As has been the case repeatedly in recent years, the Lakers are going to be limited in their spending power this offseason. The difference between this summer versus previous ones is that they almost certainly will have a more complete roster.
It lessens the weight of needing to hit on the signing and it allows the Lakers to perhaps take more of a risk. Ultimately, thought, the best way for the team to bring in an external free agent of impact will be the taxpayer mid-level exception (MLE).
There is a chance they would have the taxpayer MLE, but it requires some fairly notable changes, and the Lakers not bringing back players which appears to be the opposite way things are trending. There would be some appealing reunions (Brook Lopez) or wing candidates (Harrison Barnes, Bruce Brown) to bring in with the non-taxpayer MLE, but it’s not a realistic option.
With that in mind, the Lakers are more likely to have the taxpayer MLE, which will come in at $5 million annually. It’s still a plenty big enough contract for the Lakers to use on a player or split up on multiple players.
Who might they target? Here’s a list of five names they could look at.
Cam Reddish, Blazers
We’ll start with perhaps the least realistic. Reddish is a restricted free agent and Portland would have to rescind their qualifying offer for this to be feasible, but there’s a couple reasons this makes sense.
The Lakers have clearly had interest in Reddish in previous years. They have routinely found young players they have felt were miscast and watched them flourish in recent years. Both Lonnie Walker IV and Malik Monk, who fit the billing of the previous sentence, were restricted free agents they either had their qualifying offer renounced or declined.
If that happens with Reddish, expect the Lakers to get involved based on their previous interest.
Kendrick Nunn, Wizards
Just kidding. Making sure you were paying attention.
Kevin Love, Heat
If the Lakers were worried LeBron James might actually retire and were looking to placate or appease him, bringing in good friend Kevin Love would be a great move. And to Love’s credit, he proved in the playoffs he had something left in the tank.
Love’s ability to space the floor complements either Lakers center — Anthony Davis or Mo Bamba — and makes him an enticing piece around LeBron.
Jeff Green, Nuggets
Speaking of reunions with LeBron, Jeff Green could be another target. After making $4.5 million last year and helping win a title with the Nuggets, he could rejoin LeBron — and potentially Love and Tristan Thompson — with the Lakers.
He’s a reliable perimeter player even at 36 years old. He revitalized his career with LeBron once in Cleveland and now could look to recapture that success in Los Angeles.
Robin Lopez, Cavaliers
This mainly only feels like an option if the Lakers waive Mo Bamba before his contract guarantees on June 29. In that case, they’ll be in the market for a backup center and could do worse than Robin Lopez.
He’s largely been out of the rotation in the last two seasons, playing just a combined 71 games in Orlando and Cleveland. But if you can keep him out of Disney, he’d be a quality depth signing.
T.J. Warren, Suns
This fits the part about taking a risk. T.J. Warren played out of his mind in the bubble and hasn’t been anything close to that since. He’s a bit healthier now but also was a non-factor in the playoffs for a Suns team desperate for role players to step up.
This could be a spot for a “prove it” contract and one last chance for Warren. If it hits and he returns to just being a good 3-and-D player, it’s a big win. If it misses, it stings but the Lakers can absorb it.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.