This week has already been a wild one in the NBA, as the moratorium ended Monday officially unleashing the chaos of the offseason. With the 2020 NBA Draft tonight and since the Lakers have no selections to make after their trade with the Thunder for Dennis Schröder, we figured we’d talk about some niche free agents that we felt the Lakers could sign once negotiations are allowed to take place this Friday evening. The Lakers may lose some players that were a part of their 2019-20 championship roster, and with the large contracts belonging to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Rob Pelinka may have to get creative.
Here are some hidden gems we think the Lakers could target, courtesy of a few of our writers here at Lakers Outsiders.
We use #FutureLaker a lot on Twitter, but what about a #PastLaker that could be a #FutureLaker? That’s exactly what I’m seeing in Kent Bazemore, who is coming off a season played for the Sacramento Kings after being traded midseason from the Portland Trail Blazers. He played five seasons for the Atlanta Hawks before that, but Lakers fans might remember him from his brief time in the purple-and-gold. He was traded to the Lakers in the 2013-14 season, averaging 13.1 PPG in 23 games. The Lakers let him go in free agency to the Hawks, where he blossomed into a good wing defender. Out of all players listed as shooting guards or small forwards, Bazemore was 21st out of the entire NBA in defensive RAPTOR in the 2019-20 season (according to BBall Index), right above names like Danny Green, Marcus Smart, and Jrue Holiday. He was also ranked 11th out of 138 shooting guards in the NBA in regards to Defensive Real Plus/Minus for last season. With the Lakers sacrificing wing defense already this offseason by exchanging Danny Green for Dennis Schröder, Bazemore would be a great, cheap addition. Bobby Marks of ESPN currently estimates his 2020-21 salary to range from $4-6 million for whatever team wants his services, but maybe Bazemore would even take a discount at a great shot at a championship. Who knows though, the asking price may get driven up by other competitors as Ben Stinar of Forbes reports that some contenders that were in the Orlando bubble have interest in him.
Building off a need for defense, the Lakers may need another defender at the point-of-attack. They may lose Avery Bradley to free agency, as it was reported that Bradley would have possible suitors in the Warriors and the Bucks among others. They’d be wise to look at D.J. Augustin who will be an unrestricted free agent after four seasons with the Orlando Magic. He’s averaged at least 10.2 points per game in each of the last three seasons, averaging at least 41.9% and 42.1% from three in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 season, respectively. His shooting efficiency numbers dropped this past season (39.9 FG%, 34.8 3P%), but he continues to be a pretty good defender. Avery Bradley always picked up the opposing team’s ball-handling guards, an area that Augustin can help in. He was the fourth-best point guard in the NBA in Defensive Real Plus/Minus in the 2019-20 season, and was in the 78th percentile in the NBA in Isolation defense. For reference, Alex Caruso was also in the 78th percentile in the same category. Bobby Marks of ESPN also predicts a $4M – $6M annual salary for Augustin, which the Lakers would definitely have room for if Bradley were to leave.
Alright, I’ll give. This isn’t much of a sleeper pick; Lakers fans have wanted Harkless ever since their crosstown rivals traded him to the Knicks at the deadline last season. It’s easy to see why. Harkless is a versatile forward that can guard all five positions. He’s not overly skillful but he can score around the rim and is serviceable but not great from behind the arc (32.5% for his career at about three attempts per 36 minutes). The Lakers’ biggest need is wing defense right now and Harkless is among the best available for that role. His ability to defend smaller guards and bigger players down low is just the icing on the cake and could aid the Lakers in replicating their massively successful defense despite losing a valuable team defender in Danny Green. Harkless would be an achievable signing for the Lakers with, likely, a portion of the Midlevel Exception.
The other Lakers’ weakness by trading Danny Green is a lack of off-ball 3-point shooters. A 40-percent career shooter from behind the arc, Spurs’ guard Bryn Forbes could replicate Green’s shooting prowess and then some. Forbes is not going to offer much else and would likely not feature heavily in the Lakers’ due to the team seemingly valuing more versatile players. Still, the team needs perimeter threats for when the offense gets bogged down and opponents cram the paint against LeBron James and Anthony Davis. At 27 years old and having learned under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, Forbes could fit in really well for a team that could use his talents.
Glenn Robinson III
The one thing that the Lakers managed to navigate last season was their lack of perimeter size at shooting guard and small forward. Jimmy Butler’s epic NBA Finals performance served as all the evidence we need. WIth no Danny Green and holes in the backcourt, Robinson III would be a welcome addition to the squad. GR3 is a 6’6 guard/forward that would give the Lakers young legs and long-range shooting. The 26-year-old finished the year shooting 39.1 from the three-point line. His youth and energy would fit the Lakers’ ability to use physicality to wear down opponents with their defense.
Hill is an interesting player that was on the outs with the Miami Heat last season. The emergence of Duncan Robinson and Jae Crowder left no room for big minutes. Again, size on the perimeter prevails (Hill is 6’7). Hill will probably cost the veteran’s minimum. He can guard up to four positions when needed. He’s big enough to be in the paint, but has just enough foot speed to be on the perimeter comfortably. Before being traded to Miami, he spent time with the Memphis Grizzlies. With the latter, he shot 38.1 percent from long range. Hill also has a history with Lakers head coach Frank Vogel. He spent three seasons developing under Vogel with the Indiana Pacers. Hill’s best season came in the 2014-15 season where he averaged 8.9 points per game. He could be a workable bench piece operating under the same familiarity of coach Vogel.