With Dennis Schroder heading to Staples Center to don the gold of the Lakers, Rob Pelinka will now turn his attention to cheap free agents who can help the Lakers out.
The Lakers have very limited flexibility. Attempting to lure free agents is easier for the Lakers than most, but there’s not much money to offer them. Waiving Quinn Cook has freed up some cash, but with Rajon Rondo opting out and Avery Bradley declining a player option, the Lakers have plenty of needs to fill. The future of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is uncertain too. He’s expected to re-sign, but the size of the contract is important for Pelinka.
Here are three cheap free agents the Lakers should look towards.
Hitting the market after a season with the Milwaukee Bucks, Wesley Matthews is going to have a lot of suitors. He fits as a cheaper, less experienced Danny Green replacement on the Lakers. Matthews shot 36% from deep last season, but he’s spent much of his career closer to the 40% mark.
While he got plenty of good looks playing with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Matthews will have even higher shot quality alongside LeBron. He could easily hit 40% for the season and he might be available on a veteran’s minimum.
Matthews doesn’t carry the defensive reputation of Green, but he’s a great team defender. The combination of quick foot movement and upper body strength means he can guard up a position on occasion – he can take a number of the tougher defensive assignments in the Western Conference.
Like Green, he’s the archetypal wing to put alongside LeBron. If he’ll take a minimum deal, the Lakers should jump at the chance.
Half the NBA seems to want to sign Serge Ibaka with their mid-level exception. Ibaka has been linked with a move to team up with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn. He’s earned enough in his career to make a move to compete right now – being tempted by the prospect of a ring is the Lakers’ best chance. Ibaka can play with former teammates elsewhere, he can earn more per year on a non-contender, but the Lakers can offer him title contention.
The former Thunder forward already has a championship to his name, of course, and he could yet re-sign north of the border. He’s been a key piece for the Raptors, playing either the four or five, and could fill a similar role on the Lakers if Frank Vogel persists with Davis as a four. Ibaka can play as the lone big man in smaller line-ups or he can stretch the floor and protect the rim alongside Davis.
Adding Ibaka after the Schroder trade would make this a brilliant offseason for the Lakers. It won’t be easy, and there are other bigs out there if they miss out, but Ibaka should be their number one target if Vogel wants to keep Davis away from the five.
On the back of a season in which he shot over 40% from three, Justin Holiday is one of the most desirable role players on the market. His demands might be out of the Lakers’ price range if they prioritise Ibaka with the mid-level. If the Lakers go another direction in the frontcourt, Holiday could be a good option for the mid-level – he’s a player who can shoot the ball and defend multiple positions.
Caldwell-Pope, Holiday and Matthews is a very solid wing rotation. They’ll knockdown plenty of threes and provide great team defence around the star duo.
Holiday, like Ibaka, is going to be a popular player for contending teams. Would he take a pay cut to play for a title?