Lakers offseason preview: How Los Angeles can rebuild a championship roster around LeBron James, Anthony Davis


The Phoenix Suns didn't have to devote any attention to Andre Drummond in their series-clinching Game 6 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. He didn't even see the floor, benched in favor of Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol, whom he had once replaced in the starting lineup. Drummond's scoring, rebounding and athleticism appealed to a Lakers team just trying to stay afloat in the middle of the season, so they gave him Gasol's job despite outscoring opponents by 13.4 points per 100 possessions when he shared the floor with LeBron James and Anthony Davis

At some point in his distant past as a broadcaster, Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden visited Indianapolis Colts training camp with his ESPN co-worker Ron Jaworski and noticed a trend he found disturbing. The Colts gave hardly any practice reps to Peyton Manning's backup quarterbacks. So, as Jaworski explained in his book, The Games that Changed the Game, they asked then-Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore why that was, and he gave a response that doubled as some of the most practical life advice a coach could ever give. "Fellas," he explained. "If No. 18 goes down we're f-----, and we don't practice f-----." 

Moore wound up being right. When Manning needed neck surgery in 2011, the Colts went 2-14. A few extra practice reps might have helped backup Curtis Painter win another game or two, but nothing could have saved their season. Hiding under a desk won't protect you from an atomic bomb. There's no practicing "f-----." 

Yet that's exactly what Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka did when he reshaped a Lakers roster fresh off a championship. Knowing that a shortened offseason and condensed schedule would weaken James and Davis, he devoted the bulk of his resources not to players who would fit well alongside them, but rather, ones whose workloads could scale up when either of them needed to rest or miss time due to injury. 

The Lakers devoted their full mid-level exception to Harrell, an all-offense backup center fresh off a postseason in which his defensive flaws rendered him almost unplayable. They had just won a championship largely with Davis as their center, but their alternatives were bargain-basement big men Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee. The two thrived doing the dirty work necessary to win championships. They set screens. They rebounded. They blocked shots. They talked trash. But they weren't scorers. 

The Lakers traded a first-round pick and Danny Green, an ideal 3-and-D role player, to get one in Dennis Schroder, a poor shooter whose value was supposed to come by limiting LeBron's workload when they shared the court and carrying the offense when they didn't. Yet the Lakers were 12 points per 100 possessions worse when James went to the bench this season, and Schroder was held scoreless in a critical Game 5 loss to the Suns despite the extra attention Phoenix devoted to James. 

This is what should trouble Lakers fans heading into the 2021 offseason. The team wasn't blindsided by what happened to James and Davis. They actively planned for it. They designed a roster with the specific intention of weathering the storm should Davis or James miss time, and all 15 members of that active roster were technically available to play with their season on the line against the Suns. But Davis left the game quickly and James, who never quite recovered from the high ankle sprain Solomon Hill inflicted upon him, wasn't his usual self either. It didn't matter. The roster Pelinka built for this exact scenario stood no chance against the loaded Suns. This is why you don't practice f-----. No amount of preparation can save you from f-----.

If James or Davis is physically compromised next season, the Lakers won't win the championship. It's an eventuality they can't bother preparing for because it's one they can't possibly overcome. So with the 2021 offseason fast approaching, let's look into all of the ways the Lakers can build a roster meant to support James and Davis when they're on the floor, not off of it, because with a full offseason of rest and recovery ahead of them, f----- will hopefully no longer be a state the organization feels any need to prepare for. 

Contracts and cap outlook

So long, flexibility. Only two years ago, the Lakers cleared the decks beyond James and Davis in an effort to woo Kawhi Leonard as a third star in free agency. Now, the Lakers can forget about max cap space. Their two preexisting stars are so expensive that the Lakers literally could not create it even if they dumped the rest of their roster. Before factoring in a single offseason contract, they are already above the projected $112.4 million cap for next season.

LeBron James

$41,180,544

Anthony Davis

$35,361,360

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

$13,038,862

Kyle Kuzma

$13,000,000

Marc Gasol

$2,692,991

Alfonzo McKinnie*

$1,910,860

No. 22 pick

$2,451,120

Dead salary (Luol Deng)

$5,000,000

Total

$114,635,737

 *non-guaranteed

That doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. Yes, it will prevent them from acquiring players via sign-and-trade, as that also triggers a hard-cap, but the taxpayer mid-level exception would still give the Lakers meaningful spending power. By using that lower exception, the Lakers would not be hard-capped. They'd be able to add as much salary through trade as they can fit within the league's trade rules, but more importantly, they'd be able to pay their own free agents as much as it takes to retain them. That is going to be critical, because the Lakers have a lot of them. 

