clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Lakers Free Agency: Goran Dragic, Rajon Rondo among top point guard options Lakers can sign in free agency

There aren't many point guards available in free agency this summer, but which ones should the Lakers consider as they search for a back-court partner for Jordan Clarkson?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

While most eyes in Los Angeles are firmly fixed on the draft, what Mitch Kupchak does on Thursday will be just one piece to the puzzle that is the Los Angeles Lakers '15-16 roster. It's going to take a combination of the draft, trades, and free agent signings in order to put together the lineup that will grace the Staples Center floor next season.

The draft offers promise, and trades offer plenty of room for analysis, but the majority of the roster will likely come via free agency. The Lakers have a number of holes to fill, and the point guard position is certainly be one of them. There are two schools of thought on adding a point guard to the Lakers lineup:

A. Find a player who can backup rookie sensation Jordan Clarkson. Ideally this player wouldn't break the bank and would provide a steady, veteran presence for the second unit.

B. Find a starting-caliber point guard and slide Jordan Clarkson to the two spot. Clarkson did have success running alongside Jeremy Lin last season, and going this route has the added benefit of shifting Kobe Bryant to small forward, where his waning athleticism should be less of an issue.

With that being said, let's take a look at the top-five free agent point guards that the Lakers could chase after on July 1st.

5. Rajon Rondo

First, a disclaimer: the free agent point guard crop is ridiculously thin this summer, otherwise Rondo wouldn't come close to making this list. After getting booted from the Dallas Mavericks mid-playoffs Rondo's value is at an all-time low and he also has a history of clashing with coaches and teammates. Even worse, the talent that used to make his attitude tolerable is largely disappearing.

His reputation as a defensive stopper is no longer backed up by production on the court, while his shooting still can't be considered respectable. Teams sag off him on defense, daring him to hoist a jump shot, knowing that he is at his best when he gets into the lane and creates shots for others.

To make matters worse, Rondo in the Lakers starting lineup is just about the worst fit imaginable. A Rondo/Clarkson/Bryant/Randle/possibly Okafor lineup would offer very little spacing and allow teams to pack the paint night-in and night-out.

However, there is one scenario under which Rondo could be an asset: as a bench player backing up Clarkson. The Lakers tried giving Jeremy Lin the reigns to the second unit last season, but Lin was never assertive enough to truly take over. That wouldn't be a problem with Rondo.

The Lakers second unit is nearly tailor-made for a drive-and-kick guard, with a potential Rondo/Jabari Brown/Nick Young/Ryan Kelly/Tarik Black unit featuring plenty of spot-up shooters for Rondo to find. Black also provides an excellent pick-and-roll partner who can set solid screens and loves to finish lobs, which is a Rondo specialty.

Of course, convincing Rondo to move to the bench wouldn't be easy. The former All-Star is used to starting, and change is always difficult, even without the added complications of ego. However, doing so could help revitalize his career, especially if he signed a one-year, cheap deal in LA like Young and Ed Davis did and then was on his best behavior, but again it's incredibly unlikely that Rondo signs off on it.

In a perfect world Rondo rehabbing his image and reinventing his career as a backup like Vince Carter did could happen, but reality is that simply won't and as such the Lakers should pass on Kobe's breakfast buddy.

4. Mo Williams

Another player who would be a reserve behind Jordan Clarkson, Mo Williams is a veteran point guard who has bounced around the league a bit, playing for seven different teams over the course of his 11-year career. While he might not be the best defender out there his ability to get hot on offense and run a team would prove beneficial.

Williams can be streaky, but he's a good enough player that when he's firing he could play alongside Kobe and Clarkson during crunch time. It also doesn't hurt that he has picked up a few tricks in his time in the NBA, and would give the younger Lakers another person to pick up tips from.

For the team as a whole, Williams would be a solid locker room presence that could provide a non-Kobe veteran voice, filling the role that Carlos Boozer is likely vacating. Most likely Williams will look for a contender to latch on with (he's rumored to be angling for a return to Cleveland), but if the offers aren't there and Williams is still waiting in mid-July, the Lakers may be able to come along and scoop him up.

3. Patrick Beverly

Every team needs a grit and grind player. The kind of guy who is going to get under the skin of the opposition and isn't afraid to the do dirty work. Patrick Beverly is that guy, and he could be a solid fit alongside Clarkson in the starting lineup.

While offensively Beverly isn't the most skilled player out there, he can knock down threes at a somewhat respectable rate (35 percent), just good enough so that the defense can't completely ignore him. However, his primary value is his defense (he's essentially a 3-and-D point guard), and he would take on the responsibility of guarding the opposing team's best guard. Beverly would be particularly helpful if the Lakers front line ends up being Julius Randle and Jahlil Okafor. The young duo don't project to provide much rim protection, so Beverly's ability to stay in front of quick guards would be a major benefit.

