With NBA free agency coming to a close and the NBA Summer League in the final stages, the off-season will likely enter a lull. Theoretically, this should allow Laker fans time to digest the fact that LeBron James is a Laker, but in reality, it’s a move that still hasn’t set in.
The biggest decision remaining for the Lakers is what to do with the final roster spot while the biggest news surrounds the Lakers’ Summer League team.
Taking all that into consideration, we asked our readers for questions on Twitter and got multiple questions to answer on these topics and more.
Is there any "better" option on free agency center right now? JaVale and Zu not enough? LBJ at center maybe?
— 🅱️🅱️🅱️ (@pratamayugi) July 16, 2018
When examining the Lakers’ roster as a whole, I think the obvious takeaway given the signings is that the front office truly believes James is going to play more in the post and less on the ball.
It’s a sentiment he may have shared in the past, but this is reason to believe this year it could be different. The Lakers brought in one center while letting Thomas Bryant, Julius Randle and Brook Lopez leave. The math doesn’t add up there if we’re to assume James is still a wing player.
I talked more at length about what James in the post might mean statistically in my breakdown of the Lakers’ signings. In short, James likely learned last season that he can’t do it all and any more. The answer to that might be for him to play off the ball more and in the post. The Lakers seem to believe so.
To more accurately answer the question, an under-the-radar name that COULD become an option is Montrezl Harrell. The Clippers currently have roughly 27 players on the roster – actually it’s 16 signed players have the team did not waive Milos Teodosic on Sunday – and Harrell is still a restricted free agent.
While over half the current roster is guards and the Clippers could clear out roster spots by releasing some of the excess weight in the backcourt, the unlikely scenario exists of the team renouncing Harrell and freeing up a roster spot that way.
Last season, in limited time off the bench, Harrell finished in the 95th percentile in transition, the 95th percentile in the pick and roll and the 84th percentile in post-ups. The Lakers could only offer the Room Exception, but they could also offer a potential starting spot and a potential playoff team, both appealing options.
What type of player should we use the final roster spot on? Not a particular name, but a versatile 4, or a third PG or..
— Mike (@YouDieByJumpers) July 16, 2018
At this point, the only relatively appealing options on the free agency market on guys you can send training camp invites to.
Maybe you could convince David Nwaba to come back to the Lakers, but the Lakers already have a host of backcourt options. As it stands, Lonzo Ball, Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Josh Hart, Lance Stephenson and Svi Mykhailiuk all likely will be vying for time as is. Nwaba doesn’t stand out in any area that would garner him playing time over the other options, so while he’s a fan favorite, he’s an unlikely candidate.
Instead, a theory I’ve had given the lack of urgency the team has shown in filling out the final roster spot is that they’ll hold it into the season, likely to fill with a buyout player. Last season, we saw a guy like Marco Belinelli hit the open market. A player like that would provide an instant impact to the Lakers and fill a massive void.
Some potential names to keep an eye out for could be – and I’m just spitballing here – Wesley Matthews, DeMarre Carroll, Garrett Temple or Troy Daniels. The names could change, but the idea is the same. You can never have too many 3&D guys and particularly ones who can play the 3/4 position.
We talked about Harrell already. We are not going to talk about Timofey Mozgov. Trading one useless contract for another is not a solution.
Robin Lopez could be an option, though. The Bulls already have a loaded frontcourt of youngsters in Lauri Markkanen, Jabari Parker and Wendell Carter, Jr. Lopez is a veteran on a young, rebuilding team. If the Lakers can somehow deal Deng’s contract at the cost of one first-round pick and possibly a middling asset (Ivica Zubac, for example), that’d be a huge win.
Lopez makes a lot of sense due to his playstyle. He’s still a productive player. For the exact opposite reasons, I’m less interested in Nikola Vucevic the player. As a player, he’s a very mediocre option at best and I’m not sure he’s a better option than JaVale McGee or Moritz Wagner.
Vucevic the contract, though, is intriguing. If the Lakers can swap Deng for him at a minimal cost, a buyout could be an option, saving the Lakers a year of Deng’s contract and opening up another roster spot for a buyout option.
69 more pounds.