Lakers make all the right moves on day one

This isn’t a snapshot of the “winners and losers” of the NBA’s free agency column, but after the early hours of free agency Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers went through a second consecutive trade window with marked improvements to their roster around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Since the February trade deadline, Rob Pelinka’s front office has targeted low-cost, productive players based on system adjustment who are capable of impacting games with versatility. The Lakers aren’t exactly targeting splashy headlines associated with approaches of yesteryear.

The three second-round picks Los Angeles sent Washington for Rui Hachimura brought strong playoff performances from the Gonzaga product, helping the Lakers reach the Western Conference Finals. Hachimura returned to the team on a three-year, $51 million deal on Friday, league sources confirmed to Yahoo Sports. In extension talks with the Wizards last offseason, Hachimura was looking for $15 million in average annual value, sources said. The Lakers needed to know that number before acquiring him in January, and it’s no surprise his salary topped that original range after Hachumira’s postseason run.

The three-team trade that sent Russell Westbrook to Utah and brought back D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt turned the Lakers’ most glamorous acquisition — and glamorous failure — into a conclusion beneficial. Vanderbilt is on the books for just $4.6 million this season, one of the best value deals in the NBA despite the Kentucky product’s lack of any real scoring threat. While the Lakers turned down Beasley’s $16.5 million player option for 2023-24, Pelinka holds the shooting wing in high regard, league sources tell Yahoo Sports, and there had talks Friday night about Beasley’s potential return to the Lakers. Russell’s status remains undetermined, although there was mutual interest in returning to Los Angeles when free agency began, sources said.

Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent, right, walks off the court before Game 5 of the NBA Basketball Finals against the Denver Nuggets, Monday, June 12, 2023, in Denver.  (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Tauren Prince’s addition to the semi-annual $4.5 million year-over-year exception also appears to be a significant value play. Prince was expected to earn more than $7 million with Minnesota this season before the Timberwolves waived Prince and his unguaranteed salary as part of cost-cutting measures to open the mid-level non-taxpayer exception of the team. Prince is a career 37.2 percent 3-point shooter — a tick better than Max Strus, a mid-level darling of this free agency cycle who is reportedly seeking more than $16 million in annual salary. Prince’s two-way ability should provide another reliable wing option the Lakers lacked against the Nuggets’ high-octane offense. Cam Reddish has long been linked to Los Angeles. After signing with the Lakers at the veteran minimum, Reddish will have his best opportunity yet to contribute in a difficult environment.

The most interesting result of Lakers spending is the addition of former Miami Heat point guard Gabe Vincent. The UC Santa Barbara product is returning to California on a three-year, $33 million deal, league sources have told Yahoo Sports, with the entire deal guaranteed. Vincent emerged in Miami after being drafted in 2018 and really stepped up in the Heat’s starting lineup during the playoffs. While free agency began with Fred VanVleet widely known to be Houston’s top target with over $60 million in salary cap space, the Raptors seemed like a strong possibility for Vincent. News of Vincent emerging as Toronto’s best option to replace VanVleet seemed to spread through rival offices. But then the bell rang and the players flew off the board. Bruce Brown, the Lakers’ top target with that full middle tier, quickly signed with the Pacers for two years and $45 million, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Eric Gordon was another name on the Lakers’ radar, but Los Angeles opted to move forward with Vincent, and the Raptors never contacted his representation Friday with an offer, sources said.

Miami also did not offer Vincent a salary comparable to that of the Lakers. According to league staff, the Heat would not exceed $8 million in annual value. Miami seems to operate on a strict budget. In order for the Heat to help facilitate any signing and trade for Strus, who the Cleveland Cavaliers hope to complete, sources said, the Heat have indicated a requirement not to take back a large salary, which will require a third team like the San Antonio Spurs for salary matching purposes. And since Victor Oladipo exercised his $9.5 million player option for this season, the Heat have been looking for offers to offload his salary, sources said, and ended up sending Oladipo into cap space. ‘Oklahoma City. The Lakers, meanwhile, were waiting for Vincent with a big salary.

Vincent’s arrival took Dennis Schröder off the table for the Lakers after there were many rumors that Los Angeles would try to retain Schröder with part of their mid-level exception that ended up largely returning. to Vincent. It apparently turned into good news, however, for the German playmaker, who later joined Toronto in place of VanVleet, for two years and $26 million, sources say.

Without VanVleet, the Raptors stand on shaky ground in the Eastern Conference. Re-signing Jakob Poeltl to a four-year, $80 million deal with a player option, league sources tell Yahoo Sports, still looked like the likely outcome after Toronto sent a first-round pick to Spurs for the veteran center before the trade deadline. Schröder has been a valuable cog in the Lakers’ playoff sprint, but this will be the second time Toronto has lost a franchise favorite to open-market point guard after rebuffing big offers for those players at the deadline. previous trade.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Dennis Schroder (17) reacts after making a 3-point field goal against the Denver Nuggets in the second half of Game 3 of the NBA Basketball Western Conference Finals Series on Saturday 20 May 2023 in Los Angeles.  (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Dennis Schröder joins the Toronto Raptors. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

After Toronto rejected offers for Kyle Lowry in 2021, the Raptors watched the All-Star who helped win the only championship in franchise history in Miami by way of signing and trade, only giving up Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa in return. At the next deadline, after Dragic played just five games for Toronto, the Raptors had to use a 2022 first-round pick to turn Dragic into Thaddeus Young — choosing that avenue over acquiring Kristaps Porziņģis from Dallas. Flash forward to this season, and the Phoenix Suns were surely interested in acquiring VanVleet by the deadline, league sources told Yahoo Sports. The Clippers have also shown a strong interest in VanVleet, sources said, and were open to including a lot of the pieces Los Angeles could very well end up sending to Philadelphia to acquire James Harden this summer instead. Toronto now has to bear VanVleet leaving for Houston with nothing in return.

Perhaps VanVleet’s exit will help create more on-the-ball opportunities for OG Anunoby, who has switched agencies from Klutch Sports to CAA amid ongoing questions about his role in Toronto. Anunoby told representatives in meetings with potential agents, according to people familiar with the situation, that he was seeking greater ball handling and playing duties ahead of his upcoming contract negotiations. Without that chance in the Raptors offense under new chief Darko Rajaković, there remains the possibility that Anunoby could seek a trade from the franchise in what is now the third season of a $72 million deal on four years – which Anunoby passed on to potential agents. which he deemed below market value, but includes a player option ahead of the 2024-25 season.

Even then, it remains the roadblock for Toronto communicating what rival front offices have always seen as unrealistic valuations for its players – such as Anunoby and All-Star forward Pascal Siakam and VanVleet himself – which would make any potential trade exit harder than meets the eye. These negotiations are never without the shifting poles of leverage, but teams and players can often confuse the weather and the impending threats of the next deal cycle as a factor in their favor. On other occasions, a team or player may simply have been burnt out by the unfortunate summer to hit the open market as a free agent or a team with cash to spare.

Ask Austin Reaves. The biggest piece of the Lakers’ offseason puzzle remains unsigned. Los Angeles has strongly signaled the Lakers will match any offer sheet for Reaves, which could limit the 25-year-old to the maximum $50 million-plus over four years that Los Angeles can offer him – still a Massive victory for the undrafted guard from Arkansas. If Reaves was an unrestricted free agent, he likely could have caught the eye of multiple suitors with cap space. Now only the San Antonio Spurs make a team with the ability to scare the Lakers and lob Reaves the maximum four-year $100 million offer sheet he can only get from a rival team.

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