  • Schroder reportedly turned down a four-year, $84 million extension during the season. That was the most the Lakers were allowed to offer him at the time due to the NBA's restrictive extend-and-trade rules. Schroder was betting he could get more in the offseason, when the Lakers could legally pay him anything up to the max. His poor postseason and uncomfortable fit with James will probably limit his earnings instead. But the Lakers are in what The Athletic's John Hollinger describes as the "Bird rights trap." They are so far above the cap that if they lost Schroder for nothing, they'd have no means of replacing his salary. That gives him leverage in negotiations. If the Lakers do let him go, watch for the Lakers to try to do what the Boston Celtics did with Gordon Hayward: structure his exit as a sign-and-trade to create a hefty trade exception the Lakers could use on someone else. It would take the cooperation of the acquiring team, but a second-round pick or two is usually enough to grease the wheels there.
  • Recent reporting suggests that Alex Caruso could be offered as much as $10M-12M per year. That's about right for a top reserve on a big-market contender, especially one who fits so seamlessly alongside that team's stars. Any team paying him more has to hope that he can scale up into starter's minutes. He's never been asked to do so. As essential as Caruso has been over the past two seasons, he has never played more than 21 minutes per game.
  • Talen Horton-Tucker's situation is especially complicated because he has only two years of NBA experience. That makes him a restricted free agent, so the Lakers can match any offer sheet he signs, but without a third year of experience, he has only Early Bird rights rather than full Bird rights. That subjects him to the Gilbert Arenas provision. The first year of his deal could not, therefore, exceed the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, and the second would come with a five percent raise. But the third and fourth season could then balloon up to his max, which makes him eligible for roughly $82 million overall. Teams with cap space could choose to structure the cap hits differently, but the Lakers, who are well above the cap, would have no choice but to accept those balloon payments in the last two years. That could prove disastrous for the Lakers because LeBron's current contract expires right as Horton-Tucker's deal could jump, so any hope they'd have at luring another star free agent would be lost. Whether or not he gets to the max, expect rival teams to offer Horton-Tucker a poison-pill deal like this purely to make it harder for the Lakers to match.
  • Harrell left money on the table to join the Lakers. His expectation was that a strong year for a possible repeat champion would allow him to cash in during the 2021 offseason. Well, things didn't play out that way, and now he has to decide if he wants to pick up his $9.7 million option. If he doesn't, the Lakers could pay him roughly $11 million to stay, but it's unlikely that they or any other team currently view him as an $11 million player. A compromise here might involve Harrell opting in with the understanding that the Lakers would trade him to a pre-arranged destination. That would allow him to keep his $9.7 million salary while also joining a team better positioned to showcase him. The Lakers would get another player or asset back from the acquiring team. Even a trade exception would likely be enough.
  • Markieff Morris has Early Bird rights. The Lakers can pay him up to the non-taxpayer mid-level exception as a result. He's not worth that much, but don't be surprised if the Lakers give him a healthy salary on a short-term deal. Doing so would give them some extra tradable salary during the season. 
  • Drummond, Wesley Matthews and Ben McLemore have Non-Bird rights. They can receive only 120 percent of their salaries from last season unless the Lakers are willing to dip into their cap exceptions to pay them more. Matthews can get roughly $4.3 million using these rights. He says he wants to be back, so that should be enough. McLemore is a minimum-salary player. The Lakers just need to decide if he's worth a roster spot. Drummond is where things get messy. He's unlikely to accept 20 percent above the minimum, so if the Lakers are going to keep him, they are probably going to have to give him the taxpayer mid-level exception. Reporting during the regular season and early in the postseason suggested this might be the plan, but it's unclear if his Game 6 DNP changed things. 
  • If Jared Dudley is back, it will be for the minimum. It's just up to the Lakers to decide if they're willing to devote a roster spot to someone whose value comes purely in the locker room. Dudley rarely played for the Lakers last season. 

Money is no object to the Lakers. Between its extremely lucrative local television deal with Spectrum and fans returning to Staples Center, they can afford to pay whatever it takes to build a championship roster. Pelinka has claimed that he has been empowered to spend smartly this offseason. It's not fully clear how much compromise that statement entails. Pelinka implied that the goal is purely to build a championship team, but realistically, that doesn't mean they're going to back up the Brinks truck for everybody. Some of these free agents aren't coming back next season. That should suit the Lakers just fine, though, because they need some fresh blood anyway.

