If there’s a word that represents the roadmap the Lakers will try to follow this offseason, it’s balance.
After reaching the Western Conference Finals, the post trade-deadline roster exhibited the requisite competency needed to compete at a high level. Naturally, the front office will attempt to retain the core players that helped propel their deep playoff run. And early indications suggest that maintaining continuity will in fact be a priority.
Simply running it back will likely not be enough if the Lakers hope to go even further though. The team will have plenty of decisions to make come the start of free-agency, given ten players from this past season’s roster are about to hit the open market.
Outside of the likes of Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura, the futures of these other free agents remain up in the air. With a sizable portion of those players likely not to return, the team will have to once again attempt to fill out most of their roster.
With the new dreaded new CBA looming over every franchise, the Lakers will need to be creative with their signings this summer to find the most value for their limited bucks.
What follows are a few options that could help fill the shoes of those potentially on the move, as well as assist in shoring up holes that continue to be present.
Guard - Jevon Carter
What the Lakers do in the backcourt likely will be the lynchpin of their offseason as not only do they need to make a decision on D’Angelo Russell, but also his backup, Dennis Schröder.
If going off the notion that Russell is back, which recent reports suggests is becoming more likely, the front office must find a contingency plan for replacing Schröder’s role on defense if he is not retained.
Rob Pelinka’s recently told reporters the team will target “tough, defensive-minded, selfless players in free agency.” Although he has limitations, Jevon Carter may be the living embodiment of exactly the type of player Pelinka is describing.
Although he’s on the smaller end at 6’2,” Carter plays way bigger as he’s a bulldog at the point of attack and was a key cog to the Bucks’ defense the past two seasons.
According to Cleaning the Glass, Milwaukee was +2.7 points better in the minutes Carter was on the floor and held the opposition to a defRTG of 109.9. For context, Cleveland had the best defense in the league allowing 111 points per 100 possessions this past season.
Beyond his defensive intensity, Carter also would offer the Lakers some much needed reliability in multiple facets.
Not only did he play in 81 games last season, but Carter also shot exactly 43% on his above the break and corner 3-point attempts alike.
It’s also worth noting that Darvin Ham previously coached Carter while as an assistant with the Bucks, and definitely fits the mold of the type of guard he likes.
Other (and some more expensive) options: Seth Curry, Gabe Vincent or Cory Joseph.
Wing/Forward - Yuta Watanabe
The Lakers will never not need shooting. After decades worth of struggles from behind the 3-point line, their perimeter woes are almost embedded in the organization’s DNA at this point.
This offseason, the goal then remains the same as it has been for the past few years — find players who can make an open 3. This is something Yuta Watanabe was able to do, a lot.
For a good portion of the season, Watanabe was arguably one of, if not the league’s best 3-point shooter based solely on raw percentages.
When removing garbage time and heaves, the 28-year-old canned an unbelievable 46% of his attempts from beyond the arc — a percentage that put him in the 100th percentile among all forwards in the NBA. And when looking at his wide-open attempts — a key area the Lakers will need to improve — Watanabe made a preposterous 51.8% of his opportunities.
Outside of potentially helping shore up the Lakers’ shooting, Watanabe also could provide some much needed size on the wing and interior.
At 6’9” and sporting a 6’10” wingspan, Watanabe would be a welcome addition to lineups that previously saw the Lakers’ guards having to check wings/forwards.
Other (and some more expensive) options: JaMychal Green, Torrey Craig or Keita Bates-Diop.
Big - Dwight Powell
Since the success of the three-headed center rotation of Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard, the Lakers have been in search of stability in the front court.
This past season, the team went younger in their centers with the likes of Damian Jones and Thomas Bryant tasked with backing up their now full-time five, Anthony Davis. Both ultimately were shipped out.
Mo Bamba was then brought in at the trade deadline, but unfortunately never found his footing or playing time due to an ankle sprain. The team has until June 29th to make a decision on whether or not to fully guarantee Bamba’s $10.3 million this upcoming season.
If the Lakers opt to go in another direction, a center like Dwight Powell may make some sense.
After drafting Dereck Lively and adding Richaun Holmes, Powell likely will no longer be part of the Dallas Mavericks’ plans going forward.
While he won't offer the perimeter spacing that Bamba or Bryant did, Powell could infuse some much needed vertical spacing to the offense with his leaping and catching ability.
Before any more additions to the roster, the Lakers are still primed to have multiple ball-handlers on the roster. All of whom would benefit from having a non-Davis lob target in the halfcourt, especially LeBron James.
Playing off stars is also not foreign to Powell, as he and Luka Doncic linked up 74 times at the rim this past season according to PBP stats. The season prior, Doncic assisted on 113 of Powell’s makes at the cup, which was the second highest assist-pairing in the league.
Although he likely won't address the matchups against more physical centers like Nikola Jokic, the market for bigs this summer is particularly thin. This leaves a player like Powell as a more than serviceable option for the Lakers if the price is right.
Other (and some more expensive) options: Drew Eubanks, Bismack Biyombo or bring Tristian Thompson back.
You can follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexmRegla.