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The Los Angeles Lakers entered free agency emphasizing the importance of maintaining continuity and only needing marginal promotions to a roster that made the Western Conference Finals.
They stayed true to their word on day one of free agency, agreeing to re-sign restricted free agent Rui Hachimura (three years, $51 million) while adding guard Gabe Vincent (three years, $33 million), forward Torrian Prince (one year), 4.5 $1 million) and winger Cam Reddish (minimum two-year veteran, sophomore player option), team sources confirmed to the athlete.
The Lakers will use the mid-level non-taxpayer exception on Vincent and the semi-annual exception on Prince, which means they will be severely restricted in their first luxury $172 million tax arena. That restriction wouldn’t stop them from bringing back restricted free agent Austin Reeves or unrestricted free agent D’Angelo Russell, according to multiple sources on the team who are not authorized to speak publicly. Reeves is still the Lakers’ number one priority, those sources said, and the Lakers are still interested in re-signing Russell despite signing Vincent, another combo first-shooting guard.
Reeves’ first-year salary cap is $12.4 million due to “providing Gilbert Arenas” to the CBA, regardless of whether he agrees to re-sign with the Lakers for the maximum they can offer (about four years, $52 million) or if they match the sheet. Loaded offer from another team (about four years, $102 million at most).
Realistically, the most the Lakers could offer Russell on a first-year salary is about $20 million to $22 million, depending on the types of minimum contracts they use to fill out their roster. (The minimum contracts carry different values based on the player’s years of service.) Aside from Reeves and Russell, the Lakers have either two or three slots as a minimum of veteran players — expect two since they will likely carry an official 14 player roster going into the 2023-24 season. (The Lakers could technically keep either Malik Beasley or Lonnie Walker IV on the veteran minimum using Byrd’s rights, but it depends on Russell’s first-year salary.)
After turning down Beasley’s $16.5 million team selection and waiving unguaranteed salaries to Mo Bamba ($10.3 million) and Shaquille Harrison ($2.4 million), the Lakers opened up a mid-level exception to non-taxpayers to use in rookie-level rotations for promotions. They found one in Vincent, who became their primary addition in the offseason. The 27-year-old shooting guard is seen as a tough defender who fits seamlessly into Miami’s tough and selfless culture.
A four-year veteran, Vincent was a relatively pedestrian in the regular season, posting averages of 9.4 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 0.9 steals in 25.9 minutes per game. He shot just 40.2 percent from the field, 33.4 percent from 3 and 87.2 percent from the free throw line during that span. But his numbers skyrocketed during the playoffs, as he averaged 12.7 points per game on 40.2/37.8/88.2 shooting in 30.5 minutes per game with Tyler Hero out with a hand injury. The most notable jump was behind the arc, where Vincent went from a mediocre shooter to an above average one.
Unlike Russell, Vincent is a confirmed playoff contributor. He was arguably the third-best player on the Heat in most of their Magic Finals, as the No. 8 seed, with five 20-point games, including at least one in each round. He must support the Los Angeles defense with shooting, holding the ball and attacking when it matters most.
Assuming the Lakers retain the Braves and Russell, Vincent plans to come off the bench as the team’s third point guard. He could easily start next to Reeves if the Lakers don’t agree to an understanding with Russell, or if he’s outshining Russell in training camp and the Lakers decide to move Russell to the bench. Reaves should be a locked starter, assuming he returns.
Essentially, Vincent replaced Dennis Schroeder, who signed a two-year, $26 million deal with the Toronto Raptors shortly after the Lakers signed Vincent. Considering the players available in a similar price range, including Schröder, Vincent is a solid value for the Lakers. If he ends up off the bench, he’ll be the Lakers’ best guard in years.
The Lakers considered bringing Schroeder back, but ultimately viewed Vincent as a better player and value, according to team sources. Those sources said that Lakers coach Darvin Hamm was a strong internal voice in favor of keeping Schroeder.
In the days leading up to free agency, the Lakers were confident they would land former Nuggets winger Bruce Brown on a mid-level, multi-year, non-taxpayer exception contract, multiple league sources reported. the athlete. That changed Friday morning, however, when the Indiana Pacers cleared extra space and became the favorite for a touchdown over the Browns. Brown ended up agreeing to a two-year, $45 million deal with Indiana, nearly double the annual value the Lakers could offer him.
Meanwhile, Hachimura’s deal was very much in line with his market value the athlete Reported to be approximately $15 million to $18 million. The 25-year-old striker ended up at the upper end of that range, with the Lakers valuing the certainty of locking him in and not letting another team try to drive up the price.
