As the Lakers look to fill their final roster spots this offseason, two main areas of focus have taken form. Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported on Thursday evening that the Lakers were looking to add a third point guard as well as more help on the perimeter, all while likely heading into the season with an open roster spot.
The Lakers, who have 12 players under guaranteed contracts, will go into the 2021-22 season carrying 14 players in order to maintain flexibility, sources said. Each team can carry a maximum of 15 players and two two-way players.
A third point guard is a priority, sources said, along with potentially adding another wing.
First, the Lakers are very familiar with leaving a roster spot open heading into the season. They did so last year, though that move was also due to the hard cap. They also kept a roster spot open in 2019 — signing Dion Waiters — and 2018, the latter of which allowed them to sign Tyson Chander in-season. We don’t have to talk about what they did with their buyout spot last season.
Keeping a roster spot open gives the team flexibility. It allows them to be contenders in the buyout market without needing to waive a player before signing a free agent. Additionally, they could potentially execute a lopsided trade that would see them send out one player and bring in two, for example. Lastly, with the Lakers well into the luxury tax, it will save them money, an aspect that unfortunately has mattered to the team this offseason.
When it comes to the positions the team is targeting, as it stands, the Lakers have only one true point guard in Russell Westbrook ahead of a host of combo guards and other players that can handle ball-handling duties, from Kendrick Nunn to Malik Monk and Talen Horton-Tucker, as well as the obvious answer of LeBron James.
Still, a third point guard, and another more traditional point guard option, makes sense, especially after the Lakers saw firsthand how quickly injuries can take a toll on a roster last season.
Coinciding with that, Haynes also reported in the same piece that the Lakers conducted workouts with Isaiah Thomas, Darren Collison and Mike James, three point guards who could be vying for that final spot. It also sounds like their multiple needs will probably prevent them from retaining Jared Dudley for a third season in purple and gold.
As for the wing depth, similar to the backcourt, the Lakers have a limited number of players who primarily play small forward. Horton-Tucker will likely see time at the 3, as will James, along with veterans like Kent Bazemore, Trevor Ariza and potentially even Wayne Ellington, depending on the lineups and situation. However, Ellington and Bazemore would be a bit undersized on the wing, and Ariza is mostly a power forward at this point.
Adding another wing piece would make sense in that respect, though by mid-August, the names are few and far between that would be impactful players on a title contender. Wesley Matthews is one of the obvious options to potentially return to Los Angeles, while James Ennis, Stanley Johnson, Denzel Valentine, E’Twaun Moore and former Laker Svi Mykhailiuk are all free agent wings who played in the league last season.
As noted by the quality of players available, the Lakers won’t be finding any game-changers with their late-free agency pickups, and likely won’t even be finding regular rotation players. But as evidenced by last season, having depth in case of injuries is important, and the Lakers are apparently making sure their roster is as rounded out in that respect as possible.