Looking at buyout options for the Lakers

Oct 22, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) is defended by LA Clippers forward Maurice Harkless (8) at Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Lakers 112-102. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers did not make any moves before the 2020 NBA Trade Deadline, getting outbid for Marcus Morris and failing to come to terms for any of their other targets. Now, the team will be hoping to improve its roster and plug up some holes through the buyout and free-agent markets, so it’s time to take a look at a few potential players that the Lakers could pursue in the coming weeks.

Note: The Charlotte Hornets have already bought out Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist but Williams is reportedly signing with the Milwaukee Bucks and, while nothing is official, it’s being reported that the Dallas Mavericks are likely to land MKG. For that reason, we won’t include those two players in our list.

Darren Collison, G, Free Agent

Collison has been linked to the Lakers for weeks, so we already have a lot of analysis of him up on the site. The veteran point guard is still undecided about whether he will return from an abrupt retirement but the Lakers seem to be the favorites to land him if he does.

Collison is a career 39.4% shooter from deep but more importantly, he can run the offense when LeBron James is on the bench. He’s a strong pick-and-roll guard who can shoot or pass out of those actions. Collison’s defense leaves a lot to be desired but the Lakers will live with that with their frontcourt erasing mistakes at the rim. The main question is whether the former Pacers point guard is in game shape after being away from basketball for months.

Reggie Jackson, G, Detroit Pistons

Jackson is reportedly still deciding on whether he will pursue a buyout with the Pistons and the Clippers have their eyes set on him, perhaps knowing they will lose the Collison sweepstakes.

Jackson gives a lot of what Collison would provide as a pick-and-roll guard and a 40% shooter this year but he is also a more ball-dominant guard and a poor finisher in the paint (he’s shooting 40% on 2-point shots). There are also some concerns about his shooting dropping off; he is just a career 33.5% shooter from deep. Like Collison, his defense is a bit of a liability.

Jackson has played in only 11 games this season due to injuries but he and Collison are the top two lead guards potentially on the market and, at the least, he could provide a slight spark off the bench.

Jeff Green, F, Free Agent

Green was waived by the Utah Jazz earlier this year after a disappointing season following being signed as a free agent in the summer. The veteran forward is shooting just 38.5 percent from the field and 32.7 percent from three. He is a career 33.3 percent shooter from deep so he’s never going to be fully reliable spacing the floor.

Green’s value for the Lakers would be through his defensive versatility. While not a lockdown defender by any means, Green is someone they could throw at the many bigger wings they have struggled guarding this year while also holding his own against bigs. Green is also LeBron’s close friend and one of his favorite former teammates.

Maurice Harkless, F, New York Knicks

Mo Harkless was traded to the Knicks as the salary ballast in their acquisition of Morris. No one knows whether he will pursue a buyout but Knicks beat writers have reported that the team will honor that request if he chooses to make it.

Harkless would be an ideal signing for the Lakers given his defensive versatility. He can adequately guard all five positions and he would be a great option for 15 or 20 minutes of defense against his former teammates Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.

Offensively, however, Harkless is limited as a career 32.6 percent shooter who doesn’t really handle the ball. This season, the forward actually made 37 percent of his deep shots but on only 1.5 attempts per game. In the playoffs with the Portland Trail Blazers last year, Harkless was valuable against the Thunder in the first round but mostly struggled against the Nuggets and Warriors, at times being played off the floor because of his negative impact on spacing.

Still, the Lakers would love the opportunity to sign Harkless and have him plug up a major hole on the roster. They would just have to gameplan around his limited offense. Harkless is arguably the best all-around player the Lakers could potentially acquire.

Wayne Ellington, G/F, New York Knicks

Another Knicks veteran who could hit the open market, Ellington has said he is considering a buyout though no decision has been made. Ellington is a knock-down shooter (career 37.8 percent from deep) and has decent size and ability to defend wings though he’s not a stopper by any means. He is also familiar with the Lakers organization having spent some time on the team.

Courtney Lee, G/F, Dallas Mavericks

If the Mavericks sign Kidd-Gilchrist as expected, Lee could be the odd man out. The 12-year veteran has only appeared in 12 games this season as he’s been shut out of the Mavs’ rotation. It’s safe to wonder whether he is washed up at this point.

But in a pinch, Lee could be a great fit on the Lakers. He is a career 38.8 percent 3-point shooter and has always been a fairly strong guard and wing defender. That alone could buy him minutes on the Lakers. Plus, they owe him for ruining his rookie year with Orlando.

Trey Burke, G, Free Agent

Burke was waived by the Philadelphia 76ers following their trade deadline acquisitions of Alec Burks and Glen Robinson III. Despite his career 34.3% shooting from deep, Burke is mostly known as a shooter. He did hit 42.1 percent of his deep balls in 25 appearances for the 76ers this year.

Burke can hit shots and handle the ball some but he’s also not much of a different or better player than Lakers’ guard Quinn Cook so he may not make a ton of sense for the Lakers unless they feel the need to take a flyer.

Tim Frazier, G, Free Agent

Waived by the Pistons after the deadline, Frazier would not be a sexy addition but he is an underrated playmaker. Over his five-year career, Frazier averages four assists per game to only 1.3 turnovers (in 17.7 minutes per game).

The 6-foot guard isn’t a defender and is not an efficient scorer. This season he is shooting 36.2 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three.

J.R. Smith, G, Free Agent

Smith has not played in the NBA since November 2018 but the Lakers are reportedly working out the former LeBron teammate.

If Smith is anywhere close to his peak, he can be a 3-and-D option for the Lakers for 10 to 15 minutes a night. He is a career 37.3 percent shooter from deep and when he is focused (which admittedly is not often), he can be a solid defender of guards and wings.

J.R., who won a championship with James in Cleveland, has some valuable traits that the Lakers could use but it’s also very possible, if not likely, that he never gets off the bench when the playoffs start.

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