In the days since the Lakers officially clinched the NBA championship with their six-game win over the Miami Heat, the focus has turned quickly toward what moves the team will make to defend their championship. Much remains uncertain about next season—the nation is still in the grip of the novel coronavirus pandemic and the NBA may be forced to start the season without fans in the stands—but it is clear that the Lakers will be able to build around the core of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
One guy probably joining them is forward Jared Dudley, who is a free agent and would have to take a limited role and a minimum contract to come back. But Dudley said he plans to return to the Lakers, assuming they want to keep him.
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And according to Dudley, the Lakers will be a better top-to-bottom squad next season.
“We’re gonna add two or three pieces next year,” Dudley said in an interview with Complex. “We got cap space. We can go to free agency, we can get two people, then we can sign our free agents and go over the cap. So the team that we had, we’re gonna be better next year.”
Lakers Likely to Offer One-Year Deals to Free Agents
Dudley is right in that the Lakers could have significant cap space this offseason. But the reality is, they probably won’t use it on any of the big names on the market, instead seeking players willing to take one-year deals.
The Lakers can have about $30 million in cap space, but because there are no free agents on the market that the team wants to build around in the future, they will not be aggressive in using that space, instead opting to fill in gaps on the roster while preserving their space for the 2021 free-agency period.
That is when two top Lakers targets—Bradley Beal and Giannis Antetokounmpo—are expected to be on the market. The Lakers intend to pursue those players to solidify the team’s post-LeBron James lineup. Despite playing well at age 35, James will eventually retire and the team wants to have another star to go with Davis lined up.
There has been talk that the Lakers could trade for Beal this offseason, but they do not have much to offer the Wizards and would likely have to wait until free agency next year.
This year’s free-agent crop, which is highlighted by Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan and Cavaliers center Andre Drummond, is of little interest to the Lakers. There are no long-term stars who are unrestricted free agents on hand. That is why the Lakers want to wait until 2021.
More likely targets are a trade with Detroit for point guard Derrick Rose and a pursuit of free-agent big man Danilo Gallinari, who could be enticed by a short-term deal if it gives him a chance to win now.
Will the Lakers Keep Jared Dudley?
As for Dudley himself, he has been a quality chemistry guy who probably won’t help the team much on the floor. He averaged 1.5 points this season, playing 8.1 minutes per game in 45 appearances. He did not score in nine games played in the postseason.
But the Lakers will have many roster spots to fill. James and Davis will be back, as will Danny Green, JaVale McGee and Alex Caruso. The team is ready to give Talen Horton-Tucker, a rookie last year, more playing time and it is likely that Giannis Antetokounmpo’s brother, Kostas, will be moved to the 2020-21 roster, too.
That would leave the Lakers with eight roster spots to fill, depending on what happens with a potential Kyle Kuzma trade. Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have opted out of their contracts and will be free agents, and Avery Bradley can do the same. Quinn Cook’s contract is not guaranteed for next year.
That could mean a spot remains open for a player like Dudley, a good off-court guy who helps team chemistry but won’t play much. If he does return, as he says, it should be on a roster that has generally improved itself.