The Los Angeles Lakers, fresh off a championship win, are already finding ways to improve their roster to repeat in 2021. The team made its first major move this Sunday, November 15, in a trade for Thunder guard Dennis Schroder. Though this is a promising move, the Lakers now have an almost empty roster that needs to be filled.
Lakers fans can now only wonder what’s next for their team, given that 11 players from their championship roster are free agents this offseason. Many players will be looking for more money. With free agency set to begin Friday, let’s speculate who’s staying, leaving, and anything in between.
Who Will Likely Stay?
Lakers superstar and the best big man in the NBA, Anthony Davis is one of the market’s biggest free agents. Fortunately for Lakers fans, Davis is expected to re-sign with the Lakers on a max contract.
Davis was one of the most important pieces in bringing the Lakers their seventeenth championship, so it is a huge sigh of relief for fans. His 28 points, ten rebounds and clutch playoff performance are much needed for the Lakers to compete.
McGee is expected to opt into his contract. However, his future with the team is reportedly less stable than that of Davis’. McGee could be used in trade talks with other teams, especially if the Lakers sign another center. Big names going around are Serge Ibaka and Demarcus Cousins.
Antetokounmpo is also expected to sign back with the Lakers. They are likely to offer him a two-way deal. This raises many eyebrows throughout the league, given he is the brother of reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis also happens to be a free agent in 2021. The MVP has spoken about playing with his brothers in the past. Lakers fans and the front office would undoubtedly love to have Giannis, and he’d get what he wants by playing for a contender. This would keep the team competing for titles for years to come.
Who Will Likely Leave?
This one hurts Lakers fans, as Rondo was a huge momentum boost off the bench in the playoffs. It is reported that the Lakers signed Schroder to a deal because of their belief that Rondo is leaving. What will be missed most about Rondo is his veteran leadership and beautiful passing. In addition to these attributes, he is an energetic defender.
Smith is not expected to be offered a deal by the Lakers this offseason. He initially signed with the team after guard Avery Bradley opted out of the bubble restart. However, Smith was quite underwhelming in his bubble appearances, ultimately resulting in a lack of playing time.
Up in the Air
A 3-time Defensive Player of the Year, Howard struggled in seasons before this one. However, he got in great shape during the offseason. This led to him reuniting with his former team to win his first NBA championship.
Making great lob plays and anchoring on defense, Howard contributed heavily in the Lakers’ playoff run. His signing is up in the air because of the team’s interest in other centers. The Lakers would have to offer Howard a mid-level contract. Otherwise, he is likely to end up a member of the Golden State Warriors.
A major asset for the Lakers during their playoffs run, Caldwell-Pope shot the ball excellently. However, he will likely be looking for more money due to his solid play. He has opted out of his player option and will test the free agency market. The Lakers do retain his Bird rights and can ultimately exceed their cap to bring him back.
Morris signed with the Lakers in February, following a buyout by the Detroit Pistons. He played excellently in the playoffs, shooting around 42 percent from the three. Morris will likely be looking for more money this offseason, throwing his status up in the air. His return will be dependent on whether the Lakers can broker a deal to keep him.
A solid three-and-d player, Bradley opted out of the bubble restart. He was initially expected to re-sign with the Lakers. However, his status has been thrown up in the air due to signing with a new agent. Bradley is likely to opt-out of his player option and test the market. Teams such as the Bucks and Warriors may be potential suitors.
What Should the Lakers do?
The Lakers should first do the obvious and re-sign Anthony Davis to a max contract. This signing is essential if the team wants to have any chance of competing in the Western Conference.
Finding a way to sign Rajon Rondo would be a massive relief for the team. Rondo is a great defender, playmaker, and hustler. His awareness and leadership were a significant factor in bringing the Lakers the championship. If they want to win, they will sign him.
Signing Dwight Howard is also essential. Howard is a defensive anchor who played his heart out for the team this season. Signing him will clear the way for more impressive lobs, blocks, and stops.
Re-signing Caldwell-Pope and Morris is vital as well. Both shot the ball well throughout the playoffs. Having LeBron, Davis, and now Schroder to create space for them will only benefit the team. The team’s three-point shooting will suffer without them.
Trade for JJ Redick. Redick’s shooting is among the best in the league and will only help with the team’s floor spacing. The Lakers can offer a second-round pick, whether it be this year or for the future. They can even offer one of the young guys, such as Kuzma or Horton-Tucker, in a package.
Sign Demarcus Cousins. Only two years ago, Cousins was regarded as a top center in the league. Since then, injury has plagued him and has prevented him from taking the court. However, when healthy, he should at least be given a chance. His talent and friendship are even more reason why his signing can be beneficial for the team.