The 2021-22 NBA season was a disaster for LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. However, that doesn’t mean things are hopeless; here are some potential Lakers free agency targets to help right the ship in 2022.
Lakers free agency targets 2022
The Lakers easiest path to victory is the hardest of them all – staying healthy. Over the last two seasons, Anthony Davis has only played in 76 of a possible 154 games. LeBron is entering year 20, every time he steps on the court, he’s doing more than reasonably expected. King James is no longer wearing the crown; for the first time since his rookie season, he’s lost more games than he won in games that he played.
Los Angeles is currently ~$50 million over the cap. The two pillars that the Lakers have built around are no longer stable enough to support a franchise on their own. Russell Westbrook has opted into his $47 million contract. The Lakers offseason plans will be spent fixing ghosts of offseasons past.
Packaging Westbrook with draft picks remains the juiciest Lakers offseason rumor to fix the franchise. Although I’m not sure how feasible that is, we’ll touch on this later.
If L.A. clears every cap hold on their books (which would leave them with five players), they’ll still be $30 million over the cap. That leaves them with the same options they had last free agency – the taxpayer midlevel exception and signing minimum contract players. Ring chasers, guys hoping to rehab their value, and re-signing the previous season’s players are the choices. And I’m not sure this is a team that will still attract ring chasers.
Re-signing Malik Monk is a no-brainer for Los Angeles. He wants to be there, and they still require shooting. The Lakers ranked 22nd in three-point shooting percentage last year, and Monk shot nearly 40% on six attempts per game. Davis, Westbrook, and LeBron don’t strike fear in the heart of defenses from deep, so having an outlet for those guys to kick out to is a must.
Sign a center, any center
Even if Anthony “Street Clothes” Davis could remain healthy for over half a season, this would still be an issue. L.A. ranked 22nd in rebound percentage, and there are a plethora of minimum contract fives set to hit the market. So expect a center to be the main Lakers free agency target.
One possibility I like for the Lakers is Mo Bamba. As we mentioned above, the Lakers operate on a clogged runway, so a center like Bamba kills two birds with one stone. Westbrook can’t attack the rim like he used to, so having a center that can pick and pop rather than roll could do wonders in clearing a path for the fiery point guard.
The usual suspects of Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside, JaVale McGee, or a LeBron reunion with Tristan Thompson are also affordable options. None of those players are great in space, but sometimes you just need a guy who can pull down rebounds so you don’t lose games on lost possessions.
Rely on discounts in free agency
These players aren’t likely Lakers free agency targets due to price, but the allure of LeBron and the bright lights of Los Angeles may be enough to entice a season’s discount.
Bruce Brown: One of my favorite available free agents this offseason and one of the more underrated players in the league. Bruce Brown impacts winning. He rebounds like crazy despite his height and is an excellent facilitator. He’s not a willing shooter but hit the three at 40%, so maybe there’s potential. The big question is whether or not he’d want to play a season well below his value. Shooters are valued more than frantic, hard-nosed defenders, but what Bruce Brown brings to a team can’t be overstated.
Victor Oladipo: Victor Oladipo would’ve been cheap if he didn’t perform so well in the playoffs. He’s an above-average shooter from deep, a three-level scorer, and was a terrific perimeter defender when healthy. He’s also spoken highly of Westbrook in the past, and Westbrook seems like he could use some friends right now.
T.J. Warren: T.J. Warren hasn’t been healthy since the bubble season, but the last time we saw him on the court, he was a lights-out scorer. The Lakers offseason plans should be to surround Westbrook with as much shooting as possible. Of course, they need defense too; that’s how they won the title in 2020. But, if they’re stuck with Westbrook, you should at least try to accentuate his talents.
Potential Lakers offseason trades
The 47 million dollar question. Only their 2027 through 2029 first-round picks are available to trade, and the Lakers offseason rumors are in full force regarding Russell Westbrook and those picks. The Anthony Davis trade won Los Angeles a chip, but the cost has proven steep these following years.
Kyrie Irving appears to be off the table after picking up his option with the Brooklyn Nets. While that may make him easier to trade, I’m not sure Kevin Durant and the Nets would be ecstatic receiving Westbrook and two future picks.
The Lakers offseason plans hinge on moving Westbrook if they want a deep title run next season. However, looking around the league, I don’t know where they can realistically move him. The picks going out would likely land in the lottery, and teams would only have to stomach his contract for a season, but it’s still so much. The Wizards probably believe they can build around Bradley Beal. Ditto for the Utah Jazz and Donovan Mitchell. Even bottom feeders like the Sacramento Kings are married to De’Aaron Fox.
If the Lakers wanted to land a running partner for James’ twilight years, putting Anthony Davis on the trade block would be the move. The Lakers can’t get significantly better with their current free agent targets or by moving Russell Westbrook. If you put Davis in a package, though? Suddenly the team on the other side of the phone has someone they could trick themselves into building around. When healthy, the Brow is one of the best players in the league. Unfortunately, he’s never healthy, and the Lakers are paying that bill now. If you can get another team to foot that bill, the Lakers could build another contender again.
Lakers free agency predictions
Potential Lakers free agency targets are thin.
I expect at least one player to take a significant discount, and many rumors about Westbrook. But if the Lakers want to even think about becoming contenders, they’ll have to go big.
If you’re not getting more than 50 games from Anthony Davis anyway, a trade is worth it, and that’s the only way the Lakers can improve significantly this offseason.