James becomes eligible for an extension in early August, but as Pincus noted, most of the Lakers’ attempts at a roster shakeup will come during the draft and free agency periods in June and July.
James could assist the Lakers’ efforts with a verbal commitment — but as of yet, there has not been one, per Pincus. And one may not be on the way.
“The Lakers are stuck without a commitment from James, whose contract expires after the 2022-23 season,” Pincus wrote. “Competing executives and agents do not expect the team to get clarity from James ahead of the draft and free agency.”
The Lakers do not have a draft pick this year, though it is believed they are trying acquire a second-round pick, as relayed recently by Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer. GM Rob Pelinka has actually admitted as much.
“It would be a goal for us to somehow get in the second round to get a young player that we can develop,” Pelinka said, via Jacob Rude of SB Nation. “We’ve had great success if you look at our draft history and the guys we’ve drafted and developed and we think we can do it again in 2022 if we can pull off a trade to get a pick.”
That is something that is workable even with a commitment from James, because with or without him, the Lakers need to get younger and start planning for the future. Presently, though, they are in “win-now” mode with a roster that features James, Anthony Davis and presumably, Russell Westbrook.
Granted, LA would love to move Westbrook, but the sense is he will indeed remain on the roster to start next season, Pincus reported. There just aren’t teams out there willing to take on his contract (about $47 million) without additional assets — something of which the Lakers are in short supply.
Either way, the Lakers would prefer to have a better idea of James’ plans before doing anything too drastic, or even contemplating it.
“The last thing the team would want to do is eat up its 2023-24 cap space on players it doesn’t value (in exchange for Westbrook) with James leaving as an unrestricted free agent,” Pincus wrote.