Patrick Bevely also won't cost as much as some of the bigger names will, and should provide the Lakers with enough cap room left over to chase after a few other key free agents.

The only catch is that Beverly is a restricted free agent, which means that the Houston Rockets will have the right to match any contract offered to him. The Lakers have historically stayed away from tying up cap space by offering contracts to restricted free agents, but Houston showed last year with Chandler Parsons that they will blink if the offer is large enough.

The task for the Lakers would be finding the magic number that would prevent Houston from matching but would still allow the Lakers to have the resources necessary to round out the rest of their roster.

2. Brandon Knight/Reggie Jackson

These two players are lumped together because their situations are so similar. Both arrived at their current teams via trade midway through last season (Knight went from Milwaukee to Phoenix and Jackson from Oklahoma City to Detroit) and both are restricted free agents. Their current teams both swear that they will match any offer presented to them, but the Lakers may feel that developing a young guard alongside Clarkson for the next decade would be worth the risk.

Jackson and Knight also have a relatively low "max" contract due to their number of years in the league. While neither player would truly be considered a max player currently, with the rising salary cap such a deal would likely look like a bargain a year from now.

Basketball-wise, Knight started last season hot with the Bucks, but cooled off considerably after being dealt to Phoenix and ultimately ended the season on the bench due to injury. Still, his play in Milwaukee was indicative of the talent that he possesses. Like Clarkson he can play either guard spot, and his ability to shoot the three would mesh nicely with Clarkson's drive-oriented attack.

Jackson, on the other hand, is more of a drive-and-kick player, but has the ability to be a better defender than Knight and is more athletic. It could also be argued that Jackson would be the easier player to acquire, as the Suns parted with a valuable draft pick (from the Lakers as part of the Steve Nash trade) to get Knight, while the Pistons only gave up forward Kyle Singler to land Jackson.

Detroit also has another point guard on its roster in Brandon Jennings, who is recovering from a torn achilles. Still, neither the Suns nor the Pistons are likely to allow their young guard to leave without receiving compensation in return.

Without the pesky restricted tag, Knight and Jackson would top this list, but unfortunately their path to Los Angeles is messy.

1. Goran Dragic

Here we are, the crème de la crème. While Dragic isn't a transcendent point guard he would be an intriguing backcourt partner for Clarkson. Both players employ a slashing, drive-and-kick game, but Dragic's crafty skills with the basketball and ability to shoot the long ball would provide another dimension to the Lakers' offense.

Dragic is also familiar with both running the point and playing off the ball as a two-guard, which would allow him to fit in nicely in a variety of Lakers lineups. At their best, the Lin/Clarkson two guard combo that was occasionally used last season turned into twin whirlwinds of destruction. They used their skills in the pick-and-roll to get into the paint, kick the ball out, and keep the defense scrambling. A Clarkson/Dragic pairing would be even more deadly in this type of an offense. Fans would certainly be entertained by Dragic's herky-jerky, creative drives and scoop finishes.

Additionally, the things that have fans excited about D'Angelo Russell are very similar to the things that Dragic does so well. Of course Dragic is older and more expensive, but should the Lakers go with a big like Jahlil Okafor in the draft they could also add a Russell-esque player in free agency by chasing Dragic. In this way they would land the best of the two skill sets the covet most: a franchise center and a guard with a flare for the dramatic.

Of course, going for Goran isn't without it's complications. Dragic was dealt at the trade deadline to the Miami Heat (although the Lakers pursued him as well), who have every intention of hanging on to their shiny new point guard. They are rumored to be offering Dragic over $80 million over five seasons, which is an offer the Lakers could actually top if they were to offer a max deal of $85 million over four years. Unlike Beverly, Knight, and Jackson, Dragic is an unrestricted free agent, which means that if the Lakers can get him to sign that's it. Miami has no opportunity to match the offer.

However, just because the Lakers can offer that much doesn't mean that they should. While Dragic is a very good player, some will question the intelligence of offering so much money to a point guard who is just shy of 30 and whose prime doesn't coincide with anyone else on the team. A max deal would prevent the Lakers from chasing after mid-tier free agents to round-out the lineup, so that's something Mitch Kupchak will have to weigh carefully.

That said, the rising salary cap would help to soften the blow of such a massive deal in the coming years, and of course the Lakers are in need of talent. Dragic is a fun player on the court with a high level of skill, and his ability to distribute the ball has the added value of being a lure for free agents in the future.

He isn't perfect, but signing Goran Dragic would provide an immediate shot in the arm to the Lakers backcourt and would create a deadly combo with Jordan Clarkson. It would take a big financial commitment, but the on-court rewards could be worth it.

Follow Trevor Lane on Twitter @16ringsNBA

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Silver Screen & Roll Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Los Angeles Lakers news from Silver Screen & Roll