A flurry of signings in the opening two days of free agency saw the Lakers rapidly fill out nearly the entirety of their roster with a whole host of fresh faces. Malik Monk, Talen Horton-Tucker and Kendrick Nunn will bring some (read: the only) youth to the team while Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza and Wayne Ellington will bring veteran experience and shooting to the roster.
In barely 24 hours, the Lakers went from five players on the payroll to a rather well-rounded roster of 12 names, with only a few moves left to make. By waiving Alfonzo McKinnie and his non-guaranteed deal, a not unexpected move, the Lakers opened up another roster spot that could be used on a win-now talent.
As it stands, the Lakers will head into the season with some form of the following depth chart:
PG: Russell Westbrook/Kendrick Nunn
SG: Kent Bazemore/Talen Horton-Tucker/Malik Monk/Wayne Ellington
SF: LeBron James/Trevor Ariza
PF: Anthony Davis/Carmelo Anthony
C: Marc Gasol/Dwight Howard
The emphasis put on shooting was clear after a postseason in which the Lakers struggled to throw a pea in the ocean, and an offseason that saw the team add another non-shooter in Westbrook. Nunn, Bazemore, Monk, Ellington and Anthony all were above-average 3-point shooters last season.
3P% last season— pickuphoop (@pickuphoop) August 3, 2021
Ellington - 42.2% on 6.0 3PA
Anthony - 40.9% on 4.7 3PA
Bazemore - 40.8% on 2.7 3PA
Monk - 40.1% on 5.0 3PA
Ariza - 35% on 4.8 3PA
One of the formalities that will also take place in the coming hours or days will be the signing of Jared Dudley on a veterans minimum. A team does not send a player to recruit someone like Westbrook and not include him in their plans for the future.
That would leave the team with two open roster spots remaining. And after spending the taxpayer mid-level exception on Nunn, the Lakers can only offer veterans minimum deals.
There are a few incumbent options that could return. Dennis Schröder’s free agent market evaporated more quickly than his production level in the playoffs and he could return to the Lakers. However, one-year prove-it deals usually come on a new team, not with the team a player was already with.
Wesley Matthews is also a free agent and certainly makes sense. A team can never have too much size on the wing and Matthews was one of the few Lakers that acquitted themselves well late in the season. Matthews also spoke of a desire to “run it back” during his exit interview at season’s end.
Externally, there are some names that make sense as well. Andre Iguodala is a former client of general manager of Rob Pelinka. Danny Green is a former Laker, which seemingly gives him a leg up on other free agents this summer given the signings of Ariza, Ellington, Bazemore and Howard.
Kelly Oubre struggled early in his tenure with the Warriors, but it’s hard to imagine he would sign for a minimum deal in Los Angeles and not remain with the Warriors at that price. JJ Redick is a veteran sharpshooter, but the Lakers already have four guards and Redick has expressed a desire to remain on the east coast.
Victor Oladipo could be an intriguing buy-low candidate if his market has completely bottomed out, but it’s unlikely he’ll be able to contribute until much later into the season. Paul Millsap’s time in Denver appears to be coming to an end with their signings but with Davis and James already on the roster, the minutes for him would be sparse if he was even interested in a minimum deal.
Few remaining free agents do not have a caveat connected to them in some way, hence why they are still available in free agency. Most players remaining are specialists in one aspect or another that would force them into specific, limited roles as well.
The most logical conclusion, then, would be to re-sign Dudley, bring back Matthews and head into the regular season with an open roster spot. The team could also potentially use that open roster spot on a player like Devontae Cacok, who is no longer on a two-way contract but is playing on the Laker’s Summer League team.
Signing Cacok to a non-guaranteed deal would keep him in-house where he could potentially play with the South Bay Lakers while still giving the Lakers the flexibility to waive him and sign a player if they are waived or bought out during the season. And after bringing in so many fresh faces, it might make sense for a few familiar names to round out the remainder of the roster to close free agency.