline all-star to a massive contract while LA built out an entire backcourt rotation with less total money.