With free agency essentially wrapped up and the Lakers roster pretty set in stone at this point, barring any changes, the Lakers know what their team will look like on opening night.
The Lakers traded many of their young players for Anthony Davis which left them with several open roster spots heading into the offseason. Since they weren’t able to add a max level they had to split up their cap space to many rotation players. Some of the deals were much-needed moves, some were more questionable, so I’m going to be grading each of Rob Pelinka’s free agent acquisitions this offseason.
Jared Dudley – Forward – 1 Year/Minimum Contract
The first move the Lakers made while they were waiting on Kawhi Leonard’s decision was adding veteran stretch forward Jared Dudley who last played for the Brooklyn Nets. Dudley was a great value addition for the Lakers for a couple of reasons. First of all, he can space the floor, while he is coming off of a “down” year shooting 35.1 percent from three, he’s a career 39.2 percent sniper from deep. Secondly, he’s a solid defender with some versatility on that end of the floor. Dudley himself has stated that his role essentially is the voice on defense and helps communication and his teammates positioning. Lastly, he has intangibles that the team didn’t really have last year. Outside of Rondo and LeBron, none of the Lakers veterans had the basketball IQ that Dudley has and there are few players around the league as well respected as Dudley. With all that said and his contract taken into account, this was a near-perfect signing.
Troy Daniels – Guard – 1 Year/Minimum Contract
Troy Daniels is sort of a one-trick pony, but that trick is shooting the ball at an elite level, so on a minimum deal, you can’t ask for much more. Daniels has a career 40 percent mark from deep while shooting 4.4 threes per game so even if he only sees the floor sparingly, he will have a weapon to be useful in his minutes. Having the ability to space the floor around LeBron James and Anthony Davis with someone like Daniels will be beneficial, and his contract is just a bonus.
Danny Green – Guard – 2 Years/$30 Million
This was a signing the Lakers had to make once they missed out on Kawhi Leonard. At the time of the deal, Green was far and away the best role player left on the market and inking him for two years was an excellent move. Green fills a couple of key areas for the Lakers with his elite shooting and his defensive capability. Last season, Green shot 45.5 percent from three and was one of the main reasons for the Raptors success. He shot 47.4 percent on all catch-and-shoot chances and 51.3 percent on wide-open opportunities, which he should get a few of playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. On the other end of the floor, Green will be able to check the opposing team’s best wing player. Inking a player of his caliber was always going to be a plus, but with his fit next to the Lakers superstars it makes the deal perfect.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Guard – 2 Years/$16 Million
The Devil works hard but Rich Paul works harder. Over the last two summers, the Lakers have given Kentavious Caldwell-Pope contracts he probably wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere, and they did so again this offseason. Now, this isn’t to say he’s not a useful player and can’t be impactful for the Lakers this season, it’s just a bigger price tag than I would have offered. KCP offers the ability to defend both lead guards and to chase players around screens which will come in handy for a team full of question marks at the guard spot. His shooting is pretty inconsistent but there have been stints where he’s shown to be a player defenses need to account for from beyond the arc. The one thing that bodes well for KCP is that this will be his second year playing with LeBron James. With another year to get used to playing alongside a superstar like that, Caldwell-Pope should improve.
JaVale McGee – Center – 2 Years/$8 Million
Last season the Lakers saw a resurgence from JaVale McGee and he proved to be a terrific value signing that occupied the center spot. While they can probably expect the same from McGee in year two in LA, the need for more bigs can be questioned. Adding Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins will likely mean McGee is in a reduced role this season, but luckily, not one he’s unfamiliar with. There will be times when McGee shares the floor with Davis and LeBron James which could be beneficial for him with all the attention they draw offensively. However, the Lakers best lineups will likely use Davis at center and with a smaller lineup around him so that will eat into McGee’s minutes before we even get to battling DeMarcus Cousins for playing time. For the price, you could say this was a slight overpay, but bringing back someone familiar from last year who played well is never a bad thing.
