The move represents a mere formality that both Jordan Clarkson and the Lakers hope forges into a long-term partnership.
The Lakers extended a qualifying offer worth $2.7 million to Clarkson on Thursday. The Lakers also did the same to backup point guard Marcelo Huertas and backup center Tarik Black, with qualifying offers worth both $1.1 million.
Most of the focus centers on Clarkson, however, after finishing last season second in points (15.5) and first in minutes played (32.5). Clarkson could accept the qualifying offer to become an unrestricted free agent in 2017, though he has no intentions of doing so. The Lakers have not offered any indications on how they plan to handle Clarkson’s upcoming free agency.
The Lakers could quickly negotiate a deal after July 1 for two reasons. The move would signal loyalty to Clarkson. It would also prevent any team from pursuing Clarkson.
Or the Lakers could maximize cap space in the next two years by matching any of Clarkson’s offer sheets. Under the so-called Gilbert Arenas rule, the Lakers could pay Clarkson around $5.5 million for the next two seasons before receiving a hefty pay raise around $22-$23 million per season. Still, that approach could hurt the Lakers’ future cap space when the free agency classes might be considered more talented.
Nonetheless, Clarkson said last month he has not become concerned on about those scenarios. Instead, he has expressed appreciation for the Lakers after selecting him with the No. 46 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
“We had two tough years, but I don’t want to be a guy that is afraid and will run away from challenges,” Clarkson last month. “I want to be a part of the situation when it turns around because I was here when it was down. I never want to leave.”
As for Black and Huertas, their future with the Lakers likely hinges on what happens in the open market place.
The Lakers like Black’s hustle after averaging 5.3 points and 5.2 rebounds on 57.5% shooting in 77 games over the past two seasons. The Lakers grew to like Huertas’ efforts to direct the offense after averaging 4.5 points and a team-leading 3.4 assists in 53 appearances.
But the Lakers are focusing more on other free agency targets, such as Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Atlanta’s Al Horford.