The Lakers’ top free agency priority has entailed securing a marquee frontcourt player. But that has not stopped the Lakers from also looking elsewhere.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak expressed interest in signing Chicago Bulls small forward Jimmy Butler and Cleveland Cavaliers small forward Iman Shumpert, according to a league source familiar with the situation. The likelihood of the Lakers landing either player seems challenging since both are restricted free agents.
Butler would love to sign a short-term deal with the Lakers so he could maximize his earnings when the NBA’s new television deal kicks in next season. But the Bulls offered Butler a maximum five-year, $90 million contract on Monday. Even if Butler has lukewarm feelings about staying in Chicago, the Bulls are expected to match any offer he receives. Butler posted 20 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists a game, while making his first All-Star appearance in his four-year NBA career.
The Lakers’ chances at securing Shumpert may become just as difficult. Cleveland extended Shumpert a qualifying offer, which would allow the Cavaliers to match any offer sheet. The 25-year-old Shumpert averaged eight points last season with the Cavaliers and Knicks, and was largely credited as one of the league’s best perimeter defenders.
The Lakers have $23 million available to spend in free agency.