The Lakers’ offseason has been picturesque, but it is not quite complete just yet. They were able to send Kobe Bryant off with the perfect retirement finale. Shortly after, they fired Byron Scott and hired Luke Walton. Luck fell on their side when they were able to retain the second overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft. The Lakers will enter the next phase of their offseason rebuild, focusing on free agency in July when they will have at least $60 million in cap space to spend.
The Lakers have struggled in the past few years to sign any marquee players, but this year might be different. The Lakers will rely on the positive accomplishments and momentum in their offseason so far as a platform to attract players during free agency. The team’s roster right now is lacking depth at the small forward/wing position, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they target that position at the start of free agency. There are a couple of wing players that I think the Lakers would have a realistic shot at signing. I will look at two different scenarios the Lakers could be in that would be detrimental in their free agency chase.
The first scenario would look at decent role players if the Lakers draft Brandon Ingram. Ingram would fit nicely for the Lakers at the wing position if he is still available at the second spot. The second scenario would look at the players the Lakers would sign if they draft Ben Simmons. Simmons would likely play the power forward position so the Lakers would need to sign a starting caliber wing.
1) Allen Crabbe. I think Crabbe would be a great addition to the Lakers’ bench. He is only 23 years old and just had a tremendous playoff series against the Warriors. Crabbe is your prototypical 3 and D type of player. He can knock down open shots and defend the opposing wings. The current Blazer has improved his scoring average every year he has been in the league. Crabbe averaged 3.3 points in his second year and raised that average to 10.3 points this year. Keep in mind that he will be a restricted free agent, which means that Portland can match any offer sheet, but if the price is too high, maybe they won’t. Also, we can call him crabbe cakes, get it? S/O to Honi!
2) Solomon Hill. Hill is another solid role player that can contribute off the bench. He is only 24 years old. He is a physical and athletic player that can defend well. Hill struggled during the regular season due to injuries, but he redeemed himself in the playoffs averaging 7.7 points and 4 rebounds in 28 minutes of play. In the playoffs, he shot a crazy 58% from the deep! I think Hill can be versatile enough to play three positions (SG, SF, and PF). Look forward to Hill getting a lot of offers from teams; let’s hope the Lakers are one of them.
3) Courtney Lee. Lee would be a great veteran presence for the young Lakers team next year. He has enough playoff experiences including one year in the Finals to mentor the younger Laker core. I think Lee would offer the Lakers a solid defensive wing off the bench. He spent 2 seasons in Memphis before being traded to Charlotte; both teams are known for their defense. Lee would a cheap and affordable option that the Lakers can look at.
4) Brandon Rush. Rush is another veteran player who would a great addition on the bench. He understands Luke’s offensive and defensive sets. I think he will be a player that Walton will look at to mentor and give advice to the team. Rush can be a second coach to the players on the court and on the bench. He gives the Lakers solid shooting, defense, and most importantly trust. He doesn’t play that much for the Warriors, so I expect him to give the Lakers a good look.
5) Evan Turner. Okay, I know Turner is a Celtic, but I think he is an okay player. He doesn’t shoot well at all, but I really like his playmaking ability. He can rebound the ball and push it in transition and create for others. This will be useful and crucial in Luke’s offensive system. He is a solid overall player. He averaged 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.4 assists during his career. In this year’s playoffs, he averaged 13.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. I think he would enjoy playing under Luke’s offensive system. [Editor’s Note: No word on how Turner’s longstanding feud with Honi will impact his decision in free agency.]
1) Nicolas Batum. I really like Batum. He is everything you would want for your starting small forward. He can defend, rebound, score, and pass. He plays within himself and never tries to be someone who he is not. In his first season with Charlotte, Batum averaged 15 points 6 rebounds and 6 assists in 35 minutes of play. He is a decent shooter from deep at 36%. Batum is only 27 years old and I think he can grow and fit nicely with the young Lakers. The former Blazer will be coveted by a lot of teams so it wouldn’t be that easy to sign him, but man, he would help the Lakers tremendously.
2) DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan might not be a great fit with the Lakers, but he is only 26 years old. The Raptor is a talented player that the Lakers should look at regardless of fit. He is extremely athletic and can create his own shots. The Los Angeles native was selected to the All-Star team two times in seven seasons. DeRozan may not shoot well from deep, but he does a lot of other things well. I think most people underrate his playmaking ability. In seven seasons in the NBA, DeRozan increased his assists average each year averaging a career high 4 assist this season. He was also a solid scorer (23.5) and decent rebounder (4.5) this year.
3) Kent Bazemore. A lot of Lakers were mad that the Lakers let Bazemore walk two years ago including me. The Lakers have a chance to right their wrong from two seasons ago and sign Bazemore to a decent contract in July. The current Hawk is a long and athletic player that can either play the shooting guard or the small forward position. During his two seasons at Atlanta, Bazemore averaged 8.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in only 22 minutes of play. His per 36 numbers are pretty solid (13.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists). He will be only 27 years old entering next season.
4) Chandler Parsons. I’m not sure if Parsons wants to leave Dallas or not, but the Lakers should give him a look. Parsons’ style of play is similar to Batum; the former is stronger and can play the power forward position as a stretch four. He can stretch the floor with his shooting and he can also handle that ball pretty well. In five seasons, Parsons averaged 14.3 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. There should be a little caution when it comes to signing the Maverick because of the right knee surgery he had this season that sidelined him for 21 games and the entire playoffs. But Parsons is only 27, so it would be a good gamble if the Lakers sign him.
The Lakers have a lot of solid options at the wing to look at. They should enter free agency with a refreshing sense of swagger and pride, unlike the previous few years. The Lakers’ future is bright and it will be even brighter if they do well this July. I expect them to do well.