If you’re a long-time fan of the NBA you may have felt like the postseason felt oddly different this year. That was likely due to the absence of LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, two of the biggest names in the sport.
It’s no secret that the 2021-22 Lakers were a massive failure. The team seemed like a hodgepodge of veterans and shooters that never really gelled. They hovered around .500 all season and didn’t even make the play-in tournament.
Let’s look at some of the moves the Lakers could explore this offseason in order to become contenders once again.
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Free Agency Strategy
First order of business for the Lakers during free agency should be deciding whether or not to re-sign Malik Monk. Monk was one of the few bright spots for the Lakers. It was clear he played hard and was able to shoot the ball from the field.
Affording Monk might be difficult and if the Lakers were to bring him back they’d likely have to do so on a mid-level exception deal.
Good Fits for Current Stars
In addition to deciding on Monk, the Lakers should really start to build a roster that can work with Russell Westbrook’s skill set. Currently, the Lakers are tied to Westbrook due to his contract – for better or for worse. That said, they should do all they can to put the best team around him when he’s on the floor.
One free agent that could pair well with Westbrook is Nemanja Bjelica. Bjelica can provide floor spacing to provide Westbrook room to drive and create shots, but also, play down low and look to rebound when needed.
Another player the Lakers could pursue is Markieff Morris. Morris isn’t a glamorous option but he’s a veteran, which is something that is important to James. Like Bjelica he can space the floor and he’s been known to be scrappy on defense, which could bring some much-needed toughness to the Lakers.
Westbrook to the Utah Jazz?
Lastly, the Lakers could make a big splash outside of free agency by trading Westbrook altogether. Again, it’s been reported that the Lakers aren’t looking to move Westbrook and are going to try and make things work.
However, if they were to trade Westbrook, they’d likely have to part ways with one of their limited draft picks. A name that could make sense is Rudy Gobert.
Gobert and co-star Donovan Mitchell are seemingly headed towards a breakup, although no official word has come out of the players’ camps or from the Utah Jazz. Gobert would give the Lakers a much-needed interior presence on both offense and defense, and allow Anthony Davis to play outside.
Westbrook could try to be co-start to Mitchell in Utah, who had the fifth best record in the Western Conference this past season.
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NBA Draft Strategy
This year, the Lakers do not currently have a draft pick in either round of the draft. The Lakers gave up their pick to the New Orleans Pelicans when they acquired Anthony Davis. Had they kept the pick, they would be selecting number 8 overall.
However, despite not having an official pick they are still working out players and doing their due diligence. This is likely happening just in case a last-minute trade arises, or they may look to sign an undrafted free agent or two.
Names to Watch
Below is a comprehensive list of all the players that have been linked to during the combine and time leading up to this summer’s NBA Draft.
- Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu – UT Arlington (Workout)
- Paul Atkinson Jr. – Notre Dame (Workout)
- Patrick Baldwin Jr. – Milwaukee (Combine Interview)
- Jules Bernard – UCLA (Workout)
- Jamaree Bouyea – San Francisco (Workout)
- Terrell Brown Jr. – Washington (Workout)
- Jamal Cain – Oakland (Workout)
- R.J. Cole – UConn (Workout)
- Darius Days – LSU (Workout)
- Michael Devoe – Georgia Tech (Workout)
- Keon Ellis – Alabama (Workout)
- Phlandrous Fleming Jr. – Florida (Workout)
- Collin Gillespie – Villanova (Workout)
- Grant Golden – Richmond (Workout)
- Brison Gresham – Texas Southern (Workout)
- Haowen Guo – Shanghai Sharks (Workout)
- Jeriah Horne – Tulsa (Workout)
- Quenton Jackson – Texas A&M (Workout)
- DeVante’ Jones – Michigan (Workout)
- Johnny Juzang – UCLA (Workout)
- Kur Kuath – Marquette (Workout)
- Hyunjung Lee – Davidson (Workout)
- Kenneth Lofton Jr. – Louisiana Tech (Workout)
- Remy Martin – Kansas (Workout)
- Tyrese Martin – UConn (Workout)
- David McCormack – Kansas (Workout)
- Trey McGowens – Nebraska (Workout)
- Omari Moore – San Jose State (Workout)
- Wendell Moore Jr. – Duke (Combine Interview)
- Drew Peterson – USC (Workout)
- Scotty Pippen Jr. – Vanderbilt (Workout)
- Gaige Prim – Missouri State (Workout)
- Zyon Pullin – UC Riverside (Workout)
- Lester Quinones – Memphis (Workout)
- Will Richardson – Oregon (Workout)
- Jermaine Samuels – Villanova (Workout)
- Jaden Shackelford – Alabama (Workout)
- Terquavion Smith – NC State (Combine Interview)
- Michael Steadman – UMass (Workout)
- Cole Swider – Syracuse (Workout)
- Jordan Usher – Georgia Tech (Workout)
- Jabari Walker – Colorado (Workout)
- Peyton Watson – UCLA (Combine Interview)
- Fabian White Jr. – Houston (Workout)
- Trevion Williams – Purdue (Workout)
- Lucas Williamson – Loyola Chicago (Workout)
It would not be surprising if the Lakers made a few moves on draft night to somehow acquire at least a second round pick. The organization has mostly concentrated on developing their roster via free agency and trades and needs to address their lack of developing talent from within.
Time is Running Out
Within a few years the Lakers will be without James, while Davis and Westbrook will more than likely be way past their primes.
Currently, the organization lacks young talent behind them, so look for them to start to plan for the future years after James moves on from the Lakers. This may come in the form of acquiring more draft picks, or figuring out creative ways to package current players like Westbrook and getting draft picks in return from one trade partner or a third team.
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