Mailbag: Lakers free agent targets, second round options, superheroes and more

It’s that time of the week again where a few of our writers get together and answer all of your questions. The 2016 NBA Draft is just over two weeks away, and the free agency period will quickly follow it about a week later.

What are the Lakers’ options in this year’s draft and free agency? We answer your questions regarding those options and more!

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Gary:

Well, realistically, the Lakers can target anyone. Who they are able to sign is another question in itself. But they should still take a swing at the top two guys in Kevin Durant and Al Horford, no matter how slim the odds are that they will actually sign. The key this time is to not get caught up waiting around for them to decide. Seeing as the Lakers have so much cap space this year, I would imagine Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss would remain active while they wait, because they can afford to.

In recent years, had they spent money elsewhere, they would not have had the space to offer a max deal to guys like Carmelo Anthony and LaMarcus Aldridge. So that may have factored in then, but with over $60 million in cap space this time around, they probably will not need to wait around for a particular individual while other options fly off the board.

After those two, Hassan Whiteside is probably the next best target. The Lakers desperately need a defensive anchor at the center position and he certainly fills that role, and his athleticism could help on the glass and present plenty of lob opportunities for D’Angelo Russell. And of course, another option at center would be the 23-year-old Bismack Biyombo. He had a phenomenal playoff performance and the Lakers could use his defensive prowess. Then I would try to bring Kent Bazemore back to Los Angeles, giving them a great three-and-D option on the wing.

Honi: 

Realistically, Kevin Durant is staying far, far away from Los Angeles. But he is quite clearly the best player available and the Lakers should obviously meet with him to see if there is any form of voodoo that will convince him otherwise.

Gary mentioned Hassan Whiteside, and that’s probably the next go-to guy. He fits two massive needs as a rim protector and pick and roll partner, and is still young enough to grow with this Lakers’ core. Miami is going to have a hard time signing him and reportedly want to keep him under the max. It would not be at all surprising if the Lakers get the best center prospect on the market.

If Whiteside does not want to come to LA, however, the Lakers can, and will, look at both Bismack Biyombo and Festus Ezeli. Both are good rim protectors with improving offensive games. Biyombo is going to be difficult to retain for Toronto while Ezeli is restricted so the Warriors can match any offers for him. If Whiteside does come to LA, a veteran presence would become a bigger need considering his reputation as a player with a bit of an attitude. Jared Dudley fits the mold here as a savvy veteran who still has things to give on the basketabll court especially with his ability to space the floor.

I’ll give you a sixth guy just cause I’m still all in on the Baze train.

Gary: 

The main guy that comes to mind that I would be opposed to offering a max deal to is DeMar DeRozan, simply because the Lakers will likely end up with Brandon Ingram, giving Los Angeles their perimeter attack for many years to come alongside Russell and Jordan Clarkson. The same goes for Harrison Barnes, which pains me to say as a North Carolina fan. He just has not impressed this season, even with Stephen Curry missing time in the playoffs, and the fact he is in a contract year. Barnes is still young and could grow into a max deal, but I’m not betting on it.

As for the max guys I would want to sign, there’s really only three guys in this free agency class: Durant, Whiteside and Horford, though with Al, I am not typically a big fan of starting a four-year deal deal at around $30 million per for a player that is already 30 years old, but it could be worse.

Honi:

Well I obviously want Durant to take the max but that’s not happening. Whiteside, as I said earlier, is attainable with a max deal and I am currently totally on board with that.

As for who I would not want to give a max to, Gary hits the nail on the head. DeRozan doesn’t fit the team well (I actually like his game a little more than most, just not so much in LA) and Barnes has not grown enough in his few years in the league to show me he is a max player. I’ll add Chandler Parsons because of his injury history and because I don’t think he’s that great of player, but he’s probably not much of a worry if Ingram is indeed the pick.

Gary:

I actually don’t watch the show, so I can’t answer that one. But of those three, I would take Whiteside because of his defense and age.

Honi:

First of all, everyone needs to yell at Gary on Twitter for not watching the best show on television.

