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Will the Lakers be able to keep Dennis Schröder?

Milwaukee Bucks v Los Angeles Lakers
Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

It sure seems like Lakers guard Dennis Schröder is going to test unrestricted free agency this summer. We’ll be keeping track of every update here.

Shortly before Christmas Day, the Los Angeles Lakers offered Dennis Schröder a two-year, $33.4 million contract extension, the most they were allowed to offer at the time. He declined.

Then, at some point after Feb. 16, the team upped their offer again to the maximum they were allowed: A four-year, approximately $84 million deal. He again decided to pass.

After those two rejections, the Lakers at least had to acknowledge the possibility that Schröder would leave them in free agency, and shopped him before the NBA trade deadline. They didn’t make a deal, and while they can theoretically extend him at any point prior to the start of free agency this summer, it certainly sounds like he wants to test the market.

A common question in the aftermath of all this has been something along the lines of “is some team really going to pay Schröder the $20-plus million annually that he’s seeking?” The answer: Maybe. But even if they won’t, the reason Schröder thinks he can ask for it is not just that he probably feels that he’s worth it. It’s also that he and his camp are more than aware that the Lakers don’t really have other options.

The choices for the team are not “keep Schröder” or “offer that same money to Montrezl Harrell, Andre Drummond or some other free agent.” The reason? They are going to be over the cap this summer unless they basically let every single member of their team go, which means that they don’t have much money to offer players who they don’t have Bird rights on.

By virtue of trading for Schröder, they can exceed the cap to re-sign him to a deal up to the maximum allowable salary for players of 7-9 years of experience: 30% of the cap, which would be $32 million this season. That’s not to say they will offer Schröder that much, it’s just an acknowledgement that they can offer him more in free agency than they can currently.

NBA cap expert Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report summarized the situation even more succinctly:

Finding the right price for Schroder may prove challenging, but the Lakers can give him a maximum contract. Harrell, who can opt out of his final year ($9.7 million), can get up to $11.1 million via his non-Bird rights.

Drummond can only earn up to $2.9 million with his non-Bird rights. To get to the cap space needed to pay out even $16 million in starting salary, the Lakers would need to dramatically pare down their roster (by letting free agents walk and trading several players under contract).

The best case for Drummond would be a willingness to stay on at the $5.9 million TMLE, but that’s well below market value. The Lakers could try to get to the $9.5 million NTMLE, but then they would be hard-capped at $143 million, necessitating similar cuts/trades (letting Schroder walk, perhaps sending Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Kyle Kuzma out in a trade).

But in summation: Schröder doesn’t have to be worth upwards of $20 million to a team on the open market. He just has to make it clear to the Lakers that he’s worth that much to them, because they won’t be able to pay nearly as much to a theoretical replacement for him.

Again, maybe the team finds a middle ground and extends Schröder prior to free agency, but whatever happens, we will be keeping track of the timeline of these negotiations in the story stream below. Bookmark this page for the latest updates.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts.

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