The Lakers are ready for a fresh start. After a nightmare of a season with Byron Scott, who was dismissed and replaced with Luke Walton, the team drafted Brandon Ingram with the second overall pick and now boast a young core that can rival those of Minnesota and Philadelphia. The only realistic option for Los Angeles is to sign experienced free agents that can help the team grow and compete, while also providing better fits with Luke’s system than last year’s team did.
I think it is also worth noting that age wasn’t really considered for any free agents, as the roster is pretty young as it stands and doesn’t necessarily need to focus on such.
D.J. Augustin – PG – D.J. Augustin is well worth Mitch Kupchak’s consideration to back up D’Angelo Russell this year. He is well equipped to lead Luke’s second unit, as Augustin has plenty of experience running a lot of pick and roll and can shoot well from the outside.
Augustin averaged 7.5 points, 3.2 assists and shot 40.5 percent from behind the arc this season, made even more impressive by the fact he was traded to Denver mid-season and picked up his play in 28 games with the Nuggets, averaging 11.9 points, 4.8 assists, and shot 41.9 percent from deep in those contests.
The veteran point guard could give Los Angeles an option to handle the ball outside of Lou Williams, and will be an outside threat if Williams is handling the ball. Out of guards who have played 60 or more games, Augustin is 13th at 43.7 percent.
Augustin’s recent hot play will serve him well in this free agency, because after never making more than $3.5 million in a season, he can expect to at least double that. This is a signing well within the Lakers’ reach and should be appealing to Augustin if he is the main backup off the bench.
Jerryd Bayless – PG/SG – Jerryd Bayless is a gamble. The 27-year-old averaged 10.4 points, 3.1 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game, and he also had an unbelievable three-point shooting year, shooting 43.7 percent for the season. That percentage ended up being the fourth best in the league.
It’s hard to see Bayless repeating that mark, but if he can focus on shot selection like he did for the Bucks, he can prove to be a valuable scorer off the bench. He doesn’t provide much else, he seemed to thrive more without the ball as the Bucks put Giannis Antetokounmpo at point. That lineup change contributed to his lowest turnover total since 2011. He also had the team’s lowest defensive rating out of anyone who played half the season. Bayless can be a potential disaster paired with Williams in the backcourt, but can provide fruiful returns if he can improve his overall game from last season.
Arron Afflalo – SG/SF – Arron Afflalo can be a solid option for the purple and gold. The Los Angeles native shot 38% from three and has averaged double digits every year since 2009. Not the defender that he used to be, Afflalo can still be considered an upgrade on the defensive end over last year’s team. Starting 94 percent of the games he has played in since his third year in the league, it might be difficult for Los Angeles to convince him to come off the bench, but it also should be a no-brainer that Ingram needs to start for Los Angeles.
Kent Bazemore – SG/SF – What is there to say? The former Laker wasn’t kept around after a solid stint with Los Angeles and he found his way eventually with the Hawks. He averaged 11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game for Atlanta, even picking up his free throw shooting to a respectable 81.5 percent. Bazemore also has the ability to guard the other team’s best player, a necessary skillset for the Lakers to acquire.
Bazemore is a perfect sixth man for Los Angeles, and is only entering his prime at 27. It appears that he will get some big money offers from teams around the league, I also question if will consider being a sixth man at this point in his career.
Jared Dudley – SF/PF – Another option to space the floor with extremely efficient outside shooting. A career 40 percent shooter from behind the arc, he went above that and shot 42 percent from deep last year. Dudley’s shooting isn’t the only thing that defines him, Dudley is a good teammate with high basketball IQ. He also saw minutes as a stretch-four. Washington’s defense suffered at times going small, but he can definitely provide some variety if Randle doesn’t improve his own shooting. A small-ball bench with Nance/Zubac at the five and Dudley at the four is an intriguing thought, although potentially unrealistic.
Solomon Hill – SF – The case for signing Solomon Hill requires you to start at last season’s All-Star break. After a poor start to the season with less minutes and having Larry Bird decline his $2.3 million option, Hill caught on fire and shot 49.6 percent from the floor and 41.3 percent from deep. His ability to guard forwards of all sizes allowed him to get more minutes as the season went on and he continued to reward the Pacers for doing so.
The playoffs were no different, as Hill shot 57.1 percent from deep and only cemented his value in free agency. It’s still a surprise that Bird declined his option, because $2.3 million doesn’t mean much with the rising cap but Hill will probably receive triple that now. He can come into a Lakers’ rotation with consistent minutes and the ability to help Los Angeles go small when needed.
Zaza Pachulia – C – Pachulia is a realistic option at center for Los Angeles if Whiteside doesn’t come along. The center averaged 8.6 points and 9.4 rebounds in only 26.4 minutes per game. Pachulia is also a good defender but he won’t stretch the floor, which may cause problems while playing alongside Randle. He only made $5.2 million but can look to something closer to $10 million with his solid season and rising cap.
Pachulia won’t play huge minutes, so Los Angeles would need quality time from Zubac or someone else if the rookie isn’t prepared. They can also use Nance to lighten the workload if they go small. Zaza would also have the best first name in Los Angeles since Kobe.
Bismack Biyombo – C – Biyombo is a viable upgrade over Roy Hibbert, the question is at what cost? Toronto drafted big to provide replacements for Biyombo and his playoff run only made him more money this offseason. He averaged 6.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.4 block per game and was an impact throughout the Raptors’ run.
During the regular season, Biyombo was able to play in all 82 games and posted numbers near his playoff stats. He had the 17th best defensive rating and had the second-highest block percentage behind Hassan Whiteside. I have no idea how much someone will eventually offer for him but he can be valuable for Los Angeles and provide real defense from the paint. At only 23 years old, Biyombo is definitely worthy of consideration.
Jordan Hill – C – Hill is probably not an option to start at center for Los Angeles, but I think he can be best paired with Pachulia if the upper-tier free agent big men are already signed. He averaged 8.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and shot slightly over 50 percent from the field in 73 games.
Hill’s defensive skills and spark off the bench could be a valuable asset for Los Angeles with a new starting center and rookie Ivica Zubac joining the team.
Hassan Whiteside – C – Whiteside is probably the second best center in this free agency, and the best option for Los Angeles. At 26 years old, he can play out his max contract during his prime and grow alongside the Lakers’ young core.
Whiteside has only played 3,378 minutes in his NBA career so he doesn’t have a heavy minute workload on his body. For comparison, Bismack Biyombo has already played 7,764 minutes and is only 23 years old.
Hassan Whiteside is a strong defensive force, he had the best defensive rating and blocks per game in the Association (94.3, 3.7). He scored 14.2 points per game and had 11.8 rebounds per game while shooting a bit over 60 percent from the field. Whiteside is getting a max contract from someone and there is no doubt that he earned it. There are questions about his fit in the locker room, but Los Angeles should consider him priority number one for free agency.
The Lakers have needs at nearly every position with the most demanding being at starting center. They also will have over $60 million to spend and will most certainly be expecting to start making a push for the playoffs in the near future, and these free agents could all help them do it.