With the Los Angeles Lakers finalizing a blockbuster trade with the New Orleans Pelicans for star forward Anthony Davis, their attention will now shift to free agency. Not only will the Lakers lock in on the crucial upcoming period, but they’ll need to do so with a full steam ahead approach, considering their roster is now incredibly thin.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the trade, which looks as follows:
- Lakers receive: Anthony Davis
- Pelicans receive: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, three first-round draft picks
One of the picks included is the No. 4 selection in the 2019 NBA Draft, which should provide the Pelicans with an instant-impact player to add to their new-look core. But following the trade, the Lakers are left with just Davis, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga on the roster.
Fortunately, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks revealed, the Lakers will have some cap space to work with and can go about utilizing it in a number of different ways. Per Marks, the Lakers are set to enter free agency with either $27.8 million or $32.5 million in cap space following the trade, depending on whether it’s put through within 30 days and if Davis waives his trade bonus.
With the Lakers having cap space available to pursue free agents, we’re going to break down a few names to watch that make sense as fits alongside Davis and LeBron James. This will include a mixture of higher-priced options and a few value players to keep an eye on also.
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Lakers’ Top 5 Free Agents After Anthony Davis Trade
*Note: Not all names are unrestricted free agents and it’s unlikely the Lakers would have the salary to sign each of the five.
- Kemba Walker, point guard
- DeMarcus Cousins, center
- Derrick Rose, point guard
- Rajon Rondo, point guard
- Patrick Beverley, guard
Honorable mention: JaVale McGee, Ricky Rubio, JJ Redick, Marc Gasol, Reggie Bullock, Kenneth Faried, Wayne Ellington, Seth Curry, JaMychal Green, Ed Davis
While the Lakers can go a number of ways, there are multiple names worth considering, each of which can address different areas of need. Considering they have just one legitimate guard on the roster currently, that’s going to be a key area of focus which is where we’ll start.
Lakers’ Kemba Walker Interest & Guard Targets
Although Walker can receive a supermax contract from the Charlotte Hornets this offseason, there’s no guarantee he’ll remain there. He has voiced his interest in remaining with the franchise, but the All-Star guard makes the list largely due to the fact that it’s already been reported the Lakers have an interest.
According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, Walker is a “top target” for the Lakers in free agency following the Davis trade.
If the Lakers are unable to land Walker, I turned the attention to names such as Rose, Rondo and Beverley. Each player provides something different, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see the front office sign two players who are similar from this group. Rose can offer a scoring punch either off the bench or alongside James, Davis and Kuzma while Rondo’s passing could be an elite option to bring back and add to the starting lineup.
As for Beverley, his defense and ability to bring intensity on both ends of the floor is nearly unmatched by any other player. If the Lakers were able to land some combo of this trio for their roster it would add immediate depth to a guard position and hit on the team’s needs.
The guards who received love in the honorable mention section include an interesting pass-first option in Ricky Rubio along with a number of shooters capable of making an impact. The Lakers need shooters to pair with James and Davis. Specifically, adding players who can knock down shots for the second unit is key, which is where Wayne Ellington, Seth Curry and Reggie Bullock would all come into play.
Adding Centers & Front Court Depth for Lakers’ Second Unit
The thought of DeMarcus Cousins joining the Lakers in free agency is intriguing. Another go-round with Davis would be fun to watch, and while I expect the Golden State Warriors center will receive at least a decent-sized contract offer, it’s unlikely to be massive. Injuries derailed Cousins’ season with the Warriors and as he finally began to look close to 100 percent, a torn quadriceps sidelined him for the bulk of the playoffs.
I don’t believe the Lakers will prioritize Cousins at this point after adding Davis, but they still need a center. If he comes with a modest price tag, Los Angeles would have to find a starting five that featured him with LeBron and Davis incredibly appealing.
Another option could be to target a player such as JaVale McGee or Marc Gasol. The former obviously spent last season with James and showed flashes of legitimate upside. Gasol would be the type of player capable of sliding in and immediately bolstering the front line, although the outlook on him could depend on what type of offers he receives in free agency.
Beyond that, targeting a power forward/center who can play with the second unit should be another main area of focus for the Lakers front office. Options such as Kenneth Faried or Ed Davis would be solid to provide energy and rebounding off the bench while pairing them with one or two of the guards listed above.
There’s a lot to watch for when it comes to the Lakers once free agency gets underway, but it’s likely they’ll be very active while attempting to fill out the roster.