After their reported trade for Russell Westbrook, the Lakers roster is barren of both players and cap flexibility. While the team will have a big three of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Westbrook, only Marc Gasol and Alfonzo McKinnie are under contract otherwise, despite the team already being over the salary cap.
While there are a handful of ways the Lakers can add talent at market value, the team will have to rely on a healthy dose of veteran’s minimum contracts to fill out the roster. Fortunately for the front office, a host of players appear set to chase a title with them next season on those minimum contracts.
Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday a long list of players that either the Lakers will be interested in, or will be interested themselves in coming to Los Angeles, featuring shooters Patty Mills and former Lakers like Wayne Ellington and Trevor Ariza:
The Lakers need shooting. One name that is coming up is Patty Mills. He can shoot the lights out and would be great off the bench. Wayne Ellington is another shooter who has interest in rejoining the Lakers. Trevor Ariza and Andre Iguodala are veteran wings who are candidates... Jeff Green and Goran Dragić also are names to look out for.
Any team with just five players on the roster will have a host of needs, and the names listed suggest that. The overarching theme, though, is shooting and wing depth for a team that lacks both.
Wayne Ellington is one of the names Lakers fans are most familiar with on the list, having spent one season in Los Angeles during the rebuilding years. Last season, he shot 42.2% from the 3-point line in Detroit, the second-best mark of his career. Ellington is also the most tangible connection of the group, given Turner explicitly reported that he has interest in returning.
Trevor Ariza is the other familiar name. Entering his 18th year, Ariza did play a bigger role with Miami last season, but shot just 35.0% from the field, albeit while converting 41.1% of his looks from behind the 3-point line. Ariza, though, is a former client of Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, and won a title with the team in 2009.
Patty Mills has spent his last 10 seasons in San Antonio and is a career 38.8% 3-point shooter. Mills was a part of the 2014 NBA champion Spurs and has played in 90 career playoff games, so he has both experience and shooting. He is currently playing for Australia in the Olympics.
Andre Iguodala is the most well-known player on the list. The former Finals MVP has shown to have something in the tank despite turning 38 years old next season. Similarly, Jeff Green has revitalized his career on the tail end of it, shooting 41.2% from the 3-point line at age 34 in Brooklyn last season.
Goran Dragić seems like the biggest long shot of the group. Last season, Dragić came off the bench in Miami, averaging 13.4 points while shooting 37.3% from the 3-point line. In the bubble, Dragić played a big role in help Miami reach the Finals against the Lakers before an injury kept him out much of the series.
It’s clear that the previous reports of players set to line up and play for the Lakers if they landed a third star appear to be true. While many of the players mentioned are veterans on the back end of their career, each brings something to the table that could be valuable for Los Angeles, depending on how free agency plays out. With the team largely only able to offer minimum deals, maximizing the players they sign on those deals will be one of the biggest challenges for the front office.