Lakers Open Roster Spot: Top 5 Candidates to Join L.A.

Jamal Crawford, NBA free agent

Getty Jamal Crawford, NBA free agent

It was accepted that if, in fact, the Lakers did want to add another player to their roster heading into the remainder of the season’s stretch run, Troy Daniels was likely to be the player to be headed out. That came to pass on Sunday.

Daniels is not particularly young (28), like Talen Horton-Tucker, nor does he have the playoff experience of a guy like Quinn Cook, who has been in the last two NBA Finals, playing 34 postseason games along the way.

It didn’t help that Daniels’ reputation was built on 3-point shooting but that fell apart in the last six weeks. He played in only 10 games since January 18, making 29.0 percent of his shots from the field and 26.1 percent from the 3-point line.

Daniels will have the chance to catch on elsewhere. But for the Lakers, though coach Frank Vogel insists nothing is imminent in terms of adding to the roster, the focus now is on what happens next. Someone will fill the Lakers’ final spot.

Who? These are the five top candidates:


Dion Waiters

Shortly after the release of Daniels became public, reports had the Lakers ready to give Waiters a workout on Monday. Waiters has talent and the numbers he posted in his best NBA season—the 2016-17 campaign in Miami in which he scored 15.8 points per game and shot 39.5 percent from the 3-point line—would be most welcome for these Lakers.

But even that season was cut short by injury and Waiters has been on the descent ever since, culminating in his three suspensions in Miami this year before he was ultimately traded to Memphis and waived. Waiters is probably the best fit for the Lakers, but his pattern of allowing off-court issues to affect him on the court make him a risk.


J.R. Smith

Smith has been connected with the Lakers for much of the season, including by Heavy.com’s Brandon “Scoop B.” Robinson. Having been LeBron James’ teammate in Cleveland for four seasons, all it would take to get him into the purple-and-gold would be the OK from James. That obviously has not yet happened, though the Lakers have also not ruled out bringing in Smith.

Sure, Smith’s reputation for a lack of focus is a problem, but the bigger issue is that Smith has not appeared in an NBA game since November 19, 2018, when he was yanked from the Cavaliers’ rotation as the team sought to go with younger players. Smith, a perimeter specialist, shot just 30.8 percent from the 3-point line in the 11 games he played for Cleveland last year.

James knows what Smith is capable of doing in big games, however. Smith shot 40.6 percent from the 3-point line in 79 playoff games with the Cavs.


Isaiah Thomas

Let’s be clear: In the short time that Thomas and James played together with Cleveland in the winter of 2018, they got along like oil and water. Their styles of play didn’t work together and their personalities clashed. James, of course, won the battle, with Thomas shipped off to the Lakers after 15 mostly miserable games.

If both guys could put that history aside (and that is a big ‘if’) then Thomas could be an excellent fit for a Lakers group that could use his boost off the bench, especially from the perimeter. The team might want more of a combo guard for the final roster spot, but Thomas is an excellent 3-point shooter who made 41.3 percent from the arc in 41 games with the Wizards this year. That was 20th in the NBA among players with at least 3.0 attempts per game.


Jamal Crawford

Not long after Daniels was waived, Crawford sent out a (literally) thoughtful emoji tweet:

It’s a longshot that the Lakers waived Daniels to sign Crawford, a guy who turns 40 in 19 days and has been available all season. The experience level is an attractive point for the Lakers, but the production is not. Crawford has not played in 11 months and his final two seasons in Minnesota and Phoenix did not go well—he averaged 10.3 points with the Wolves and 7.9 with the Suns, barely cracking 33 percent on his 3-point attempts in both places.

Crawford has played for eight teams in 19 years. It’d be something of a shock if the Lakers were No. 9.


Tyler Johnson

Before this season, it would have been reasonable for a contender to look for a player like Johnson to come off its bench. He’s a tough, big defensive combo guard who was, for five seasons, a reliable 3-point shooter in Miami. 

But Johnson was traded to Phoenix last year and his numbers tanked with the Suns. He played just 16.6 minutes per game this season, averaging 5.7 points, 38.0 percent shooting and 28.9 percent from the 3-point line. If the Lakers had time to see if Johnson could be resuscitated, he’d be a low-cost, high-reward gamble.

The Lakers don’t have time to tinker, though, and Johnson’s nosedive this season was steep.

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