The Lakers’ biggest free agent need may be in the pivot, but you don’t total 17 wins if your only problem is needing a new Center. And despite the Lakers drafting Brandon Ingram #2 overall and having D’Angelo Russell and (restricted free agent) Jordan Clarkson as young players on the rise, the team could really use some help on the wing.
First, I think it’s worth repeating the prices for free agents are going to be outrageous this summer and you should prepare yourself for sticker shock. We discussed this some in our look at big men, but bigs always command high salaries. With wings, though, there’s typically more leeway. The supply of wings typically outpaces demand and while the cream of the crop will always get paid, there is usually some value to be found when going to the 2nd or 3rd tier.
That may end up being true this summer too, but “value” will be a relative term. When the cap explodes and teams have so much money to spend they won’t actually be able to spend it all, the formula inverts where the supply of dollars is going to vastly outpace players who would, in a normal year, make that much money. So, even if the Lakers go down-shelf shopping, they’re still likely to be paying a premium for their target simply because the availability of money for all players will ratchet up contract amounts.
With that out of the way and the Lakers need for a wing established, it’s time to go shopping. But first, let’s again take stock of what’s in the cupboard. As noted, the Lakers already have Russell and Ingram. Re-signing Clarkson is a priority and will almost certainly happen. They also have Lou Williams who will demand some minutes. Looking at this group, however, two things become clear: There’s only one SF in that group (Ingram) and there’s not a lot of defense-first guys (zero).
The team’s needs mostly revolve around those two areas and they’d be wise to chase players who fit a certain profile. Namely, if the guy can play small forward and has the potential to be a plus defender, he should get a long look. Of course shooting still matters. And being at least an adequate passer and having enough ball skills to initiate the offense in some way would also be great. But if those latter skills come at the expense of defense and position certainty, a guy should move down the list (or off it entirely).