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Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
As the Los Angeles Lakers put the final touches on their roster for the 2020-21 season, attention is gradually shifting to how they’ll deploy a retooled rotation.
Most importantly, the reigning NBA champions need to re-sign Anthony Davis. And once that contract is wrapped up, Lakers coach Frank Vogel and his staff must determine if Dennis Schroder will start alongside Davis and LeBron James.
While it’s unfair to say Schroder starting on the bench definitely would cause a rift, he’s certainly less amenable to a reserve role than a veteran forward who just re-signed.
The rundown starts with the latest update on Davis’ free agency.
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Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
Ever since the Lakers acquired Davis last offseason, the expectation has been he’d decline his option for 2020-21, become a free agent and sign a larger contract to stay in Los Angeles.
Two down, one to go.
Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times reported Davis and agent Rich Paul are scheduled to meet with general manager Rob Pelinka on Tuesday. The story is less of whether Davis will re-sign than the details of the contract he’s seeking.
Davis could sign a two-year pact to become a free agent at the same time as LeBron James, a five-year max contract or something in between. Short of a one-year deal, everything is on the table.
While the numbers are unknown, an agreement will be struck in the near future. Davis will remain with the Lakers in 2020-21.
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Ashley Landis/Associated Press
After arriving from the Oklahoma City Thunder in a trade, Dennis Schroder has no intention of being a backup.
“I did this off-the-bench stuff already in two years with OKC,” the 27-year-old guard said, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “I think I try to move forward, and I think with [Davis] and LeBron, I can be helpful as a starter in the PG position.”
“I think my agent talked to the organization before they was trading me. So, that’s that.”
Since the Lakers lost Rajon Rondo in free agency and waived Quinn Cook, the most effective plan might be to have Schroder run the reserve unit. Maybe not! Yet the only other ball-handlers are LeBron—the de facto starting point guard on a championship team—and Alex Caruso, a non-traditional point guard.
Vogel can manipulate the rotation to accommodate Schroder, but starting both him and LeBron means crafting a specific window to rest one of them. That, or the Lakers risk having Caruso run the second unit without Schroder or LeBron for some portion of time. Given how it’s totally avoidable, that seems foolish.
In reality, a starting job is more a source of pride than a definition of a role. Look no further than Schroder averaging 30.8 minutes—the team’s third-highest mark—in OKC last season. There’s no reason the Lakers couldn’t do the same.
The only difference is having the label of “starter.”
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Alex Gallardo/Associated Press
On the other hand, there’s no possible role frustration with Jared Dudley. He shouldn’t play much, and he won’t. In 2019-20, he averaged just 8.1 minutes in 45 regular-season appearances and totaled 31 minutes during the playoffs.
What he does provide, however, is a galvanizing presence in the locker room and being a mentor to Kyle Kuzma.
For the Lakers, that’s worth bringing back Dudley, 35, on a one-year, $2.6 million deal—the veteran’s minimum. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe reported the signing.
Championship players and coaches often point to a strong culture, and Dudley is the type of person who helps establish that unity. Even if he only plays in garbage time.