While the Lakers waiving and stretching of Luol Deng has mostly been viewed through the lens of financial flexibility and the push for a second star in the Summer of 2019, there are present day ramifications too. By allowing Deng to seek alternative employment opportunities, the Lakers roster now has room to add an additional player.
Typically, discussions around who to fill your 15th roster spot are not that exciting — or at least they shouldn’t be, even if we all love to debate such things. And for a Lakers team that is deep on NBA level talent, that would seem especially true. Conventional wisdom says that whoever the Lakers would sign would not likely impact the trajectory of the team, if they earned playing time at all.
This Lakers roster, though, is not typical even if it is deep.
You see, while the Lakers have an abundance of options on the wing, their current big man rotation is somewhat lacking. Their 3-headed center rotation of JaVale McGee, Ivica Zubac, and rookie Moe Wagner will face its challenges and adding another big man — even if only to have another warm body who can soak up minutes at the 5 should injury, suspension, or any other unforeseen scenario arise — should at least be a consideration.
Who could the Lakers add, though? Per NBA.com’s free agent tracking tool, below are available players who are slotted as PF/C or C’s (or are PF’s but could play some C if they had to):
- Quincy Acy
- Trevor Booker
- Jack Cooley
- Matt Costello
- Joffrey Lauvergne
- Jordan Mickey
- Marshall Plumlee
- Mo Speights
I won’t get into each name here, that’s the definition of slim pickings. Sure, you could make the case some would be worth an NBA roster spot, but if that’s the basis of your argument, that’s not a great reason to actually sign a player. Further, and maybe this should the chief argument against signing another C to begin with, that LeBron James fellow will be playing some C this year and another big body may not even be necessary at all, especially if he’s just a DNP-CD waiting to happen.
Well, then, if not a big, how about another shooter? Sure, we already mentioned the Lakers have depth in the backcourt and on the wing, but conventional analysis says they need more shooting. I, however, disagree with the conventional analysis. I think the Lakers have more shooting than being given credit for — particularly if they reshape some of their offensive sets and scheme to get their best spot up options looks from their preferred launching spots. The Lakers shooting also (potentially) takes another step forward should rookie marksman Svi Mykhailiuk earn minutes over, say, Lance Stephenson.
So, even if you could lure Jamal Crawford or Nick Young or some other free agent wing as a designated shooter (which, I think, they could do easily by offering them a spot), I’d prefer the Lakers lay off those options in favor of keeping the roster they have on hand. Yes, those players are more established and could, in a pinch, provide the team with a boost off the bench. But the potential to add more stress to an already maxed out wing rotation and potentially sow seeds of discontent when players inevitably don’t play isn’t a wise move. Particularly when these issues are already present.
Ultimately, then, I’d prefer the Lakers stand pat with their 14 man roster and call it a day. This route gives them the flexibility to trade 2-for-1 later in the season, sign a free agent or add a 10-day contract later in the season without having to cut a player to create that roster spot, sign a player who impresses in training camp, or even convert one of their 2-way contracts to a regular roster spot (like, say, Alex Caruso if he shows enough to warrant it).
Looking at the landscape today, then, I think it’s better to value the roster flexibility over its supposed needs. Let’s see if the Lakers brass feels the same way.