While the Lakers were active with a seemingly distinct plan in free agency of getting much younger than last season, the area they didn’t address was shooting. They did take strides forward as DraftKings lists them at +1300 odds to win the title, fourth-best in the Western Conference and eighth-best odds overall.
But that very big weakness remains and is something they will have to fix if they want to compete for a title. The team’s belief is that they can address shooting in other avenues with their final roster spots, a potential trade with Kyrie Irving being the prime example.
As poor as a fit as Russell Westbrook was as a shooter alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Kyrie is the exact opposite. For his career, Irving is a 39.3% 3-point shooter and over the last eight seasons, he has only had two seasons below 40% shooting from range.
Acquiring him by swapping out Westbrook would go a long way in addressing their shooting concerns, but it is coming dangerously close to putting all their eggs in one basket. If they aren’t able to complete that deal, it leaves them with a roster that has a really big flaw.
Fortunately and probably predictably, the Lakers appear to have a backup plan if the Irving trade doesn’t work out. A pair of veteran sharpshooters — one the team is very familiar with — could be targeted, as noted by Dave McMenamin on ESPN’s NBA Today on Friday.
If Kyrie doesn’t work out, they have plans in place — or plans they hope they’ll be able to execute — to achieve shooting on that roster in other directions. Whether that be a veteran like Buddy Hield, who they almost got on last year on draft day and you see Indiana just traded away Malcolm Brogdon and there could be more moves to come, or perhaps a guy like Eric Gordon in Houston. Those guys aren’t Kyrie Irving, of course, but they are players they feel they may be able to acquire to help their team.
Both players should be familiar to Lakers fans as both have been linked to the franchise over the last year. Buddy Hield was oh so very close to being a Laker last year before the team traded for Westbrook, a move they have certainly come to regret.
Eric Gordon was then linked to the Lakers in a Westbrook trade throughout the season and particularly at the trade deadline. Then, the Lakers balked at the idea of including draft picks to get off Westbrook’s deal, but would their stance change after failing to trade away Russ yet again?
Both Hield and Gordon are well-established shooters, the former connecting on 39.8% of his career 3-pointers while the latter was a 41.2% shooter last year. Neither would single-handedly solve the Lakers’ shooting issues on the roster. But both are among the most well-respected long-range specialists in the league and would have more gravity than anyone on the Lakers last season or perhaps any season in recent memory.
But just because the Lakers have a Plan B does not mean it will work. The Lakers have an uphill battle to climb regardless of which deal they look to complete.
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