On Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers officially waived Quinn Cook, which means they now 13 players under contract, not including their two-way slots. In order to satisfy the NBA’s rules for roster minimums, the Lakers will have to sign a 14th player by March 10. Head coach Frank Vogel has said they’re looking at their options.
The Lakers could sign a player using the pro-rated veteran’s minimum exception before then, but given the quality of players that are available at the moment, it’s more likely that they sign at least one player to a pair of 10-day contracts through March 29 so that they don’t have to make a commitment to anyone before the trade deadline on March 25. In fact, Bobby Marks of ESPN went as far as to say he “expects” them to.
For that reason, we’re going to look at a few players that the Lakers can feasibly sign to 10-day contracts and, in a best-case scenario, consider signing for the remainder of the season. It’s important that we note that these are players that are currently free agents — not players that could potentially become free agents after the trade deadline like Blake Griffin, Trevor Ariza and Hassan Whiteside — so the names alone won’t generate as much hype.
With that in mind, let’s get into it.
If the Lakers are in the market for shooting, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson should be the last player on their list. For his career, he’s attempted 207 3-pointers and made just 44. That’s a 21.3% clip. According to Stathead, only one player has shot a worse percentage from 3-point range on 200 or more attempts: Dennis Johnson, who made 80 of the 464 3-pointers he attempted over his 14-year career.
So why would the Lakers sign the former first-round pick? His ability to guard multiple positions.
Over the course of Hollis-Jefferson’s five-year career, he’s never posted a negative defensive box plus-minus. Last season with the Toronto Raptors, the team that ended the regular season with the best defensive rating in the NBA, Hollis-Jefferson posted a DBPM of +1.5, which was the fourth-highest on the team behind Patrick McCaw (+1.8), OG Anunoby (+1.9) and Marc Gasol (+2.8).
That’s not to say Hollis-Jefferson was the reason the Raptors were an elite defensive team, or that he’s an elite defender himself, but with his size (6’7 with shoes) and wingspan (7’2) he’s always going to be disruptive on that end. But the problem for him is that he’s not impactful enough on offense to be a net positive overall, which is probably why he’s still a free agent.
Perhaps that wouldn’t be a problem in Los Angeles, where he likely wouldn’t sniff the 22.6 minutes per game he’s averaged for his career, but he’d definitely need to demonstrate something on offense beyond the flashes of playmaking he showed in Toronto to stick with the team.
Everyone seems to think the Lakers need another center because Marc Gasol isn’t cutting it. While I don’t agree with the latter half of that statement, I do agree that they would benefit from adding another center, preferably one that’s more mobile than Gasol.
Gasol’s athleticism, or lack thereof, hasn’t been a detriment to the team per se, but it’s definitely taken away some of the actions the Lakers went to regularly last season. Remember the backdoor lobs that JaVale McGee would get to start almost every game? Unsurprisingly, they aren’t calling that play for Gasol.
They could also use someone with the foot speed to chase blocks. Mind you, block-chasing isn’t always conducive to good defense — in fact, in most cases it’s not — but sometimes it’s the only way to force a turnover. Gasol’s averaging the most blocks he’s averaged per 36 minutes in his 12-year career, but he’s not that guy, and that’s okay. Dewayne Dedmon, on the other hand, could be.
In recent years, Dedmon has been signed for his ability to be a theoretical pick-and-pop center, but he’s been a woeful shooter outside of his first two years in Atlanta, when he shot 37.1% from behind the arc. If he rediscovers his shooting stroke in Los Angeles — about 75 miles south of Lancaster, where he grew up — then obviously that would be great. But his shot-blocking and above-the-rim play are both more sure-things then his shooting, and that’s really all the Lakers need from their third-string center.
Do the Lakers need shooting, or are they just in really bad slump caused by fatigue? That’s the question that the front office will likely be asking themselves leading up to the trade deadline.
Generally speaking, there’s no such thing as “too much shooting” in the modern NBA, but the Lakers definitely need more help at the 3 and 5 than they do at the 1 or 2. If they do decide that their shooting problems are real, though, the simplest solution would be to sign one of the greatest 3-point shooters of all-time: Kyle Korver.
Korver, the 51st overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, will turn 40 next month and hasn’t played a professional game of basketball since September, when the Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. But as we saw last season, Korver’s jumper is ageless, and he hasn’t decided to retire yet.
In 58 appearances for the Bucks last season, Korver shot 41.8% behind the arc while attempting 4.1 3-pointers per game. Korver has shot above 40% from 3-point range in 10 of the 15 seasons he’s played in the NBA. For his career, he’s 42.9% 3-point shooter, which ranks 10th on the all-time 3-point field goal percentage leaderboard. He’s lethal from deep.
Defensively, he’s not going to offer you much, but no one’s expected anything from Korver on the defensive end in almost a decade, and if they have, it’s their own fault.
The Lakers can probably snatch up a younger sharpshooter in a trade by packaging Alfonzo McKinnie and a future second-round pick, but if all else fails, a proven shooter that has experience playing with James at the highest level wouldn’t be the worst move. Again, though, there are arguably more dire needs on this roster.
Are there players that you think the Lakers should sign to a 10-day contract? Let us know in the comments below, and for more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.
Who would you give a 10-day contract to if you were the Lakers?
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