The Los Angeles Lakers have been making a lot of moves during this offseason. Last season, the Lakers were one of the favorites to reach the NBA Finals, especially as they were the defending champions. But significant injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis derailed their season.
Role players like Dennis Schroder and Kyle Kuzma were not able to step up in the absence of the superstar duo. And thus, the Lakers barely made the playoffs through the play-in tournament. And in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, the Lakers surprisingly got eliminated by the Phoenix Suns, after Anthony Davis got injured.
Recognizing the flaws in their roster, the Lakers made a lot of important decisions in the offseason. They traded Montrezl Harrell, KCP, and Kyle Kuzma to Washington in exchange for Russell Westbrook. Westbrook, who had a fantastic season as he led the NBA in assists and triple-doubles, joined LeBron and AD to form a big three in LA.
Adding Westbrook also meant that the Lakers would lose out on a lot of cap space, so they had to be smart with their additions during free agency. And so, the Lakers smartly went after the strong veteran presence in the market this year.
In free agency, the Lakers acquired Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington, and Kent Bazemore. Of these five players, four have represented the Lakers in the past, with Howard and Ariza winning NBA titles with the franchise in their previous runs. As for Anthony, he and LeBron James share a very close relationship, having known each other since before they entered the NBA.
The two have constantly yearned to play with each other, and now they finally get their wish. The Lakers understand that they cannot just pack their team with veterans, so they also re-signed Talen Horton-Tucker, and signed Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn to provide spacing and playmaking.
What is incredible about the way the Lakers have gone about in free agency is how they have managed their cap constraints. As mentioned earlier, the Lakers were severely hamstrung in the salary cap when they added Russell Westbrook's large contract to the already existing ones of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. In contrast, the Lakers have gotten every player they signed in free agency on team-friendly deals.
According to reports, the signings of Melo, Dwight, Ariza, Ellington, Bazemore, Nunn, and Monk only take up $20 million of this season's salary cap. Every player aside from Nunn has signed a minimum contract, close to $1.67 million. Whereas Nunn signed the mid-level exception, worth a little under $5 million. To contrast this, the New York Knicks just spent $19.4 million in order to sign Celtics point guard Evan Fournier.
One argument that people will make against the Lakers is that they signed players who have already made their money through their career, and are looking to get the best possible chance in their career for an NBA championship. But it is also important to remember that there are veterans in the league who prioritize earnings over any championship success.
On top of that, the Lakers also signed veterans who have performed at a high level despite their age over the recent years. None of the Lakers' veteran signings, aside from potentially Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard will be starting for the Lakers, so they have spent their money effectively. How their decisions impact their performance on the court still remains to be seen. But the Lakers' front office has done a lot of good work during this year's free agency.