I don’t know if you have heard but the Lakers are gearing up for a very big American Summer (our Winter) as July 1 approaches. Firstly, they just got Anthony Davis, gutted their young core and now there are rumours about getting Kemba in free agency or the increasingly scary thought of for some ridiculous reason trading for Chris Paul.
In all honesty, the Lakers already have their prize but they could fill out the rest of their roster with mid level names that will help them to finally catapult into the Postseason for the first time since 2013.
Lakers already have a new head coach in Frank Vogel, as well as assistant coach/Lonzo mentor: Jason Kidd and just recently added Lionel Hollins (another former head coach). So that’s one part of the plan sorted (well kind of).
But the question still looms, after a failed attempt to surround Lebron with athletic/ hustle players last season which fell flat on its face in the form of Lance Stephenson’s air guitar, Michael Beasley (who was traded) and Rajon Rondo (who punched Chris Paul in the face), which thankfully was part of why Magic Johnson retired, who do the Lakers need to actually make a run in the next season?
Let’s start off with the basics: How much money do the Lakers actually have to spend on free agents? Obviously all this could change with trades in July.
Realistically Lakers only have Lebron James and their rookies on the books for next season, with Lebron being the only sizeale salary. Lonzo Ball is second with about $8 million on the books (around $30 million less than Lebron).
Pretty much every other player from the 2018/ 2019 season was on one year deals, so are pretty much off the books. So realistically if the Lakers don’t resign Kentavious Caldwell Pope to another ridiculous $12 million one year deal, they have about $45 million to play with. This is enough for one if not two max players.
So what do they need?
Obviously the first point of call is shooting. Besides Kyle Kuzma and Lebron, Lakers really don’t have any shooters. KCP was hit and miss, Reggie Bullock and Mike Muscala were terrible and the rest of the team was brought in for their hustle rather than their ability to be offensive threats.
With LeBron the primary ball handler, with by Lonzo (if he is not traded) and Rajon Rondo (if they resign him), they need knock down shooters, similar to those that surrounded Lebron in his 2018 Cleveland run.
Lakers were 24th in offensive efficiency last season, hitting 47% from the field and 33% from three, with a terrible 70% free throw percentage which was second worst in the league. So with all this: shooting is the number one priority.
Another issue is bigs. Lakers also need a centre, because currently on their books they only have Mo Wagner, who was fine in his rookie year but was their third string option. JaVale McGee was good this season, with a career year, but struggles on defence (despite some very emphatic blocks). They need a more consistent scorer and rim protector who can switch on defence and make jumpers on offence (not just dunk).
So who should the Lakers get?
I think Kemba Walker or Klay Thompson should be the biggest free agents to chase (sorry KD, Kawhi and Kyrie). BUT Klay isn’t likely to leave the Bay so realistically Kemba is the biggest free agent that best suits the Lakers. Kemba can create his own shot, is a decent defender and can play off the ball. The Lakers would have to convince Kemba to play second fiddle to Lebron, which he has never had to do before and pry him away from the rumoured destination of Brooklyn/ New York.
But let’s talk less big names and more realistic targets. After the big free agents either stay put, go to New York/ Brooklyn or even and I shudder to say this… the Clippers…. Or if the free agents realise that the absolute disastrous circus that the Lakers have become is not something they want to be part of (which I completely understand) who is left for the Lakers to pursue?
Here are three realistic options for Lakers in Free Agency 2019:
First and foremost: he can shoot. Reddick is a knock down shooter, mainly from three. He also knows his role perfectly. If LeBron needs to be surrounded by shooters, then Reddick is a perfect option. While Redick may be a bit pricy, he has a wealth of experience and is a very reliable shooter which should fit perfectly with the Lakers.
Reddick also had a career year in points this past season, even though his three point shot didn’t fall as much, he is still a very reliable 40% and he can shoot free throws! (89%)
While his defence isn’t fantastic, pairing him with Lonzo may hid that issue in his game.
A two year deal for Reddick would be perfect to give Lakers more scoring options and fill the Shooting Guard spot that they struggled with last season (sorry Reggie Bullock and KCP).
Current Contract: 1 year – $12.5 Million with the Philadelphia 76ers
The Lakers need a more reliable big man to steady their defence and assist on offence. Although JaValee McGee had a phenomenal year but his own standards with career highs in a range of categories, there is no doubt that Nicola Vucevic would be a huge upgrade for the Lakers at the five spot.
Vucevic destroyed the Lakers in their meetings with Orlando last year and showed his potential to have huge games in both points, rebounds (both offensive and defensive) and blocks.
While his value was slightly tarnished over the playoffs with some terrible outings against Toronto, during the regular season Vucevic had a career year with 21 points per game and 12 rebounds. He is strong on the offensive boards, can hit mid range shots and he can defend the paint. What more do you want?
His Free throws aren’t great but still 78% is better than most other Lakers.
Vucevic won’t be cheap but could be worth the money, especially in a Tristan Thompson like pick and role situation for Lebron.
It is important to note that Vucevic’s poor performance in the playoffs could be a worry, especially if the Lakers intend to make a deep run into the playoffs next season, but also these were his first real playoffs so any experience is helpful.
Current Contract: 4 years – $53 million with Orlando Magic ($13.25 million per year).
Bojan had a career year last year, especially after Victor Oladipo went down. He led the Indiana Pacers in scoring (excluding Oladipo) with 18 points per game and was 50% from the field and 43% from three in the playoffs.
During the regular season, he practically mimicked these stats. In essence he is an efficient and effective scorer. Exactly what the Lakers ordered. He also spaces the floor well, which is perfect.
He isn’t the best defender and also isn’t the athletic type that Magic Johnson was previously looking for, but that should be okay if the Lakers keep Lonzo, Kuzma improves his defence and Lebron becomes less lazy on the defensive end. Either way his benefits far outweigh his weaknesses.
I think more money would be necessary to steal him away from the Pacers but could be a great option for the Lakers.
Current Contract: 2 years – $21 million with Indiana Pacers ($10.5 million per year)
DeAndre Jordan would be a great Centre option and provide a solid double double centre with a wealth of experience, who is an upgrade on both ends compared to JaValee McGee but more expensive.
Austin Rivers proved his worth during the Playoffs and could be a great spark off the bench on both ends for the Lakers.
Trevor Ariza will always have a place on the Lakers after his championship run in 2009 and could be great to space the floor. Ariza just wasn’t as efficient this season and is getting old (and injury plagued) which could be a big barrier to the Lakers wanting to sign him to a sizeable contract.