It’s no secret in order to repeat as champions, a roster needs to add new pieces to the puzzle. With every other team doing what they can to improve, the Los Angeles Lakers are going to need to do the same. Whether it be through free agency or trade. Especially because the injured Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets are coming back healthy.
In House Free Agents
Notable players who will be hitting the market this off season from the Lakers are Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, Demarcus Cousins, Dwight Howard, and Markieff Morris. It’s also no secret that Los Angeles will offer their corner stone free agent Anthony Davis the max contract. All signs would seem to indicate that Davis will indeed stay with the Lakers.
Now it’s back to the drawing board for Rob Pelinka, just as last year. Who can the Lakers pair up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis? The Lakers currently have James, Alex Caruso, Kyle Kuzma, Avery Bradley, Javale McGee, Danny Green, Quinn Cook, and Devontae Cacock on the roster. Based on that alone, they will need a wing or two, point guard, and another big (not counting Davis).
Looking at the Laker free agents, let’s see who has a chance of returning next season.
Caldwell-Pope has already made it known he won’t give the Lakers any discounts and expects to be paid. After a shaky start to last season, KCP picked it up throughout the season and especially in the playoffs. He is the perfect three-and-D player for any team looking to sign him. With that being said, it’s most likely he won’t be back.
Rajon Rondo is another player that comes to mind. Rondo was a vital piece during the championship run in Orlando. After proving he still has a lot left in his tank to go along with his high IQ, contenders will seek out Rondo’s services. The Lakers will not be able to give him the lucrative deal he desires.
Dwight Howard is a player who may run it back with the purple and gold. He is not obligated to do any favors for Los Angeles but him returning on a minimum contract can be ideal. The Lakers were the only team that took the chance on him last offseason. He proved all the naysayers wrong and played his role as a glass cleaning rim protector perfectly. However, he may leave if he is given a better deal elsewhere as well as having a chance to win.
Though Demarcus Cousins did not play a single minute for Los Angeles last season he is still someone who can return. With a whole year of rehab under his belt, he should be in the best shape of his career. Not to mention that he is also highly motivated to prove his doubters wrong. And who else to do it with than LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Expect him to sign another league minimum “prove it” deal if he does return.
Markieff Morris is a toss up as well. Morris did show his worth in the small ball role. Taking on opposing teams’ big men all while stroking it sweetly from three. A physical presence in the paint, Morris is not someone who will back down easily. Especially without a fight, and that is what the Lakers need, a dog. Expect a two year $8 million deal if he does intend on returning.
Possible Free Agent Signings
As the favorites to win the championship again, anticipate for vets to join the Lakers for less money. They would do this in order to win that elusive championship that every player strives for. A few players that come to mind who would take less money in order to win would be Danilo Gallenari, Serge Ibaka, Tristan Thompson, Joe Harris, and Carmelo Anthony.
Granted, besides Ibaka and Thompson, the remaining players have not reached the Finals in their careers. However, Ibaka and Thompson would bring that championship DNA as well as rim protection and rebounding presence. Thompson has history with James, going to four straight NBA Finals from 2015-2018 with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Both know how to play together and know each other’s mannerisms. With Ibaka, he has been around star players his entire career, playing alongside Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, and Marc Gasol. Both would fit their roles perfect as they both can play the pick and roll game exceptionally well.
Danilo Gallinari has always been the prototypical offensively talented Euro player. Last season with the Thunder, Gallo put up 18.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.9 APG all while shooting 40.5% from deep. He has been a score first player his entire career. Being able to both score off the dribble and in catch and shoot situations. This is the perfect player to pair up with LeBron James who is a willing passer. Expect the Lakers to trade away Kyle Kuzma in order to make room for Gallinari.
Joe Harris is a perfect match for LeBron James. A career 42.6% three point shooter he will be receiving endless looks from James. It’s been shown in history that if LeBron has a deadly shooter, good things will happen. Examples would be Mike Miller, Shane Battier, and Ray Allen in Miami. JR Smith, Kyle Korver, and Channing Frye in Cleveland. Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in Los Angeles.
We all understand the connection between Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. Both came into the league together back in 2003. The two friends have always kept it close and would love to have a chance to play together. James was an advocate for Anthony in his return to the league all last season. Why not have them pair up together in their final years in the NBA?
Final Thoughts On Free Agency
An NBA champion never has much time to sit back and enjoy their success, and with the next season just weeks away, the Lakers have even less time than usual. They will enter as favorites and have the championship target on their backs. If they aren’t revamped and ready on day one they could see their chances of repeating devoured by the restored Golden State Warriors, a possible Chris Paul-led Los Angeles Clippers team, the Denver Nuggets, or even the up-and-coming Phoenix Suns. They can’t afford to waste any time getting their depth chart ready for day one.
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