Needs and assets

  • Tradable first-round picks: 2021 (No. 22 overall), either 2027 or 2028
  • Tradable second-round picks: 2023, 2024, 2025, 2027, 2028
  • Tradable first-round swap rights: 2023 (via New Orleans), 2026, 2027, 2028

For the first time since the Davis trade, the Lakers are actually somewhat flexible in terms of trading draft assets. They can deal their first-round pick this season, but must wait until after the draft to do so because of the Stepien Rule. That rule does not allow teams to be without a first-round pick in consecutive drafts, but doesn't work backward, so the fact that the Lakers will send their 2022 pick to New Orleans does not affect their 2021 pick once it has been made. They also owe the Pelicans a choice in either 2024 or 2025, and the fact that it could land in 2025 means their 2026 pick is off limits. That leaves them with one extra tradable pick, either their 2027 or 2028 selection. They can offer swap rights in the other year, and 2026, though. Though New Orleans already has swap rights with them in 2023, the Lakers can still offer swap rights on whatever pick they do have that year. Here's the simple way of putting it: The Lakers have two tradable first-round picks and two years beyond that in which they can offer some form of swap rights.

The player side of the equation can't be so easily condensed. Teams clearly want Horton-Tucker. He was the holdup in a Kyle Lowry trade at the deadline, after all. But his restricted free-agent status gives him some control over the process. He doesn't have to cooperate on a sign-and-trade, so the Lakers could only send him somewhere he agrees to go. The same is true of Schroder with the added caveat that he is unrestricted, so the Lakers have even less control over that process. A complicating factor for both is the NBA's archaic base-year compensation rules that make matching salary more difficult in sign-and-trades. Essentially, whatever new contract their own players sign would only count for half as much as outgoing salary to the Lakers in a trade, but would count for the whole amount to the acquiring team.

Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope are both under contract at reasonable rates for the next two seasons, and both should be viewed as positive assets. Caldwell-Pope's 3-and-D game would fit practically anywhere. Kuzma has developed those areas of his game in recent years, but part of his appeal through trade would stem from the fact that he is still only 25 and once averaged over 17 points per game. An acquiring team could talk itself into him as someone deserving of a bigger role than the Lakers can give him.

So that's what the Lakers actually have to work with. What are they actually looking for?

  • Shooting: The Lakers operate at a shooting deficit every time they put a traditional center on the floor next to Davis. They attempted the ninth-fewest 3-pointers in basketball last season and ranked 21st in 3-point percentage. Their ultimate failing against Phoenix was hitting only 32.1 percent of their wide-open 3s. The Lakers have spent the past two seasons operating under the assumption that James and Davis could make good shooters great. That theory has not panned out. The Lakers need to find shooters that can enhance Davis and James, not the other way around. Continuing to play Davis out of position only intensifies that need. If one of the three players the Lakers are pairing with their stars can't shoot, the other two absolutely have to. 
  • Ball-handling: The basic idea of getting another ball-handler to ease LeBron's burden made sense. The problem was that the Lakers not only found one in Schroder that doesn't shoot well enough to play alongside him, but also couldn't lift bench units when James sat because he struggles in pick-and-roll. The Lakers need to take another swing on a ball-handler, but it has to be one that can shoot even if it means making a defensive compromise. We're really dancing around the need for a third star here. Ideally, the Lakers would find one, but they'd settle for a versatile scorer and distributor if the right one became available. 
  • Wing defense: James can defend opposing stars for stretches, but asking him to do so for entire games would be overtaxing. He has thrived as an off-ball help menace since Davis arrived and that shouldn't change. Kuzma has grown into a solid wing defender, but the Lakers need one more big body with a possible series against the Clippers (Kawhi Leonard and Paul George) and Brooklyn Nets (Kevin Durant) looming on next year's playoff path. If Kuzma is traded to fill another need, wing defense must be treated as a priority.
  • Selflessness: This might sound a bit corny, but the Lakers won the 2020 championship with a culture of sacrifice. Dwight Howard was a Hall of Famer who accepted a bench role. Kuzma emphasized defense and rebounding over scoring. The list goes on and on. Everyone did what they were asked. No more. No less. But Schroder jumping from a No. 5 seed to a champion and publicly lobbying for a starting job should have signaled from the start that he might not have been an ideal culture fit. The same was true of Drummond, who needed to be promised a starting role in order to sign. That can't happen next season. Any player the Lakers add must understand what it takes to win a championship and be willing to commit to that.

