After an early exit from the playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers are eager to improve the roster and make another run at a title. A name being touted as a possible free agent addition is Milwaukee Bucks veteran PJ Tucker — a 3-and-D veteran with some major playoff experience.
Tucker was brought up by Jovan Buha of The Athletic on a list of what he called, “semi-realistic” Lakers free agent targets that could be brought in next season for the taxpayer mid-level exception of $5.9 million. The Lakers reportedly discussed a trade for Tucker around the trade deadline but he ultimately ended up taking a buyout and going to the Bucks, where he has played a key role.
The box score might not indicate that Tucker is an impact player, with the 36-year-old averaging just 3.7 points and 3.9 rebounds. However, he’s played 28 minutes per game in the postseason, often defending the opposing team’s top offensive option.
“He keeps making everything tough on KD,” Giannis Anteokounmpo said of Tucker after he battled with Kevin Durant.”He’s vocal. He’s a leader. He pushes us to be great. He’s definitely a big piece of this organization and this team. He’s going to keep helping us. We definitely need him moving forward.”
The other names mentioned were Nicolas Batum, Torrey Craig, Trevor Ariza and Jeff Green.
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Lakers Have Own Free Agents to Worry About
The Lakers had a championship-caliber roster last season but were bit by the injury bug, with Anthony Davis and LeBron James both missing significant time. To bring that group back, they’ll have to reach deals with pending free agent, most notably Dennis Schroder, Alex Caruso, Talen Horton-Tucker, Andre Drummond, Wes Matthews and Markieff Morris. Most, if not all, have expressed a desire to run it back, although money can always sway that feeling.
Buha noted in his article that Ben McLemore and Alfonzo McKinnie are also free agents, but it’s unlikely that the Lakers will prioritize bringing them back. There’s also a chance well-liked but slowing veteran Jared Dudley could move to a front office or coaching role and open up another roster spot.
Lakers Expected to Let James, Davis Weigh-In
James and Davis will have a say in whatever the Lakers end up doing in free agency, something head coach Frank Vogel made clear in his exit interview.
“I think when it comes to roster building, you guys know we’ve been very collaborative,” Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said. “Anthony Davis and LeBron James are championship pillars of this franchise for years to come and of course they’re going to be involved in how we build our roster and how we have built our roster. (They are) both great basketball minds, and Frank as well.
“I think the cohesiveness in making these decisions between your star players, your head coach and the front office is really important and that will continue to be our process going forward.”