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Rob Pelinka says Lakers plan to keep final roster spot open for possible buyout or trade candidates

It sounds like the Lakers are done making moves in free agency for now.

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Los Angeles Lakers v New York Knicks Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

After signing Avery Bradley with the room exception last week, the Los Angeles Lakers technically have two roster spots left. However, once you take into consideration that they haven’t signed No. 46 pick Talen Horton-Tucker yet, they actually only have room for one more guaranteed contract.

While the Lakers could use that roster spot on a player that is still available in free agency like Kyle Korver, Justin Holiday and Thabo Sefolosha, it doesn’t sound like general manager Rob Pelinka is in any hurry to limit his flexibility with the roster.

During a conference call with reporters on Friday, Pelinka said that the team will wait and see how the market develops before making a decision on their final roster spot.

“I think the league, in general, has shifted to guard dominance. If you look at the West, and I can’t talk about specific players on other teams, but if you look at the teams that are likely going to be in the playoff hunt — Denver, Portland, now Houston, Golden State — there are so many combinations of great perimeter players and guards that we feel strongly about the combination of players that Coach Vogel can have to lock down perimeter players,” Pelinka said.

“And then we did keep an open roster spot as we look to see once camp opens, or once we get into the season what other needs there might be. Again, when you have a team like this team, that I think has a lot of excitement around it, you see veteran players that if they’re on a team that is not contending, I’m sure there will be players that down the road look to be moved, or look for buyouts,” Pelinka continued. “We’ll continue to keep our 15th spot open for that unless an opportunity presents itself earlier. The goal, or the strategy, was to go into the season with that 15th spot to address any needs that we see once the games begin.”

Before we move on, can we talk about Pelinka’s analysis of how the league values guards as opposed to big wings for a second?

While it’s true that the league fell in love with flashy, 3-point shooting guards after Steph Curry’s breakout season in 2015, wings are just as valuable as guards in today’s NBA, if not more important. Look no further than what Kawhi Leonard was able to do for the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Finals this year, or what Kevin Durant did for the Golden State Warriors in the two seasons prior. The last team to win an NBA championship without an elite small forward was the Warriors in 2015 with Harrison Barnes, but even then they had Andre Iguodala, who went on to win Finals MVP.

But I digress.

Speaking of Iguodala, he’s probably one of the biggest reasons the Lakers will keep their final roster spot open. On Friday, Marc Stein of The New York Times reported that the Memphis Grizzlies are expected to hold onto the 35-year-old forward unless they can get a first-round pick in return for him, but given the lack of contending teams that can offer them that, it’s still possible that Iguodala is bought out before the start of the season.

Even if Iguodala isn’t bought out, it would be in the Lakers’ best interest to keep an open roster spot available. While there are a few players that would be decent fits for Los Angeles on the market, none of them would move the needle for the team that much. In other words, there’s no harm in the Lakers waiting to see if a better player becomes available midway though the season like Tyson Chandler did last year.

What if the Miami Heat trade Goran Dragic to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Chris Paul and he asks for a buyout? Or what about J.R. Smith and the Cleveland Cavaliers?

Whatever opportunities become available, the Lakers can afford to wait, and it sounds like they’re going to do just that (at least until LeBron James gets in Pelinka’s ear about Carmelo Anthony).

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