After months of public trade rumors and negotiations with the New Orleans Pelicans, the Los Angeles Lakers were finally able to pair LeBron James with Anthony Davis — a 26-year-old, three-time All-Star entering the prime of his career — last week. But what if I told you landing Davis was the easy part for the Lakers?
Depending on when the Davis trade is completed — and if the two teams stick to it as originally reported without altering it — the Lakers will have anywhere between $23.7 million to $32.5 million in cap space. However, it seems the former is more realistic as Davis is reportedly unwilling to waive his no-trade clause and the Pelicans want to complete the deal by July 6.
Granted, $23.7 million isn’t a little bit of money, but it takes the Lakers out of the running for an All-Star, max-level free agent, meaning they will likely split up their remaining cap space between multiple guys instead of just one. Here are the holes the Lakers should be looking to fill in their roster in free agency:
A point guard
The Lakers shipped away their only starting-caliber point guard, Lonzo Ball, in the blockbuster trade for Davis last week. While Alex Caruso looked the part of a starting point guard to close out last season, the Lakers are probably going to need to see more than 10 good games out of him before they commit to him as their full-time starter.
Luckily, there are a number of servicable free agent point guards on the market this summer, like Patrick Beverley, Darren Collison, Derrick Rose, George Hill, Ricky Rubio and Seth Curry. Beverley’s market has been set above $10 million in his first year, according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, but everyone else on the aforementioned list can probably be had for relatively cheap.
Collison stands out as someone the Lakers should take a close look at. Last year, the 31-year-old Southern California native averaged 11.2 points per game on 46.7 percent shooting from the field, including 40.7 percent from behind the 3-point line (2.6 attempts per game). He also dished out a career high six assists per game while averaging 1.4 steals per game.
Collison’s size, 6’1”, prevents him from being a lockdown defender, but he holds his own at that end of the floor. Plus, the positives he’d bring as an off-ball shooter would outweigh what he doesn’t bring on the defensive end.
If for some reason Collison is out of the Lakers’ price range, Seth Curry should be next on their list.
Forwards who can defend multiple positions
The Lakers have all the makings of a solid set forwards with James, Davis and Kyle Kuzma, but their work in the front court is far from over. As exciting as James, Davis and Kuzma will be offensively, there are legitimate concerns about how they’ll fare on the other side of the court.
It’s for that reason the Lakers should actively seek out multi-position defenders like Al-Farouq Aminu, Kevon Looney and, to a lesser extent, Trevor Ariza and Rudy Gay in free agency.
Looney is coming off of an excellent performance in the postseason with the Golden State Warriors and will likely command anywhere between $5 million to $7 million this summer. In the event the Warriors low-ball Looney in free agency, the Lakers should make him an offer he can’t refuse.
While not skilled enough to play the power forward position full-time, and not tall enough to play center for more than stretches, Looney still manages to be a pest on the defensive end because of his 7’3” wingspan. The mobility that comes with his 220 lb. frame also allows him to keep up with most, if not all, guards.
If the Warriors retain Looney, the Lakers should check in to see what it would take to get the equally impressive Aminu out of Portland.
Shooting, shooting and more shooting
There is only one thing that can stop James and Davis from leading the Lakers back to relevancy next season: Overthinking by the front office.
Last season, the Lakers opted not to surround James with 3-point shooters and, to no one’s surprise, that experiment burned to the ground faster than King’s Landing. This year, they can’t afford to make the same mistake, especially with all of the 3-point snipers that are set to hit the open market.
This past season, 10 players shot above 39 percent from behind the 3-point line while averaging at least five 3-point attempts per game. Of those 10 players, five will hit unrestricted free agency this summer: Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Danny Green, JJ Redick and Harrison Barnes.
Assuming Green re-signs with the Toronto Raptors along with Kawhi Leonard, and Thompson goes back to the Warriors while Irving and Barnes all demand north of $20 million, Redick is arguably the best “bargain” 3-point shooter on the market this summer.
In September, Redick said that the Lakers pursued him in free agency, and given their need for shooting again this year, they should do the same when June 30 rolls around.
Last season, the 34-year-old shooting guard averaged a career-high 18.1 points per game on 39.7 shooting from behind the arc while attempting eight 3-pointers per game. The only other player to shoot at least 39 percent from three on at least eight 3-point attempts per game last season was Steph Curry.
Redick’s market is hard to gauge because of the inflated one-year deals he’s been given over the last two summers, but the Lakers should be able to make a competitive offer, especially if the Philadelphia 76ers retain both Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. If they can’t lure Redick back to the west coast, they should shift their attention to other veteran sharpshooters like Wayne Ellington or Wesley Matthews.
They could also re-sign Reggie Bullock, but retaining his cap hold would decrease their spending power by $4.7 million. Whichever direction they choose to go, shooting should be their No. 1 priority this offseason.