Possible trade targets

With those needs in mind, let's break up these possible trade targets into smaller groups:

Big-name guards

Let's cross three names out from the start. No matter how heavily LeBron recruits him, the Warriors aren't trading Stephen Curry. Former UCLA standout Zach LaVine might have been shopped in the past, but the Bulls just gave up a boatload of assets to pair him with Nikola Vucevic. They aren't budging. Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard won't be wearing purple and gold next season either. The Lakers don't have enough to trade for him unless he specifically demands to be dealt to Los Angeles. There's no indication that he even wants a move right now, so Lakers fans will have to find another guard to lust over. Perhaps his teammate would suffice.

Lillard's teammate CJ McCollum is almost certainly at the top of Pelinka's wish list … if he's at all available. He checks every box aside from defense: 3-point shooting, shot creation for teammates, clutch credentials, experience leading bench units, you name it. There isn't a more perfect offensive fit on the market, but for the time being, there's little evidence that McCollum even is on the market. Yes, Portland fired coach Terry Stotts and appears to be ready for some changes, and yes, re-signing Norman Powell would theoretically give the Blazers a capable replacement at shooting guard. But Portland lineups featuring McCollum, Powell and Lillard outscored opponents by 160 points in only 527 minutes. Conventional wisdom suggests that grouping would be too small for the postseason, but it beat Denver by 33 points in 164 first-round minutes. A curveball Lillard trade request would throw a wrench in their plans, but if that doesn't come, expect a fairly mellow Blazers offseason. That guard trio thrived together, and it appears likely that Portland keeps it together unless bowled over with an incredible offer. 

Here are two slightly more attainable options: Buddy Hield and Kemba Walker. Hield's relationship with the Kings has been precarious since former Lakers coach Luke Walton took over in Sacramento, and Tyrese Haliburton has established himself as the shooting guard of the future. Walker and the Celtics are reportedly interested in splitting up this offseason after Boston shopped him last year. Both come with serious defensive concerns. Hield isn't much of a shot creator, and Walker played only 43 games due to injury a year ago. These flaws are what make them gettable. Kuzma might appeal to Walton given their success together in Los Angeles. A Walker deal is more complicated considering his $36 million salary. Matching that legally in a trade would take almost $29 million, more than Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope combined. Getting there would be very difficult for the Lakers. 

Keep an eye on Malcolm Brogdon. The Pacers reportedly listened to offers at the deadline, and were it not for his injury history, he'd probably be the Lakers' first choice. He might still be. Though not quite as accomplished on offense as McCollum, Brogdon is bigger and far better on defense. The Pacers are likely looking to remain competitive, though, so offers based around Kuzma or picks probably wouldn't appeal as much to them as it would other teams. Keep in mind, though, that Indiana has $120 million committed next season before factoring in their first-round pick or new deals for T.J. McConnell or Doug McDermott. The Pacers are going to look to cut costs somewhere. They haven't paid the tax since 2006 and this isn't a roster worth changing that over.

Eric Gordon is probably the low-end target here. The Houston Rockets would love to get off his hefty contract, but the Lakers probably aren't interested especially since the last year of that deal guarantees if his team wins a championship over the next two seasons. His spotty 3-point track record doesn't help either. If the Heat use Goran Dragic as salary filler in a superstar trade, the Lakers could try to swoop in as a third team to pick him up, but the odds of that appear slim at the moment.

Three-and-D wings

Jerami Grant is overqualified for this section after the year he just had, but let's point out that he and LeBron looked awfully friendly after the 2020 Western Conference finals. High-end veterans on rebuilding teams can usually be had for the right price, but nothing out of Detroit suggests that Grant is available at the moment. The same is true of Robert Covington in Portland, whose availability likely rests on a Lillard trade request instigating a full-scale rebuild. Covington doesn't bring nearly as much on the ball as Grant does, but his 3-and-D excellence would be welcomed. 

