The Lakers haven’t been idle in free agency, but the results have still made them out to be spectators. When free agency opened on Tuesday night, they met with LaMarcus Aldridge in Los Angeles, on Wednesday morning they flew to the east coast to meet with Greg Monroe, then returned back to Los Angeles to meet with DeAndre Jordan. If you’re scoring at home, though, Aldridge will reportedly not sign with the Lakers, Monroe has chosen the Bucks, and DeAndre Jordan will choose between the Mavericks and the Clippers.
Looks like the team did all that zigzagging across the country for nothing. I guess John Wooden was right, do not mistake activity for achievement.
Where does this leave the Lakers? With fewer options, for sure. If looking strictly at the players I mentioned when discussing targets and positional priorities, only Robin Lopez and Tobias Harris are still available on the market. Both would still be good fits, especially Lopez whose interior defense, rebounding, and high motor would be welcomed. Harris too, though, also brings his own strengths, including versatility, offensive punch, and a combination of youth and physical tools which would fit well with the current makeup of the team.
As for others still on the market, I would be very happy to see Ed Davis return to the team. We have not discussed him much, but he showed last year he is a very capable player who can soak up 20-25 minutes a night and do with good efficiency marks while maintaining high effort. He is smart, plays well within his role, rarely forces the action, and does a lot of little things well which add up over the course of a game.
He is not without flaws, of course. His slight build makes him less than ideal as a full time center defensively, but his lack of range offensively means he’s not really a viable option as a power forward in a league becoming more and more stretchy at that spot. His free throw shooting has regressed every season he’s been in the league. These are the traits that have probably contributed to him not yet being signed, but in the larger scheme of things the sum of his strengths outweigh those deficiencies.
After Davis, Jordan Hill remains an option and the team could always try to wade into the restricted free agency waters with a bid on Enes Kanter — though, like Monroe his defensive deficiencies would give me some pause, especially since he can only play center. Kosta Koufos is another option, especially after the Grizzlies signed Brandan Wright as a back up big. Koufos (26) is a year younger than Lopez, plays good interior defense (though is not dynamic) and is a capable offensive player. He’s been mostly a back up his entire career, but like Davis could play 20-25 good minutes a night. A flyer option would be former Bobcat/Hornet lottery pick Bismack Biyombo, a player who possesses polar opposite ability on defense (good) as he does on offense (not good).
If those options sound slim, it’s because they are. And if you do not like hearing that, you certainly won’t like discussing available options on the wing. The dearth of perimeter free agents was snatched up quickly as many teams looked to lock up the exact types of players who the Warriors used to win their championship just a month ago. Versatility on the wing with any sort of defensive ability was one of the quickest selling commodities on the market and now the shelves are pretty much empty. In other words, get used to the idea of seeing Nick Young and Kobe play a lot of small forward while Clarkson and Russell (and Jabari Brown) man the guard spots.
If all of this sounds a little disappointing to you, I don’t blame you. Part of the team’s struggles this free agency period was a disconnect between expectations and what was realistically possible, between the brand recognition and cache to get meetings and the need for more in the cupboards besides being the Lakers to get people to come on board. Free agency is a period where it is easy to get excited about the possibility of something big, but the reality is proving the Lakers were not ready for that yet. A more prudent approach of chasing mid-tiered players who could help strengthen the talent base could have turned some of the current feelings into more positive ones.
Fact is, though, the Lakers still have a roster to fill out and should be trying every avenue they have at their disposal to do so. One option we have not yet discussed would be using their cap space to try and absorb unwanted contracts (Roy Hibbert?) and fill needs that way. It is difficult to say what is or is not possible in this way, but the only way to find out is to get creative and make inquiries (which I’m guessing the front office is doing) and go from there. Hopefully, we do see some results soon.