NBA Free Agency Report: Los Angeles Lakers Would Have Hard Time Keeping Dwight Howard, Markieff Morris
The Los Angeles Lakers seemingly added the right pieces to surround LeBron James since the offseason and until the deadline to sign free agents in March. However, the Lakers will have work to do if they want to retain players who would become free agents in the offseason like big men Dwight Howard and Markieff Morris.
Both big men have made significant impact for the Lakers this season. Howard has been great on the defensive end of the floor, and was instrumental in making life difficult for Denver Nuggets All-Star center Nikola Jokic during the Western Conference Finals. Morris, on the other hand, has also been great in playing his role, hitting big three-pointers for the Lakers in the playoffs as a stretch four.
Howard signed a one-year veteran's minimum deal for the Lakers last offseason when they lost DeMarcus Cousins to an ACL tear. Morris, on the other hand, signed a $1.75 million contract when he secured a buyout from the Detroit Pistons earlier in the season. Both big men will become free agents and the Lakers do not hold Bird rights for both players, which makes Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors believe that the Lakers might lose both of them in free agency.
"If the cap doesn’t increase, that would mean a max of $2.8MM for Morris and $3.08MM for Howard," Adams said. "My assumption is that both players would be able to do better than that on the open market. So if they’re not willing to accept team- friendly discounts to remain in Los Angeles, the Lakers may have to dip into their mid-level exception, projected to be worth $9.26 million, to try to re-sign one or both players."
Addam Goldman of Lake Show Life also believes that the future of Howard in Los Angeles is very hard to predict. He pointed out that based on how the Western Conference Playoffs pan out this season, several contenders like the Los Angeles Clippers, the Golden State Warriors, and the Denver Nuggets will likely express interest in adding a veteran big man like Howard.
However, Goldman also added that in his first year back in Los Angeles, Howard has been very vocal about his improving relationship with superstar Dwight Howard and Anthony Davis. It is also worth noting that Howard made a promise to Lakers fans that his second stint in Los Angeles would be better than the first time he played for the franchise. While he has made an impact this season, Goldman still thinks Howard will likely stay with the Lakers.
"Who knows how things will pan out," Goldman said of Howard's future. "Maybe Howard will sign another cheap deal and run it back with the Lakers, or perhaps he’ll look to sign one last multi-year contract with another contender. Howard has consistently said he loves playing with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. There’s no reason for us to disbelieve him. There’s a good chance he’ll come back to the Lakers on another minimum deal."
Aside from Howard and Morris, several Lakers will also become unrestricted free agents in the offseason -- Dion Waiters, JR Smith, and Jared Dudley. Kostas Antetokounmpo will become a restricted free agent, while Anthony Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Avery Bradley, JaVale McGee, and Rajon Rondo hold player options. Quinn Cook, on the other hand, has a partially-guaranteed contract.
According to Sam Quinn of CBS Sports, Davis will surely stay in Los Angeles either by exercising his player option or striking a multi-year maximum deal with the Lakers. However, aside from Davis, the future of their other free agents remain hanging in the balance. He thinks that the Lakers will have a lot of new faces when next season begins regardless of how the 2020 NBA Finals will end up.
"The Lakers would probably prefer to use the full mid-level exception to make a significant addition this offseason, but there's no telling how much flexibility they'll have to do so," Quinn said of the Lakers. "They don't know who will opt in or opt out, and they don't know which of the opt outs will stay. Several have the leverage to demand raises. Predicting much before the Finals would be premature, but expect some changes on next year's roster."
The Lakers have shown willingness to break the bank if it means getting a chance to win a championship. Los Angeles is currently on the verge of winning their 17th championship. If they win the title this year, they are expected to become an attractive option for other free agents, and the front office will likely do anything to maximize the remaining playing years of James in the league.
Signing Aron Baynes Makes Sense for Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz were a win away from advancing to the second round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs, but they eventually fell short, as they blew a commanding 3-1 series lead against the Denver Nuggets. The Jazz are still one of the top teams in the Western Conference, and a move or two for a key player would help them improve their stock next season, assuming they will keep the current core of their roster.
According Sarah Todd of Deseret News, Jazz fans are curious about the possibility of signing Aron Baynes or Justin Holiday in free agency after the current season. But if she is to select, Todd said that she would consider chasing Baynes than Holiday when the free-agency period kicks off. She pointed out that Baynes have proven time and again that he can make an impact even on a team-friendly deal.
Baynes earned $5 million from the Phoenix Suns this season, but Todd is convinced that he might ask for more from interested teams in free agency. However, she believes that the Jazz would have a chance to sign him using their mid-level exception, and she also thinks it would be a win for Utah if they secure him using their MLE. She pointed out that Baynes has shown improvements over the past several seasons.
"Over the 2019-20 season, Baynes shot 35.1 percent on 4.0 attempts per game from 3-point range," Todd said. "Not only is the shooting something that’s enticing, but Baynes can be a bully down low. He has good footwork, is a hustle player, and can be publishing when he puts his mind to it. I understand that at the age of 33 it seems like Baynes should be on his way out of the league, but he just had the best year of his career."
As for Holiday, Todd said that she understands why Jazz fans are buying into the idea of adding the 31-year-old forward to their roster. However, Todd is not too high on the idea of fitting Holiday into the current roster because of his inconsistencies over the past several seasons. Holiday was a defensive stopper for the Indiana Pacers this season, but Todd feels that the former Washington standout failed to live up his billing.
"Jazz fans are really into the idea of acquiring Holiday and for the most part, I get it," Todd said. "I get that the Jazz want a lengthy and athletic defender who can roam the perimeter and be switchy when needed. On the surface Holiday fits that bill, but my fear is that he isn’t as consistent a player as the Jazz are hoping for."
Holiday played 25 minutes per game in 73 appearances for Indiana this season, where he averaged 8.3 points on top of 3.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. Todd thinks that it would be best for Holiday to stay in Indiana to have some sort of consistency in his career. In his first seven years in the league, Holiday has played for the Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, and Memphis Grizzlies.
Another name that has floated around among Jazz fans is Shaquille Harrison. The third-year forward has played sparingly for Chicago this season, as he averaged just 4.9 points and 2.0 rebounds in 11.3 minutes per game. While it appears that he is not too valuable in the rotation, Todd said that it would be hard to sign him because he is a restricted free agent, and the Bulls are entering a new era with new head coach Billy Donovan.
"He’s restricted and the Chicago Bulls can match any offer he gets to retain him," Todd said of Harrison. "It’s not easy to tell what the Bulls are going to do with him. He was in and out of the lineup through most of the season but started getting regular minutes and even starting minutes in the month before the NBA suspended the season. When his minutes were increased, he maximized the opportunity."
It is also worth noting that the Jazz also have work to do with their own free agents. Jordan Clarkson and Emmanuel Mudiay will be unrestricted free agents, while Juwan Morgan, Rayjon Tucker, Jarrell Brantley, Justin Wright-Foreman will be restricted free agents. They hold team options for Georges Niang, Miye Oni, and Nile Williams-Goss, while veteran point guard Mike Conley has a $34.5 million player option for next season.