The Lakers are once again considered title favorites after the trade for 9-time All-Star Russell Westbrook. The point guard averaged a triple-double for the 4th time in his career and is easily one of the top-5 point guards in the NBA. Westbrook joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis creates a Big Three in Los Angeles for the first time since 2012.
But the roster still needs some work. The Lakers gave up 3 rotation pieces to acquire Westbrook (Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope), and the team needs better depth in multiple positions. So far, only Talen Horton-Tucker and Marc Gasol can be relied upon to provide minutes since Dennis Schroder, Alex Caruso, and Andre Drummond will test free agency. The Lakers are in win-now mode, meaning they must find veterans at cap space-friendly contracts because Westbrook is bringing over a contract that exceeds $40 million per year. Here are the 10 veterans the Lakers can sign this offseason to boost the Lakers’ title chances.
10. Taj Gibson
Taj Gibson made the playoffs with the Knicks this season, and his defensive presence was one of the key reasons why. Gibson is not the same player as he was when he was in his prime, but he is still valuable as a paint presence. In 45 games with the Celtics this season, Thompson averaged 5.4 PPG and 5.6 RPG in 20.8 MPG.
Gibson can start alongside Davis in larger lineups or come off the bench to do the dirty work around the rim. When Westbrook or LeBron drive to the rim, Gibson has great hands and will be able to finish for easy buckets as well. In terms of big men, 36-year old Gibson is one of the best veterans the Lakers can sign for the minimum.
9. Patty Mills
Mills can still play at a high level, proving his worth as a member of the Australian National Team in the Olympics. Mills averaged 10.8 PPG on 37.5% shooting from three and was valuable for the Spurs playing 24.8 MPG.
As a backup point guard for Russell Westbrook, Mills is a perfect option. He can come in and get shots up while providing valuable championship experience with his only ring coming in 2014. Patty Mills is good for 20 MPG at a minimum and might relish the opportunity to play in Los Angeles.
8. J.J. Redick
One of the best shooters in NBA history, Redick had a very frustrating season this past year. He could not find minutes in the Pelicans’ rotation and only played 18.6 MPG while playing 31 total games with the team. He was traded to the Mavericks, where he only played 13 games on only 11.3 MPG.
Redick does not have to do much besides getting open for threes while LeBron James and Russell Westbrook find him in the corner. As long as Redick can remain in NBA shape, he will be effective as a shooter to bring his career 41.5% shooting from three to Los Angeles.
7. Jeff Green
Jeff Green is one of the best veterans available in the market and has extensive experience playing with contenders such as the Houston Rockets and Brooklyn Nets. Green is a player that teams love to have because he brings size, shooting, and versatility.
Green started 38 games for the Nets this season, averaging 11.0 PPG and 3.9 RPG while covering the power forward and center position. In small-ball lineups, Green works perfectly and can reunite with his old Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook to have a run at the chip.
6. Hassan Whiteside
At the center position, few veterans can provide immediate impact like Hassan Whiteside. He always seems to be on the move because of his inconsistent effort, but he still rebounds the ball at a high level. In 36 games for the Kings, Whiteside put up 8.1 PPG and 6.0 RPG in 15.2 MPG. As a backup center, Whiteside is what the Lakers could use.
Whiteside could benefit from playing with top superstars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis while letting the championship culture improve his motivation. Whiteside is capable of starting games when necessary, and at 7’0” tall, he will always be a paint protector.
5. Danny Green
The Lakers had a ton of help from Danny Green in 2020, a player who now has 3 NBA titles as a member of the Spurs, Raptors, and Lakers. Green always faces criticism when he misses jump shots, but there is no denying he is a championship-quality role player.
With the 76ers this year, he was solid on defense while averaging 9.5 PPG and 3.8 RPG on 40.5% shooting from deep. The Lakers might regret letting him go because shooting and defense on the perimeter is a premium in the modern game, but they have a chance to bring him back and try to help him win his 4th championship.
4. Dwight Howard
Like Danny Green, Dwight Howard was crucial for the Lakers’ title run in 2020. He was mainly a backup center, but he could start games as well as shown in their postseason run. Howard backed up Joel Embiid this year, averaging 7.0 PPG and 8.4 RPG.
Howard will still have a lot to offer as he approaches 36 years of age, and can do a great job replacing Montrezl Harrell in the paint. Harrell was not played much in this year’s postseason due to his size, but Howard will not face that problem. His ability to roll to the rim and rebound makes his reunion with LeBron James and Anthony Davis an exciting one.
3. Paul Millsap
Paul Millsap is 36 years old and will be 37 next season. The former 4-time All-Star has had a long career spanning 15 seasons with 3 franchises. His experience playing for playoff contenders makes him one of the best options at power forward or center. In 56 games, Millsap averaged 9.0 PPG and 4.7 RPG for the Nuggets this season.
Anthony Davis will take up the power forward position this year but he could be valuable at the center position as well. This frees up minutes for Millsap to be productive in his favored position, bringing rebounding and shooting to the Lakers roster. Milsap shot 34.3% from three this season, so he will be useful when open.
2. Rudy Gay
The 6’8” versatile forward is a perfect player in the modern NBA. He can rebound, space the floor, and attack the rim with force. With the Spurs, Gay averaged 11.4 PPG and 4.8 RPG while covering the power forward most of the time.
The Lakers can be the best team on the fast break with Westbrook, LeBron, Gay, and Davis running the floor. Gay is at his best when he has space to attack the rim, using his size and athleticism to generate easy points. Gay will be 35 next season, so accepting a reasonable offer to join a contender like the Lakers might be on his wishlist.
1. Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony has been linked with LeBron James ever since the 2010 offseason. Carmelo blew a chance to join LeBron in Miami and instead went to the Knicks. Anthony has had a topsy turvy career since then, but he has found his motivation for the game while playing for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Anthony averaged 13.4 PPG this past season and is still capable of starting games or being the 6th man off the bench. Most importantly, Anthony has a chance to join LeBron James for a run at a title because the 10-time All-Star and future Hall of Famer has yet to play in an NBA Finals. At 37 years old, Carmelo Anthony has his best chance to win a title before he calls it quits on his career.
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