The Los Angeles Lakers remain the defending NBA champions, but there is a growing concern that the team is going to relinquish that title by the end of the summer. That is to no fault of the front office. The team upgraded from Rajon Rondo and Dwight Howard to Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell. Marc Gasol was a great pickup at the time, while Andre Drummond was a solid waiver claim.
Despite all of these moves, the Lakers find themselves as the fifth seed overall in the standings. Injuries to Anthony Davis and LeBron James have derailed the team in the last 30 games, which has brought uncertainty about the team's future playoff aspirations.
Let's just say that the Lakers don't make it to the Finals this season. The team would still be able to compete next season despite LeBron turning 37 years old. However, Father Time is starting to catch up to him, so the Lakers will need to make all of the right moves. Even if LeBron wins this year, King James wants to at least tie Michael Jordan's six rings, so he would need to win at least one more title.
The offseason will be here before we know it and the Lakers have a flurry of free agents. These will need to be the top-10 offseason priorities.
10. Land JJ Redick As A Free Agent Shooter
Redick is having one of his worst years statistically, but he is proving that a change of scenery can be nice. Known as a three-point threat, Redick was shooting just 36.4% from the three-point range. Now that he has been traded from the Pelicans to the Mavericks, he is shooting 47.1% from the field in 12.6 minutes of action.
The 36-year old is growing close to the end of his career, but this would be a cheap pickup for the Lakers. This would be similar to LeBron's days with the Cavaliers when the team picked up a 37-year old Kyle Korver in 2017. The Cavaliers made the NBA Finals that season, while Korver averaged 9.2 points and shot 43.6% from outside. This has deja vu written all over it.
9. Re-Sign Dennis Schroder At A Moderate Price
In a way, Dennis Schroder is a trap, especially as of late. In two of his last three games, Schroder has put up 25 points. He is just 27 years old, plays solid defense, and is averaging 15.4 points and 5.5 assists. He is in line to make at least $15-$18 million this offseason after hitting the market.
The Lakers would love to bring last year's Sixth Man of the Year Runner-Up. It's going to come at a cost though. The Lakers don't have a lot of pennies to spare on role players, so the team can't get sucked into a bidding war for a player that has never made an All-Star team. If Schroder comes back, it has to be for a fair price around $12 million per season. It's possible that the Lakers can sell Schroder to on taking a discount to chase titles.
8. Re-Sign Alex Caruso
Caruso brings hustle and energy to the team. For his efforts, Caruso could likely command a salary of $10 million per season. Ten years ago, JJ Barea signed a four-year contract for $19 million. Both players have similar attributes, but with inflation prices, Caruso could get double what Barea got back in the day.
There aren't too many better role players than Caruso. Somebody is going to potentially overpay for his services, but the Lakers were the team to give him his shot. The team has to convince Caruso to return on a two to a three-year deal for $7 million per season.
7. Hope Montrezl Harrell Picks Up Player Option
Harrell would make around $10 million next season if he picks up his player option. This is a steal for a player that won the Sixth Man of the Year last season. Media outlets cry that Harrell is struggling this season, but the 27-year old is averaging 13.9 points and 6.6 rebounds while shooting 61.6% from the field.
His defense might be lackluster, but he has had to play power forward and center this season. Harrell has had to take on a larger role with both Davis and LeBron out for a long period of time. To keep the bench at its peak, an affordable Harrell would be a start.
6. Convince Derrick Rose To Play For A Ring
This would be the ultimate bench prize. The Lakers were once interested in trading for Rose with the Detroit Pistons before the New York Knicks struck a deal. Rose is averaging 14.2 points and 4.2 assists per game. At 32 years old, he has slid into a new role as the bench scorer.
That is exactly what the Lakers need. Somebody like Rose, the youngest MVP in NBA history, would be an instant fan favorite. When fans are back in the stands at full capacity, having Rose check into games would be the sparkplug that the team needs. Not to mention his scoring would be a huge benefit.
5. Offer Mike Conley Jr. A One-Year Contract
Conley had a great run with the Memphis Grizzlies before coming over the Utah Jazz. In 2013, Conley helped the Grizzlies qualify for the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. Now, he is the point guard for the No. 1 seed Jazz. If the Jazz can't make the NBA Finals, the 33-year old Conley might want to start title chasing.
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If Schroder comes off the books, the Lakers could sway Conley to come to Los Angeles. Conley was a late addition to his first-ever All-Star game this season and is averaging 16.2 points and 5.9 assists. He is just as good as a defender as Schroder, if not better. This would be the perfect veteran point guard that LeBron needs to contend next season.
4. Convince DeMar DeRozan To A Homecoming
If the Lakers can convince Conley to run the point, then what about adding DeMar DeRozan to be the team's shooting guard? Granted, DeRozan plays the small forward position, but DeRozan has always been a "team-first" type of player. The all-time leading scorer for the Toronto Raptors would have no issue with being asked to score, which would allow LeBron to play his natural position at small forward.
DeRozan is a hometown hero from Los Angeles. He missed out on winning a title with the Raptors when the team traded him to the Spurs for Kawhi Leonard. Assuming that Leonard remains with the Clippers next year, another pending free agent, how sweet would that revenge taste if DeRozan knocked off Leonard and won an NBA championship?
3. Lock-Up Talen Horton-Tucker To A Long Term Deal
The 20-year old is averaging 9.0 points this season and is the reason why Kyle Lowry is not wearing a Lakers uniform as we speak. The Raptors were almost ready to push the accept button on trade with L.A., but the Lakers were not going to give up Horton-Tucker.
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Horton-Tucker has shown the Lakers brass that he can be a talented player in this league. The team is going to make sure that they lock him up for a cheap price. His best years are yet to come, but this is the year to lock him up at an affordable cost.
2. Anthony Davis' Health
Davis missed 30 games after reaggravating his Achillies. The superstar big is a critical factor in the Lakers ' repeating as champions. Many around the league don't even truly believe he is 100% healthy. For now, all fans can do is hope that he doesn't hurt himself worse. We have seen the likes of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson miss excessive time due to injuries.
His health will be determined by how far the Lakers make it. For now, Davis is on a minutes restriction, but that is all out the window when the playoffs start. With LeBron turning 37 next year, he can't afford to lose time waiting on Davis to get healthy.
1. Land Specific Veterans For LeBron James
Redick (36), Conley (33), and DeRozan (31) are just a few names that have been dropped so far. All three players would have a reason to come to the Lakers given their longevity in the league. The team is going to lose Andre Drummond to free agency. At 27 years old and coming off a year where he is currently averaging 17.5 points and 13.5 rebounds, he will be far out of the team's paygrade.
Goran Dragic, Enes Kanter, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Gay, Lou Williams, and Otto Porter Jr. are just a few other names that come to mind when you glance at the incoming free agent list. Realistically, it's going to come down to cost and who wants to take a few fewer dollars for a chance at a ring.