Like Vincent, Hachimura was a rookie in the free agency playoffs, shocking in his scoring (9.6 to 12.2), field goal percentage (48.5 to 55.7) and 3-point game percentage (29.6 to 48.7). Hachimura’s three-point shooting in future seasons would go a long way in determining the value of his contract. Fortunately for the Lakers, he’s a perfect fit alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis and has been the fourth best player on the team for most of the postseason.
As of now, Hachimura is the only free agent kept by the Lakers. He entered the offseason as the Lakers’ second priority to Reeves and is a key member of the group that Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Rob Pelinka referred to when he stated that the team intends to “keep our youthful core together” this offseason.
Lakers’ Rob Pelinka reiterates the plan to “keep this core of guys together” in free agency
After being waived by the Minnesota Timberwolves earlier this week before his $7.7 million salary guarantee for this 2023-24 season, Prince will arrive in Los Angeles as the kind of three-dimensional winger the Lakers have always desired. He hits 37.2 percent as a 3-point shooter on 4.4 attempts per game, and hit 38.1 percent as a 3-point shooter last season. He will likely come off the bench, back up James and Hachimura as a floor spacer in catch and strikeout positions, hit the ball, and catch the pop. Prince is tough and ranks as an above average defender on most advanced metrics.
Reddish is a name that has been causing quite a stir over the past couple of days. The front office had an affinity for him, and he has clear ties to the organization given that he is represented by Klutch Sports, which is run by childhood friend James Rich Paul. The 6-foot-8 Reddish averaged 11.0 points on a 56.1 real shooting percentage in 20 games with Portland last season after he was traded from the New York Knicks. He is not a 3-point shooter (32.2 percent in his career) and tends to gamble with steals and lose focus defensively. At just 23 years old (he’ll turn 24 before the season), the former No. 10 overall pick is the kind of teetering on untapped potential that has paid off for the Lakers in recent seasons with Malik Monk, Lonnie Walker IV and, to a lesser extent, Stanley Johnson. Reddish has shown flashes throughout his career, but hasn’t made a consistent impact in a winning context.
Re-signing Hachimura was a formality, as was re-signing or matching Reaves. But the real question with the Lakers’ offseason is what they’re going to do with their exceptions. They effectively replaced Schroeder and Troy Brown Jr., who had agreed to sign in Minnesota, with Vincent and Prince, an upgrade to Los Angeles. (Beasley and Pampa Walker remained unsigned as of Friday night.) They added two above-average shooters while maintaining the defensive acumen that made them so dominant at times during the second half of last season. They also took a low stakes ride on Reddish that could pay off.
Russell is the other question mark. There did not appear to be widespread interest in signing him; If that’s the case, the Lakers have the most leverage in negotiations and have the potential to make millions out of a potential deal.
While Friday’s moves were an undeniable success that boosted the roster of a team that was four wins away from the NBA Finals, the Lakers still had some holes in their roster. Their shooting has been improved, but it would be an exaggeration to say that it is the strength of the crew. They’re betting heavily on Vincent and Hachimura holding their shooting numbers post-season. If they both return to close to percentages for the 2023-24 regular season, Los Angeles will not have enough spacing around James, Davis, and Reeves.
Additionally, while the Lakers’ perimeter defense is better with Vincent and Prince on board, there are legitimate questions about how they’ll stand up to teams with multiple big scoring wings, like the Boston Clippers). Jared Vanderbilt, an obvious choice to guard players like Jason Tatum and Kawhi Leonard, can be played off the ground in those games, as he sometimes was during the playoffs.
Finally, Los Angeles still has a giant quarterback gap behind Anthony Davis. At this point, they only have one position (Davis) on the roster. Hashimura and James are able to slide into the center, but this is only in certain situations. With the Lakers looking to fill another roster outside of Reeves and (possibly) Russell, the best approach would be to ink two veteran seniors as a minimum necessary depth and injury insurance. A league source said Bamba is interested in staying with the Lakers and could be an option.
As for future moves, it’s clear that Reaves and Russell will still be in the market. Reeves is scanning the landscape and taking his time before re-signing with the Lakers, but his options are slipping away. The Lakers’ messages that they would match any offer made to Reaves seemed to be working in their favour.
The Lakers aren’t done yet, but they’ve built on last season’s identity and look better positioned to repeat last season’s success than they did less than 24 hours ago.
(Photo: Eric Espada/Getty Images)