Lakers' coaching search could be a lengthy process

CHICAGO — Sunday’s NBA Draft Lottery results set the stage for early chatter regarding this upcoming offseason. Yes, 22 of the league’s 30 teams have been eliminated from championship contention, and the feel of this ongoing week at the Draft Combine would have any observer thinking the summer transaction cycle has truly begun.

Much of the actual non-draft-related activity on the ground at the Marriott Marquis — or the swankier segment of this league-wide gathering at the Peninsula — is actually comprised of interviews and meetings regarding front-office and coaching changes. There aren’t trade packages bouncing back and forth between teams. The Pistons’ ongoing search for a new president of basketball operations, the Lakers’ pursuit of their next head coach and the Wizards’ own head coaching vacancy — plus various smaller-profile, back-of-the-bench transitions and new team strategy hires — are what’s really shaking in Chicago.

Los Angeles is said to hold an affinity for 15-year NBA veteran JJ Redick, according to league figures with knowledge of the situation. Redick, as a podcaster and television analyst, has thrust himself to the top of the coaching candidate ranks, having met with Toronto last year and already with Charlotte this spring, sources said, before the Hornets hired Celtics assistant Charles Lee. Redick’s current obligation to ESPN for the network’s postseason schedule and NBA Finals crew has various coaching industry personnel under the impression Los Angeles’ search may stretch into June, allowing Redick to fulfill his Finals obligations after the network quite notably lost Doc Rivers from that same seat this season when he joined Milwaukee.

James Borrego has been widely categorized by NBA figures as the experienced, veteran foil to Redick’s candidacy, while the Lakers are also known to be considering Kenny Atkinson, Chris Quinn, David Adelman and Micah Nori, in addition to Sam Cassell, sources said. Borrego manned the sidelines in Charlotte for four seasons and helped oversee New Orleans’ improved offense this year. That’s the same franchise where Borrego was an assistant for the then-Hornets, when Anthony Davis was drafted first overall by New Orleans, and the two have maintained a relationship ever since. This Los Angeles search is as much about finding the optimal coach for Davis’ long-term future with the Lakers beyond LeBron’s final few seasons in the league.

The outcome of the Lakers’ process, and the rest of this unfolding coaching cycle — which has already included paydays for Jason Kidd and new Suns head coach Mike Budenholzer — will also provide added context for Mike Brown’s contract extension conversations in Sacramento. With Brown’s Coach of the Year credentials and the new benchmarks for coaching salaries after Monty Williams landed $70-plus million from Detroit and Budenholzer’s recent $10 million average annual salary, Brown’s talks are expected to center around a similar eight-figure threshold as well, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Tom Thibodeau’s own extension number in New York, sources said, is anticipated to finish in that same ballpark.

Unpacking the Trae Young situation

Once Sunday’s NBA Draft lottery netted Atlanta the No. 1 overall pick, NBA personnel attending this week’s combine activities quickly spun their attention to the Hawks’ various trade options this offseason. Atlanta was already one of the more active teams in the league in advance of last February’s trade deadline, gauging rival clubs’ interest across the Hawks roster — with the exception of breakout forward Jalen Johnson. From the moment that 3 p.m. ET buzzer sounded, and Dejounte Murray remained in Atlanta, rival teams have braced for the Hawks to revisit trade calls that could split their All-Star backcourt this summer. Now with the No. 1 pick in hand, there remains a healthy expectation the Hawks will consider dealing Trae Young as well.

There have been several potential destinations for Young swirling around the NBA rumor mill for months. San Antonio has no clear lead guard of the future, despite the strong table-setting of Tre Jones, and league personnel believe the Spurs will explore their options to find a long-term pick-and-roll partner for 7-foot-4 phenom Victor Wembanyama this summer. There’s also the clear synergy of San Antonio holding the Hawks’ picks, which were traded to acquire Murray in the first place. Both general manager Landry Fields and new Hawks assistant general manager Onsi Saleh began their respective careers in the Spurs’ front-office ranks. Plus San Antonio landing the Nos. 4 and 8 picks in June’s draft would stand as one of the few logical trade-up scenarios if Atlanta were to entertain moving down from the top spot.

San Antonio personnel would be committing front-office malpractice by not contemplating the opportunity to pair a league assist leader and high-screen maestro like Young to pair with Wembanyama. The Spurs have so far approached building around Wembanyama as an intriguing experiment, where they will weigh all different kinds of variables around their Rookie of the Year. However, according to multiple league figures with knowledge of the situation, any Spurs plans of maneuvering to bring Young to San Antonio have been vastly overstated. The Spurs, sources said, have expressed little interest in obtaining Young to date.

Where Young will fall among the pecking order of available talent this offseason has been a predominant question league personnel are discussing throughout this combine week. The Lakers, for example, are one team that holds interest in Young after Los Angeles held trade discussions with Atlanta about Dejounte Murray back in February, sources said. The Lakers are now armed with three first-round picks to pursue a premier talent to team with James and Davis, but Los Angeles will have to consider other options before committing any type of capital for Young.

Donovan Mitchell, for starters, would rate far above Young on the league’s open market if Mitchell’s extension conversations don’t lead to a guaranteed future for the All-Star guard in Cleveland. With Mitchell sidelined by a calf injury, the Cavaliers appear destined for a quick exit from the second round at the hands of Boston. Will one series victory be enough to secure a long-term commitment from Mitchell, especially to a franchise that was not on his proverbial wish list when Mitchell was departing Utah? Will it be enough to secure J.B. Bickerstaff on Cleveland’s bench, as we’ve already seen more accomplished coaches terminated during this vicious staffing cycle?

Any team and any front office, armed with draft capital and looking to improve, from Los Angeles to Brooklyn, or New Orleans and Philadelphia, or the always star-hunting Miami Heat, will be patient with any possible approach for Young, until there’s greater clarity on someone of Mitchell’s pedigree. The same goes for Paul George, the Clippers’ All-Star wing, who has yet to sign an extension with Los Angeles, and rival teams are still preparing for the chance that George will decline his 2024-25 player option in order to become an unrestricted free agent. An unofficial poll of executives in Chicago also suggests Pelicans wing Brandon Ingram will have a wider range of teams interested in acquiring the one-time All-Star, as compared to Young, should New Orleans truly explore a roster shake-up of that magnitude.

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