As for guys who might be available? Terrence Ross is the last veteran standing in Orlando. The Lakers would love to change that, especially at a manageable $12.5 million salary (which declines to $11.5 million in the following season). Speaking of salaries, those pesky luxury tax concerns could compel Indiana to listen on Justin Holiday offers. Holiday, a Los Angeles native and UCLA grad, has hit over 39 percent of his 3-pointers since joining the Pacers. The more expensive Jeremy Lamb might also be available, but he's coming off a poor season and wasn't much of a defender even before his knee injury. 

Chicago appears primed to try to create cap space to either find a point guard to pair with LaVine or renegotiate and extend their All-Star's contract. Tomas Satoransky is a possible casualty of that endeavor, and while he's more of a distributor in a forward's body, the Lakers would welcome his size, IQ and shooting. The Grizzlies don't need to shed money now, but have a glut of young guards fighting for minutes alongside Ja Morant. It'd be worth calling to ask about Grayson Allen or De'Anthony Melton even if Memphis is in no rush to make commitments. Melton just signed a new contract last offseason. Allen is now extension eligible.

The Kings resisted overtures for Harrison Barnes at the deadline. They don't look likely to budge now. Don't rule out Minnesota sniffing around Malik Beasley deals if it manages to keep its top-three protected first-round pick. This is a guard-heavy draft and they already have Anthony Edwards and D'Angelo Russell. Beasley brings very little on the "D" side of the equation, but he's grown into an elite shooter. His off-court issues make him a somewhat toxic target, though. For now, he should be deemed unlikely.

Shooting big men

Expect to hear the name Myles Turner plenty as Indiana considers breaking up its center tandem. He's arguably the NBA's second-best rim protector, and pairing him with Anthony Davis would terrify opposing offenses. He's a better 3-point shooter in theory than in practice, typically firing only when left wide open. The Lakers have too many shooters like that as is. As tempting as the defensive upside of a Turner-Davis pairing might be, it would probably be suboptimal of the Lakers to devote their trade resources to a center when that is where Davis will play in the postseason. As helpful as he'd be, the price just isn't right. 

Al Horford would be cheaper in terms of assets, but not salary. Matching his $27 million just isn't feasible for the Lakers at the moment. Had Milwaukee's second-round series with Brooklyn gone as expected after the Bucks fell down 2-0, Brook Lopez might have been a more affordable option, but the Bucks have little reason to explore that path now. Even if they did, Lopez's first Lakers tenure didn't exactly end well. Pelinka will be on the lookout for shooting big men, but realistically, the Lakers just invested heavily in centers last offseason and look where they got them. Cheap free-agent options are likely to be the priority. 

Possible free-agent targets

Sadly, there doesn't appear to be a viable way for the Lakers to sneak back into the Lowry sweepstakes after failing to acquire him at the deadline. Had they gotten him then, he'd be an internal free agent with Bird rights. That isn't the case now. He reportedly wants a two-year, $50 million deal. The Lakers can't come close to that with the mid-level exception, and taking on a $25 million cap charge through a hard cap-inducing sign-and-trade just wouldn't be feasible. He, James and Davis would cost over $100 million combined. That just wouldn't leave enough room underneath the hard cap to field a competitive roster. His best friend, however, might be more realistic.

The most widely-debated Lakers target this offseason will be DeMar DeRozan. The Los Angeles native grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant. The Lakers pursued him for the max in 2016. This time around, it would be for the mid-level exception. He'd be taking a payout, but it isn't clear that any enormous offers will be waiting for him elsewhere. DeRozan turns 32 this offseason. He doesn't defend or shoot 3s. There usually isn't much of a market for such players. 

DeRozan, an exceptional isolation scorer that has grown tremendously as a passer of late, might be an exception. If he isn't, a chance to fight for that elusive championship on his hometown team might be too tempting to pass up. He's a complicated piece for the Lakers to fit. They'd need a shooting center to offset his spacing deficiencies, though defenders can't exactly sag off him. He might not be able to stay on the floor defensively late in the playoffs The opportunity cost of spending the mid-level exception on him is considerable. Take Spurs teammate Patty Mills as an alternative. For all he lacks as a playmaker compared to DeRozan, his 39 percent career 3-point stroke just works more easily on a LeBron team. 

There might be cheaper ways to take that home run shot-creator swing. Would Victor Oladipo take the minimum to join a contender and rebuild his value? Maybe, though staying in Miami might be his first choice. Bringing Lou Williams back to Los Angeles shouldn't be out of the question. He knows the organization and city, and if the Lakers keep Harrell, their reunion would work wonders for the bench. If Derrick Rose shoots as well as he did for the Knicks, he might even be a better fit for the mid-level exception than DeRozan. 

