AS last season aged the chances of Anthony Davis becoming a Los Angeles Laker seemed to improve with every day that passed. Finally, a few days before this year’s Draft, they got their man, however, they were forced to gut their roster to do so. Last season, we saw what can happen when Los Angeles doesn’t use their cap space wisely and the path to becoming a serious title chance is in front of them. As long as they invest their money wisely.
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TO build a competent roster around the Lakers’ two superstars, and of course, Kyle Kuzma, let’s first wrap our heads around how much L.A. has to spend. Thanks to Anthony Davis waiving his $4 million dollar trade kicker and successfully finding a way to move Mo Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones to the Wizards, the Lakers will enter free agency with roughly $32 million dollars to spend. For those keeping track at home, that’s enough to offer a third All-Star calibre player a max-contract, with Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker all linked to the franchise in the last week.
GOING all out for another piece to form yet another ‘Big 3’ centred around LeBron James sounds like fun, but let’s be honest, it’s not the smartest path to go down. Landing another All-Star guard can help ease the pressure on LeBron and Davis throughout the regular season and provide the franchise with stability should (god forbid) the injury bug strike one of their current stars. However, as we saw in this year’s NBA Finals, depth really does matter and filling out the rest of the roster with three or four key role players is a much wiser move than splashing out and spending it all in one go.
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THAT includes lesser max free agents like D’Angelo Russell, who is reportedly in the mix to rejoin the Lakers. The former purple and gold No. 2 overall pick back in 2015 only lasted two seasons before he was shipped to Brooklyn with the draft rights to Kyle Kuzma part of L.A.’s return. Fresh off an All-Star appearance this past season, Russell will almost certainly command a salary north of $25mil annually, which is too steep a price for the Lakers to pay if you ask me.
SO if no other All-Star’s are coming to town, who should the Lakers target? Currently, all three players they have under contract are forwards so there are plenty of holes that Rob Pelinka needs to address. They could choose to re-sign players from the past season like JaVale McGee, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tyson Chandler and Reggie Bullock, all of whom could be decent contributors. Going off their 2018-19 salaries, it would cost them around $22 million, but I doubt they would be offering KCP another one-year, $15mil deal.
SHOULD they choose to bring those players back or not a point guard will still be a glaring position they need help in. Another ball handler who can help run the offense/create their own shot would be an ideal target, but those players aren’t cheap nor do they grow on trees. As I was writing this article Darren Collison announced his stunning retirement from the NBA after 10 years, which rules him out of contention. There are some other targets they could chase though with Ricky Rubio, Patrick Beverley, or perhaps even Malcolm Brogdon. The latter two would cost a fair chunk of change to acquire, but Rubio could be talked into a deal worth around $10 million annually.
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WHAT point guard they opt to sign could dictate who they go after for their other starting backcourt slot. The guard rotation will be where Los Angeles should spend a decent portion of their cap space and sharpshooters will be coveted to round out the roster. They could spend almost half of their allotted space by chasing someone in the J.J. Redick, Danny Green or Bojan Bogdanovic mould, with good 3-and-D play able to help open up driving lanes for LeBron and Davis. Should they look to go down the cheaper route Terrence Ross, Vince Carter, Jeremy Lamb and/or Seth Curry could emerge as potential targets.
SHOOTING and playmaking are crucial from whoever the Lakers target to fill their guard rotation, but defensively those players have to be able to hold their own. In a perfect world, Pelinka would land a Patrick Beverly/Danny Green or Ricky Rubio/Bojan Bogdanovic combination for around $20-$25 million, leaving something like $8mil to land another few pieces. Personally, I think Terrence Ross makes a lot of sense and could very well end up in Lakers colours, potentially chewing up the rest of that cap space. If they want to try another avenue, a big man could be in their sights with DeMarcus Cousins a very tempting option.
LEBRON and AD occupying the two starting forward spots, they’ll need someone to help contribute protecting the rim and snagging rebounds. I think L.A. can go cheap in this area, potentially bringing Tyson Chandler and/or JaVale McGee back for next season. If they can’t work that out, Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein or Dewayne Dedmon could be convinced to join the cause for a portion of the cost. After spending the bulk of their cash the Lakers can choose to build the rest of their roster with up to six guys on a $1.6mil minimum deal. This could be where we see J.R. Smith enter the fray or even a forgotten soldier like Carmelo Anthony. While both those guys have been linked to L.A. in the last week or so, there’s plenty of basement priced players who could be convinced to sacrifice financial gain to chase a ring.
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EVERYONE has their own opinion on what 11-12 players Los Angeles should add to their core to build a contender and in a few short days, we’ll start to get answers. While gunning for a third star isn’t a terrible idea, I don’t think it’s the right path to go down, with the team requiring depth over more star power. With nearly 40% of the entire league free agents this summer the Lakers can afford to bide their time and carefully pick who they want rather than rushing to snap up top-level talent. Good shooters and good defenders will be the prime candidates and there are plenty of affordable players out there, some of which I’ve already highlighted. Finding the right ones to piece around their two MVP candidates could be the difference between L.A. wasting the final years or LeBron’s prime or turning the franchise into an instant contender.
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