The term “two-way wings” entered the basketball lexicon and revolutionized the game. Every team, especially the Los Angeles Lakers, want their hands on these guys. If you’re lucky, you can get a Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Jayson Tatum, or Jaylen Brown. If you’re not, then, well — just look at the current state of the Lakers.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis need a wing (or two or three) to get back to the top of the NBA mountain. No disrespect to the likes of Stanley Johnson, but more complimentary options would be merrier. After Russell Westbrook opted in to his contract, the team has shifted their focus to filling their roster. Per The Athletic’s Jovan Buha, the details of that focus were revealed:
With free agency less than 48 hours away, the Lakers are focusing on two-way wings, according to league sources. Most of the hypothetical scenarios for their taxpayer midlevel exception have been centered on signing a wing or two who could come in and start next to James and Davis. The Lakers believe a player with the right mix of 3-point shooting and multi-positional defense can help strengthen the James-Davis-Westbrook lineups, which opponents outscored by 3.0 points per 100 possessions last season, according to Cleaning the Glass.
The market is scarce regarding their desires, but there are possibilities. The Lakers have their taxpayer mid-level of $6.4 million. That’s a decent chunk of change depending on the target. You could also pitch free agents on the fact that they’d be nearly guaranteed to be a starter for the team once they sign that deal.
To give a better idea of these targets, I am going to break them down into tiers.
My first tier is “Fine Dining”, which will be players that would more than deserve the TMLE highlighted above. These guys occupy this level because they are a starting level wing that have shown some semblance of shooting and defensive prowess in their careers.
The next tier will be my “In a Pinch” group. They are guys that have played rotation minutes as starters and reserves. They will be guys that the front office can convince to come to the Lakers for the minimum, but with the same caveat of having a major role, or starting.
My last tier is the “Basement Level” gang. These are players that could see themselves as the ninth through 15th man on the roster. If they have a great camp and fit into the Lakers’ new system – they could be elevated to starters. But if they are then, well, we might be having a similar end-of-season result as the last campaign.
There was a time when Gary Harris was one of the brightest young players fitting the two-way mold. He provided the Denver Nuggets with his talents, and earned a four year, $84 million deal. Upon acquiring Aaron Gordon, he became the centerpiece headed back to the Orlando Magic. Injuries and tanking have simply taken him out of the limelight, but he’s still got juice left. Harris is 27 and shot 41.3 percent on catch and shoot threes last season, per NBA.com. Adding him alongside Davis, James, and Westbrook would provide each of their trio the outlet on offense and support on defense they need.
Otto Porter Jr.
Otto Porter Jr. is another guy that has had a big payday and went into NBA obscurity before being a big contributor on this year’s champion. He might just be the most ideal target in this group. The Warriors have a lot of guys to pay ahead of him, and it could leave him to be offered a raise from his $2.3 million deal from last season. With a ring in hand, a bump up to $6.4 million with a starting role could be attractive to OPJ. Last season, he spent the year as a reserve mostly. He put up 8.2 points on 37 percent shooting from three. Can somebody get him some crypto with that TMLE to seal this deal?
In a Pinch
House is an underrated name on the market after he left the rebuilding Houston Rockets last season. He ultimately landed with the Utah Jazz where he shot 41 percent from three in a stint of 25 games. He’s 6’6 and has a lot of playoff experience in his career. The Lakers were linked to him upon securing a buyout last season, per The Athletic’s Kelly Iko.
Also fielded interest from several teams including the 76ers, Kings and Lakers, per sources, before ultimately deciding on the Knicks. https://t.co/CpLLV3FecO
— Kelly Iko (@KellyIkoNBA) December 23, 2021
It wouldn’t surprise me to see them return to this well with more to offer, in terms of opportunity.
The Lakers have been linked to Jeremy Lamb for some time now, according to Jacob Rude of SB Nation’s Silver Screen & Roll in 2021.
“Now that the Pacers acquired Caris LeVert for [Victor] Oladipo in a trade last season and added more wing depth with No. 13 pick Chris Duarte, there’s no room for Lamb. He’s in the final year of a three-year deal that pays him $10.5 million. According to league sources, about four teams have expressed interest in dealing for Lamb, including the L.A. Lakers and Charlotte Hornets.”
He’s shown to be a capable shooter, finishing his 2020-21 campaign at 40.6 percent from long range. Lamb does possess the size the Lakers covet, standing at 6’5 with a 6’11 wingspan. Is this the year that the two finally become a match and see what heights they can reach?
Derrick Jones Jr.
Athleticism is important in the NBA due to defense and transition. Having guys that can get up and down the floor can be a killer for opponents. Those players that can equally play at the rim are an added blessing. Derrick Jones Jr. marks both boxes. The “3” is missing from his game, though. He shot 32.8 percent from long range last year. He’d still be able give the Lakers some front-court size and intangibles that they haven’t had over the last few years.
Juan Tuscano Anderson
Poaching guys from the Warriors is smart on several fronts. As mentioned, their money is light and they have useful guys that may not be in their rotations. The Lakers could offer that to a guy like JTA. He’s had some great moments as the Warriors quick build turned into a title winner. He shoots 36.1 percent from the three and plays above the rim at 6’6. He’d easily be a plug in player coming from the Golden State pedigree.
Respectfully, Snell has seen better times in his career. He’s earned a $44 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks and bounced around a bit after that. His ability as a solid wing got him that money. He may not be that same guy, but if the Lakers need some veteran, “break in case of emergency” guys — he fits the bill.
Well, well, and well…what do we have here?
Kent Bazemore’s season with the Lakers was strange. He was pegged as an important player as the team’s veteran shooting guard. He ended up spending 14 games in the starting unit before falling out of the rotation. If the Lakers elect to bring him back, it’d be under the premise that last season was an anomaly. If options dry up, it’s not the end of the world to bring back someone that was in their system and has plenty of experience. Whether Bazemore will have an equally important role this season is a much trickier proposition if he’s back in the purple and gold.
Ideally, if the Lakers can grab at least one of the Fine Dining guys and fill in the remaining roster spots with about two of the guys from the “In a Pinch” and “Basement Level” tier, that’s as good as they can get with their budget. Barring any trades or backdoor deals, I expect the Lakers to have a summer similar to last season. The only hope is the arrival of Darvin Ham and better fortunes with their superstars nullify their inability to balance their roster due to a lack of resources.