The Los Angeles Lakers are taking the proactive approach to keeping Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura this summer.
The Los Angeles Lakers face a summer of introspection after getting swept out of the conference finals. This is already an undercurrent of potential change: LeBron is considering retirement, or at the very least reaching deep into his bag of leverage tricks. The entire roster except for James, Anthony Davis, and rookie Max Christie is technically eligible for free agency.
The two biggest names on the docket for LA are Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura, both of whom are set to enter restricted free agency. The Lakers are allowed to match any contract the two sign elsewhere.
Allegedly, that’s exactly what the front office plans to do.
Lakers’ front office telegraphs strong desire to keep Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura
According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, the Lakers plan to match any offer sheet for Reaves and Hachimura — even if both receive max offers. Rob Pelinka hinted as much to reporters: “I would say this resoundingly clear: Our intentions are to keep our core of young guys together.”
As Kyle Kuzma helpfully pointed out on Twitter, the Lakers have stated their desire to keep a young core together around LeBron James before. It didn’t work out that way. This could all be smart theatrical maneuvering from the Lakers’ front office ahead of free agency. If the entire NBA believes Reaves and Hachimura are locks to stay in Los Angeles, why even bother with an offer sheet? The Lakers could be hoping to scare off potential bidders.
It probably won’t work. A young team with cap space will inevitably convince themselves why not, even if the Lakers are dead-set on keeping the young core together. What happens if LeBron pitches Kyrie Irving? Plans can change quickly in the NBA.
Reaves feels destined for a $100 million offer from someone: we’ve already seen Jordan Poole get paid after a big postseason run at the same position. Hachimura meanwhile has been trending upward for a while, but he exploded in the playoffs. He averaged 15.3 points on 53.3 percent shooting in the Denver series (three games off the bench, one start).
The Lakers also have a decision to make with D’Angelo Russell, who could command significant money on the open market. With Reaves and Hachimura likely to rack up a significant bill and the Kyrie rumors still floating in the ether, now might be a good time to place your bets on Russell’s next place of employment.