Rajon Rondo – Guard – 2 Years/Minimum Contract
Rajon Rondo was arguably the worst rotation player in the league last year. His net rating was atrocious and even when paired with LeBron James that duo was one of the bottom sets of players in the NBA in terms of net rating. He’s a good teammate and locker room guy who has something to add to the team in terms of his basketball IQ. However, on the court, he’s by far the worst of the guard options and him taking any minutes from Caruso, Cook, or anyone else would be a nightmare.
DeMarcus Cousins – Center – 1 Year/$3.5 Million
After failing to win a championship in Golden State, DeMarcus Cousins’ market was rather dry this summer. He was just coming off an Achilles injury so last season was mainly about getting the cobwebs off and getting into shape for Cousins. In his reduced role with the Warriors, there was some good, and some bad. Defensively, it looked like his injury really took a toll on him and he was pretty abysmal on that end. Offensively, he was honestly pretty productive for someone who missed so much time. Obviously, he was not near his former all-star level of production, but with someone as talented as Cousins, there are always workable pieces. Going into next season with a full summer of work, being in better shape, and being further removed from the Achilles injury should all be reasons for optimism that he improves next year. Getting a player of his talent level at that price is a major win for the Lakers and could end up being a huge steal.
Oh, and Anthony Davis loves him.
Quinn Cook – Guard – 2 Years/$6 Million
Quinn Cook stan has logged on.
Do you have a moment to talk about our lord and savior, Quinn Alexander Cook? Okay, all joking aside, I really liked this signing. It’s typically pretty hard to judge role players who come from Golden State because they had 84 all-stars on their roster, but I think Cook is a great fit for this Lakers squad. He isn’t a good defender, but he isn’t going to gamble for steals or be consistently out of position like another Laker guard might *stares in Rajon Rondo*. But on the offensive side of the ball, he should be able to step in right away and have an impact. The Lakers guard rotation will take a while to sort out, but Cook’s capacity to knock down shots from outside should give him a chance to play solid minutes. Last season, Cook shot 40.8 percent from deep while averaging 1.309 points per possession on spot-up chances, ranking in the 97th percentile. He was also great in the pick and roll where he averaged .895 points per possession, ranking in the 68th percentile. Cook can definitely have an impact on this team, and he knows what it’s like to play next to stars, I’m really interested to see how his year unfolds.
Alex Caruso – Guard – 2 Years/$5.5 Million
Look, if you aren’t on board with Big Balder Brand then what are you doing? Caruso showed at the end of last year that he’s capable of playing consistent minutes in the league and his fit next to superstars is seamless. He defends well, is a bigger guard, playmakes at an above-average level, and if his shot is legit he should be the starting point guard. In 25 games last year he shot 48 percent from three, and even if that takes bit of a dip, he’s still the best option for the Lakers at the guard spot. He’s really gritty on the floor, he’s deceptively athletic, he hustles, and he just makes winning plays. Did I get all the stereotypes out? Good, because they actually do apply to Caruso, so keeping him around was a key part of the offseason.
Avery Bradley – Guard – 2 Years/Room Exception
Bradley, much like Rondo, was abysmal on the floor last year. Both the Grizzlies and Clippers were much, much better teams without him playing and that’s been the theme of his career since leaving Boston. There were injuries that might have impacted his production but I wouldn’t count on him getting back to the 3-and-D ways that earned him the reputation as one of the best defenders in the league anytime soon. His contract isn’t terrible, but it’s not a great use of the room exception either. The only reason this isn’t a disaster is that there is evidence that Bradley can be a valuable player, but those days might be long gone.
Overall, I think Rob Pelinka and co. rebounded rather well after missing out on free agents by waiting for Kawhi Leonard. In his first season as seemingly the head of basketball operations, I think Pelinka gave some reasons to be hopeful for his ability as an executive. The team should be insanely fun because of Anthony Davis and LeBron James alone, but the pieces added around those two are all pretty great fits. Of course, there were some bad grades and bad deals in here, but as my college transcripts prove, you can get a few poor grades and still be alright.