The NBA’s free agency period officially began at 12 a.m. ET on Wednesday morning, and the Los Angeles Lakers figure to be among the most active teams this summer. L.A. has less than $40 million committed to salaries for the 2015-2016 season, giving them plenty of money to sign multiple impact players.
Kobe Bryant is owed $25 million next year, but only three other players on the team are scheduled to make more than the league minimum. Coming off their worst season in franchise history, the Lakers are expected to utilize their salary cap space, looking to add some of the best free agents on the market.
The Lakers were in a similar position last year, but they were unable to use their available money on the league’s top free agents. They missed out on the likes of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh.
Most of the players on Los Angeles’ roster from last year have hit free agency. Jeremy Lin, Ed Davis, Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill are all without contracts.
Below is a look at the top free agents that the Lakers are pursuing.
The power forward is the best free agent that’s likely to switch teams, and the Lakers might have as good of a chance as anyone to sign him. One report before the start of free agency said L.A. was the favorite among the seven teams pursuing Aldridge, and they were the first team to get a meeting with the All-Star. The two sides met for nearly two hours on Tuesday night, and L.A. appears to have been pleased with the meeting. The San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks might be the Lakers’ biggest competition for Aldridge.
Even if the Lakers sign Aldridge, they could be also looking to sign a top center. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, NBA executives believe Los Angeles hopes to sign both Aldridge and Jordan. The only problem is that the Lakers don’t have enough salary cap space to offer two max contracts, so both players would have to take slightly less money than they could get elsewhere.
If the Lakers can’t sign Aldridge, they’ll look to land another power forward in free agency. The New York Knicks seem to be the favorite to sign Monroe, but the Lakers will get a chance to make their pitch, meeting with Monroe on Wednesday. In each of his last four years with the Detroit Pistons, the Georgetown product never averaged less than 15.2 points or 9.3 rebounds per game.
There have been rumors about a possible union between Love and the Lakers for the past two years. But the Lakers weren’t able to complete a trade for the power forward last offseason, and it appears likely that that Love will stay with the Cavs, who can offer him more money. Even though the Lakers realize Cleveland is the overwhelming frontrunner to sign Love, they reportedly have a meeting scheduled with the free agent.
The Lakers are pursuing Butler, and there appears to be mutual interest on both sides. Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News reported on Monday that Butler hoped to sign a short-term deal with the Lakers, but the chance of the shooting guard leaving the Chicago Bulls seems very unlikely. Butler is a restricted free agent, and the Bulls have offered him a five-year deal worth $90 million. He has postponed meetings with other teams, including the Lakers, since receiving the max contract offer.
The guard is a restricted free agent, and the Cleveland Cavaliers can match any offer than comes Shumpert’s way. The Lakers are interested in Shumpert, according to multiple sources, along with the Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks. After being traded from the New York Knicks to the Cavs, Shumpert averaged 9.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 24 games.