Free agency might not have been the smoothest ride for the Lakers, but through all the ups and downs they did pretty well for themselves by grabbing Lou Williams, Brandon Bass, and Roy Hibbert (via trade). These players have added veteran experience and tangible, useful skill-sets to a roster which needed some stability. All three players should help in the upward trajectory of the team and the Lakers, all things considered, are lucky to have them.
But just because these players have been added, it doesn’t mean the Lakers should consider their off-season over. Player acquisition is a 365 days-a-year job and, as we saw with the rumors of a Ty Lawson chase, the Lakers’ brass takes that job seriously. Looking ahead to next year, then, you can imagine the front office would still like make a move or two — regardless of what their public stance on this might be.
A simple look at the current depth chart gives us a look at what direction the team might need to go in:
|Point Guard||D’Angelo Russell|
|Shooting Guard||Jordan Clarkson||Lou Williams||Jabari Brown|
|Small Forward||Kobe Bryant||Nick Young||Anthony Brown|
|Power Forward||Julius Randle||Brandon Bass||Ryan Kelly||Larry Nance Jr.|
|Center||Roy Hibbert||Tarik Black||Robert Sacre||Robert Upshaw|
Before we dig in deeper, a few quick points:
- Technically, Jordan Clarkson is the back up point guard. However, since this is a potential depth chart and not a rotation chart he’s only listed at SG. But I do expect him to get the lion’s share of the “back up” point guard minutes.
- As it stands, the Lakers’ roster is full with 15 players under contract…
- However, Jabari Brown, Tarik Black, and Robert Upshaw all have either partial or non-guaranteed contracts for the upcoming season. If you’re looking to create a roster space, any one of those three would be likely candidates to be let go.
With that out of the way, the roster as is has a fair amount of balance between young and veteran talent and a nice mix of quality players at all five positions. This doesn’t mean the team is set, though. The two needs which standout most are a defensive minded wing and a third/emergency point guard.
When looking at the wing, it’s more than fair to say the Lakers don’t have a lot of defensive minded players. While I do believe Jordan Clarkson competes well defensively and that D’Angelo Russell showed more strides in that area (at least on the ball) than his reputation would have implied, the next best defensive wing projects to be rookie Anthony Brown. Some might want to mention Kobe here, but, let’s be honest, Kobe’s not going to give you a great amount of defensive value at this stage of his career. I won’t get into it now, but this is a topic we’ve discussed at length in the past and he’s only gotten less effective since then.
Relying on Brown as a guy to defend the quality wings in this league isn’t a recipe for success. Neither is sliding up Clarkson or bringing in Jabari Brown to cover the SF’s with size. And while the coaches and front office have strongly urged Nick Young to step up defensively in order to earn his minutes next season, I don’t relying on this happening is a real solution either. This would mean looking outside of the roster for a viable solution. A player like Dorrel Wright instantly comes to mind as an option, though exploring other options in the trade market would also be smart.
Regarding a third point guard, this isn’t the biggest need, but it’s clearly a hole on the roster as it’s currently constructed. If either Russell or Clarkson were unavailable to play, the next man up in the point guard rotation would be…Lou Williams? Jabari Brown? Kobe? These might be stop gap solutions for 10 or 15 minutes on any given night or even for a game or two. But, over the course of a long season, it’s far from ideal to have this be the plan. Some options on the FA market include recently waived Pablo Prigioni and Andre Miller. Whether either would be interested in playing the type of role the Lakers would need them to — mentoring, rarely playing — is another story entirely, but both fit the mold of what the Lakers could use.
As noted above, making room for any such player would require the Lakers moving away from a currently contracted player. Considering the roster balance and the overflow of players slotted as either PF’s or C’s, I would imagine the players most vulnerable would be Upshaw, Sacre, or Ryan Kelly. While the Lakers have invested time and resources into the development of the latter two players, they might be the first choices to be swapped out since there are younger players (Nance, Black, Upshaw) who have promise as potential future contributors and are younger. Ideally it would be through a trade (which brought back zero players), but releasing one outright wouldn’t be out of the question.
Even with these needs present, though, the Lakers might just feel okay going into the season as-is and seeing how this group of guys can produce. I’ve long said trying to fix the Lakers in one offseason was not going to happen, so filling all the needs on the roster heading into the year simply may not be possible. However, it’s easy to see where the holes are right now. Trying to fill them in with viable players who can assist in the growth of the young players while aiding in the team’s competitiveness will surely be on the minds of the team’s executives.