The Lakers are now officially in the NBA Finals following a convincing Game 5 victory over the Nuggets. Their success is owed not only to their superstar duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis but also to the veteran supporting cast around them, which has consistently come up big when needed.
James’ teams are always looking for veterans to add either during the offseason or before the playoffs, and regardless if Los Angeles wins the title or not, the team will surely look for experienced players to join their chase for a ring next year.
Here are five veteran free agents that the Lakers could bring in next season. Especially if the team can’t re-sign Dwight Howard or Markieff Morris, the team will need frontcourt depth from players willing to take less money for a chance at a championship.
5. Jae Crowder
Crowder has enjoyed a resurgence of sorts on the Heat this season. He’s bounced around the league over the past few years, but the 30-year-old forward is still a solid 3-and-D player in the league today.
He made $7.8 million this season, a fairly small amount considering how much the Heat have played him, but he also hasn’t performed well enough to warrant a bigger deal. Miami could want to re-sign him and retain their rotation that’s been so successful in the bubble, but they also may choose to rely more on their developing younger players instead.
Crowder hasn’t earned a big contract at any point in his career and may want more money before he eventually retires, but if he’s focused more on winning than dollars, L.A. could offer him both a good chance to win some hardware and an attractive role on the team. He’d surely help the Lakers defend the perimeter while also benefiting from open 3-point looks created by James and Davis.
4. Paul Millsap
The 35-year-old Millsap doesn’t look like he has much time left in the league, but he’s also never even made the NBA Finals. For such a consistently good player who’s been on some solid teams, it’d be a shame if he never got a real chance at a ring.
L.A. could be the perfect situation for an aging veteran like Millsap to win a title. He’d likely fill Morris’ current position on the team, so Millsap could play a crucial bench role while not having to play major minutes.
Millsap just came to the end of his massive contract, so he’d likely be willing to take minimal money for a real shot at a championship. His experience, leadership and reliability would be invaluable to a possibly-thin Lakers frontcourt, and he’d help L.A. go small against when needed.
3. Serge Ibaka
Ibaka finished another strong season for Toronto in 2019-2020, but the 30-year-old power forward appears to be more of a role-player than starter these days. He can still defend 4s and 5s while remaining a 3-point shooting threat, so it’s likely many teams will look to add him to their supporting cast this offseason.
L.A. is a good landing spot for Ibaka. He already has a championship, but he’d play a major role in helping the Lakers secure one as a backup power forward and center. He can stretch the floor while still allowing Davis to play his preferred position, and Ibaka’s basketball I.Q. and extensive experience mesh well with James.
He may be a bit pricier than what the Lakers will be looking for, but Ibaka can replace both Howard and Morris as a bench contributor for at least a couple of seasons.
2. Jerami Grant
Grant earned himself a big future pay-day during these bubble playoffs. He was the perfect 3-and-D forward for Denver and looked like the best player for the Nuggets at times in their Game 5 loss to the Lakers, so teams around the league will surely want to acquire the 26-year-old combo-forward.
His price tag could be too much for the Lakers, but the team could also move some pieces around — like Kyle Kuzma — to bring him to the team. Grant’s presence would give L.A. an athletic dimension it lacks outside of its two top players, and his youth would be a nice change of pace for the mostly-older Lakers.
Grant could be convinced to take less money if a prominent role on a championship team is promised, and there’s arguably no better situation for a role player to join than the Lakers. His defense and 3-point shooting would be heavily valued, but a substantial offer elsewhere may be too enticing to ignore.
1. Joe Harris
Harris has established himself as one of the league’s most efficient 3-point shooters over the past two seasons, and he’ll garner heavy interest on the open market as a result. The Nets will likely want to sign him, but a more prominent role in L.A. could persuade the 29-year-old sharpshooter to move West.
Harris would take over Danny Green’s role as the Lakers’ starting shooting guard, and based on how many open triples Green gets, Harris would have a field day. And if teams start playing him more closely behind the line, lanes to the hoop will be that much easier to come by for James and Davis.
Parting with Green or another couple of players would probably be required to sign Harris at a reasonable price, but he’s arguably the most realistic and worthy free agent the Lakers could get this offseason. Harris would instantly become one of the most high-profile and important shooters in the league, but if he stays in Brooklyn, he could get drowned out by the many capable backcourt players that team has.