Reportedly, one reason the Lakers didn’t pull the trigger on a Russell Westbrook trade this summer is because they don’t want to take back any players whose contracts run beyond this season. That seems to fit in with an effort to land a big fish next summer.
However, if that’s their goal, it will likely mean punting on this season while LeBron James grows one year older and accumulates more wear and tear.
By midseason, as a few teams may decide to make big changes by then, there could be a Westbrook trade option that would take L.A. from a good team to one that can contend for the world title. But if the team is adamant about going after Irving, Grant and Wiggins in July, it could very well turn down such a can’t-miss deal in an attempt to keep cap space open.
In addition, it is hard for any team to successfully attract a star like that in free agency, and simply making the attempt would mean renouncing multiple role players who have value to the team.
Landing an Irving, Grant or Wiggins would then leave the Lakers with no cap space to fill out the rest of the roster, forcing it to use the mid-level exception and veteran minimum to field a strong supporting cast.
It could result in them having to bring in washed-up, zero-impact players such as Trevor Ariza and DeAndre Jordan, whom they signed last summer.
If the Lakers are serious about winning championship No. 18, they can’t put all their eggs in the 2023 free agency basket.