My favorite character is probably Tyrion because I relate to his short stature and incredible wit and smarts. (#Notsohumblebrag)

As for the second question: Whiteside without a doubt. He fits a need and is young. Horford fits a need but he’s getting older and declining. Barnes doesn’t really fit a need (especially assuming Ingram is a Laker) and frankly isn’t that good.

Gary: 

Barnes is best suited at small forward or at small-ball power forward. I’m not sure there’s a noticeable upgrade out there this summer that I would ideally want to get that would move Clarkson to the bench. It would have to probably be via trade, and I’m not counting on anything major happening on that front.

Honi:

Yeah, I agree with Gary here. Barnes’ best position has been as a power forward where the Lakers have a logjam. Clarkson is a good, young player. There’s not a lot you can do better there, especially in free agency, and not a lot of people are giving you better players in trades.

Gary:

Assuming Ingram is the guy at No. 2, I really like Chinanu Onuaku from Louisville or Stephen Zimmerman from UNLV (Sorry, Honi). Both could give the Lakers some depth at center and offer skill sets that would complement Julius Randle either on offense or on defense.

Honi:

Gary continues to tick me off.

I do like Onuaku, however. He’s a good passer at the center position and that’s valuable.

Gary: 

Jefferson could certainly be a good option as a veteran presence. He’s had his moments with the Cavaliers this year, and the Lakers need veterans to help mentor the young guys. Ideally, the team would want more impactful veterans, but Jefferson could provide them three-point shooting on the wing.

Honi:

I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to Jefferson joining the team. He’s a good veteran presence and he’s shown he can remarkably still play at a decent level. That said, his Snapchat presence might not bode well on a team with D’Ange- (sorry.)

Gary:

I would pair him next to Randle, since the fit would be perfect offensively. Horford’s ability to step out and knock down jumpers, even from three-point range, would open up the floor for the entire offense, and could allow Randle room to attack the basket.

Honi:

I agree with Gary. Horford’s probably not quick enough to guard most power forwards. His biggest decline has been as a rebounder and a guy like Randle can negate that for the most part. Plus the spacing you get with Horford at the center position is great for guys like Russell to work in.

Gary:

The first guy that comes to mind that I haven’t mentioned already is Courtney Lee. He’s been on some really good playoff teams during his career, and could be a great guy to have in the locker room. Not to mention his perimeter defense and ability to shoot the ball.

One guy I would love for Russell would be Jarrett Jack, but he has a non-guaranteed deal with Brooklyn next season, so I doubt they would decide to let him go before next season.

Honi:

Dudley is my number one guy when it comes to players you would consider “veterans.” But since I already mentioned him, I’ll go with Dorell Wright. Wright barely played in the NBA last season, but he can still space the floor. He’s been around the league and can help a lot of the young guys on and off the court.

Gary:

I’m not sure if he is still available, but Adrian Griffin is the first guy that comes to mind. With Orlando hiring Frank Vogel, I’m not sure if he will be retained on that staff. Another guy would be Ron Adams from Golden State, though he’s probably an unrealistic option. I doubt Steve Kerr lets him get away.

Honi: 

Oh this is a tough question. I don’t know if he has a reputation as a defensive guy, by any means, but James Borrego is a Spurs assistant who was in the running for the Houston job. Why not?

Gary:

Oh, man. This is a tough one. I would have to say Julius Randle is the Hulk, because he just smashes defenders that are in his way. Jordan Clarkson is like the Flash (Sorry, Dwyane Wade). Larry Nance, Jr. has to be Thor because he’ll drop the hammer on anyone that tries to thwart his dunks. Then, D’Angelo Russell has to be Spider-Man for me, because he’s my favorite superhero.

Just for kicks, if the Lakers get Brandon Ingram, he is Reed Richards, aka Mr. Fantastic, because his arms are freakishly long.

Honi:

Oh boy.

Randle being the Hulk is perfect so I won’t change that one at all. Russell is Batman because he has a lot of tools (post-up, passing, three point shot) in his so-called utility belt. Clarkson is Black Panther because of his speed and athleticism, while Nance is Spider-Man because it feels like he can climb over anything.

Ingram is Ant-Man because irony is fun.

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