Lakers Urged to Pursue 2-Time All-Star in Free Agency

Lakers' Rob Pelinka and Darvin Ham

Getty Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and new head coach Darvin Ham.

Highlighting the Los Angeles Lakers’ “need to find more ball-handlers and perimeter stoppers,” Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley is urging the team to pursue a two-time All-Star and former All-Defensive team star.

In his June 9 column, Buckley named Victor Oladipo as a player the Lakers should target this offseason. The 30-year-old, who played for the Miami Heat in 2021-22, becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.

“The Lakers need to find more ball-handlers and perimeter stoppers this summer. Victor Oladipo offers the chance to scratch both itches,” Buckley wrote. “While a rash of injuries have potentially permanently removed him from his All-Star past, he still has plenty to offer in a supporting role. He didn’t debut this season until mid-March, made just eight regular-season appearances in all and still wound up logging the seventh-most playoff minutes for the Miami Heat, the East’s No. 1 seed and a conference finalist.”

Oladipo, the 2017-18 Most Improved Player of the Year, appeared in only eight regular-season games for the Heat in 2021-22. He averaged 12.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists while shooting 47.9% from the field, 41.7% from beyond the arc and 73.7% from the free-throw line.

“His defense remains as pesky as they come, he can initiate offense and there are flashes of the skill set that once made him a two-way force,” Buckley wrote. “There are enough layers to his game to give him a significant role, and he could expand well beyond that if more of his All-Star touch returns.”

Oladipo Averaged 1.3 Steals in 2022 Playoffs

Oladipo played in 15 postseason games for the Heat, who lost to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. The former Indiana Pacers star averaged 10.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals.

In Game 3 against the Celtics, Oladipo recorded four steals in 20 minutes. His best performance of the postseason was in Game 5 of the first round against the Atlanta Hawks. He finished with 23 points, three assists and three steals while shooting 8-of-16 from the floor and 3-of-6 from beyond the arc.

The Lakers need more shooters, playmakers and defenders around LeBron James and Anthony Davis and Oladipo would fit that bill. The Maryland native is a career 34.8% shooter from 3-point range and led the league in steals per game (2.4) during the 2017-18 season.

Oladipo, who made $2.4 million in 2021-22, isn’t the star he was during his Pacers days since undergoing two surgeries on his right quadriceps tendon. However, the Lakers don’t need more stars. They need role players who can guard at a high level and hit open shots from the perimeter.

Buckley Talks Lakers’ Needs

In his June 2 column, Buckley detailed three specific types of players the Lakers need around James and Davis to return to the playoffs. According to Buckley, Los Angeles needs players who can play on-ball defense, stretch the floor with perimeter shooting and create their shot off the dribble.

“If the Lakers want to reverse their fortunes next season, this is the first place to start,” Buckley wrote. “They have to snag some lockdown defenders, ideally while getting longer and more athletic on the perimeter.

“Letting [James] attack … puts opponents into one can’t-win situation after the next. Crowd James, and he’s a good enough quarterback to find open teammates. Stay at home on the shooters, and he will obliterate his matchup.

“A ball-mover would help keep things humming when James needs a breather. A bucket-getter would make this offense harder to handle. A player who checked both boxes would be ideal — and, if we’re being honest, probably more expensive than the Lakers can afford.”

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