There's going to be a mix-and-match element to free agency for the Lakers. They need shooting, shot creation, wing defense, and likely, at least one center. If they think they can fill one slot for the minimum, they might prioritize using that mid-level exception on another spot even it means passing on more talented players. Typically, shooting costs a premium. That's especially true if it comes with anything else. Evan Fournier and Alec Burks both bring a splash of playmaking with their shots. Neither is coming for the minimum. Maybe the Lakers could swing one for the mid-level exception. 

In an ideal world, the Lakers retain the internal options they want to retain and aren't forced to panic into signing replacements. The Lakers want to retain Caruso. If they don't, it wouldn't be terribly surprising if they turned around and offered their mid-level exception to T.J. McConnell to fill a similar role. 

Speaking of replacements, it wouldn't be too farfetched for the Lakers to eye some of the players they let go of a season ago. They know that Dwight Howard and Javale McGee work as regular-season inning eaters at center. They'd prefer shooting centers, but for the minimum, either would be usable. Avery Bradley struggled with injuries last year, but was excellent in his first stint as a Laker. 

A wildcard to consider here is the buyout market. Blake Griffin broke the mold last season by negotiating an exit with Detroit despite being on a non-expiring contract. More veterans will consider that. If Cleveland continues to struggle to find a trade suitor for Kevin Love and his $31.3 million salary, he'll be a player to watch given his ties to LeBron. Gary Harris and Rudy Gay would be nice as more traditional in-season expiring contract types. 

Now let's lightning round a few other archetypes: 

Wing defenders: Torrey Craig, Maurice Harkless, Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green, Nicolas Batum. The last two are getting more than the minimum. Craig probably should as well given his success in Phoenix. Harkless is a buy-low option just as Bradley once was. 

Shooting: Doug McDermott, Tony Snell, Otto Porter Jr., Carmelo Anthony. Anthony will be linked to LeBron's team until one of them retires, but his defense in Portland just wasn't playoff-caliber. Porter, on the other hand, seems primed for a revival not unlike the one Batum has had with the Clippers … provided he can stay healthy. McDermott is another mid-level option. Snell makes sense only at the minimum even after his incredible 50-50-90 shooting season. 

Centers: DeMarcus Cousins, Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky, Luke Kornet. This is the "you get what you pay for" bin of minimum-salary centers. Cousins is close with several Lakers players, so a return wouldn't be shocking. Really, though, if the Lakers are signing a minimum-salary center, it should be Howard or McGee. 

What is the likeliest outcome?

The Lakers never lack for ambition. They'll sniff around every big fish. Some of them, like DeRozan and Hield, might be feasible. Others, like Lillard and LaVine, probably aren't. But the sobering reality facing the Lakers right now is that they just don't have much to bargain with. 

Rarely can teams aggregate multiple role players into a star. The No. 22 pick isn't netting a game-changer. As valuable as those later picks in 2027 and 2028 might be, few GMs have the job security to believe that they'll actually be the ones making them. The taxpayer mid-level exception is meant to fill holes, not chasms. 

So the Lakers will do what they can to give James and Davis a true running mate. Odds are, they aren't going to find one, and if that's the case, the name of the game is going to be asset accumulation. For all the talk of Drummond possibly returning next season, the Lakers can get 80 percent of his production for the minimum just by bringing back Howard. Spending the mid-level on Drummond over a shooter would be a dereliction of duty. 

The same would be true of losing internal free agents for nothing. The fan base might revolt if Caruso walks. They aren't nearly as attached to Schroder or Horton-Tucker, but if opposing teams view either as core pieces, the Lakers can at least extract trade exceptions and future flexibility to facilitate moves. More likely, one or both stay and the Lakers figure it out later. 

The roster doesn't need to be finished in August. The advantage to having such an expensive roster is that it provides endless sources of matching salary. Players that aren't available now will be at the deadline. Keeping some powder dry would give the Lakers a leg up on their rivals at that point. 

In that sense, while there's no such thing as a "quiet" offseason for the Lakers, this might be an anticlimactic one. If they can add a major piece now they will. If they can't, they'll shore up the margins, hoard their chips and prepare for a deadline deal. This team has James and Davis. If they are healthy, they will be good no matter who the Lakers put around them. The goal, of course, is to be great. If that requires a bit of patience, then so be it.