Former NBA champion name-dropped as potential Lakers target

Whether Kyrie Irving ultimately finds his way to Southern California remains uncertain. Yet, one thing appears clear — the Los Angeles Lakers are in the market for a veteran point guard. 

On Tuesday’s airing of ESPN’s “Get Up,” Brian Windhorst stated the Lakers “have other options beyond [Irving],” pointing toward Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet as a potential alternative. Windhorst added that the Raptors could ultimately decide to let VanVleet walk this offseason due to uncertainty surrounding their current roster makeup. 

VanVleet, 29, is represented by agent Rich Paul and Klutch Sports Group, who also represents Los Angeles’ star-studded duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. 

The one-time All-Star is coming off his third consecutive campaign averaging at least 19.3 points per game. While VanVleet did see his shooting percentage from beyond the arc drop to the lowest mark of his seven-year career (34.2%), his 7.2 assists average in 2022-23 served as a new personal best.

VanVleet is just the latest in a laundry list of potential point guard solutions who have been floated for the Lakers, joining the likes of Irving and Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young. According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, the franchise has had “internal discussions” about a “hypothetical trade offer” to acquire Young from Atlanta. 

Financially, VanVleet likely checks in as the cheapest option of the trio, albeit still relatively expensive. The former NBA champion carries a 2023-24 player option worth $22.8 million. There had been rumblings of VanVleet rejecting a max-extension contract offer of $114 million before the beginning of last season. However, VanVleet denied that speculation back in January, claiming “there was never a formal offer made.”

Spotrac projects the Lakers to have $29.6 million in practical salary-cap space this offseason. Irving is eligible to receive approximately $47 million on a full max offer, while Young is entering just the second year of a five-year, $215 million deal. 

VanVleet would serve as a moderate upgrade over midseason acquisition D’Angelo Russell, who the team appears to have soured on. Russell’s rocky postseason performance has likely dropped him down the offseason priority list for the Lakers, who will look to retain the likes of Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura. 

VanVleet would bring an influx of consistency to the Lakers backcourt that they could desperately use, evident by Russell totaling a mere 25 points in the Western Conference Finals. However, VanVleet’s ceiling as a player falls slightly below the game-changing presence that will have LeBron clamoring to lace up his kicks for year 21.