In signing LeBron James, The Los Angeles Lakers won the free agency jackpot right out of the gate. That doesn’t mean that off season moves are over, though, and that’s especially true for the Lakers themselves.
With James in Los Angeles, the team’s landscape has changed drastically. So do they retain their talented young core and wedge in a few extra puzzle pieces to push the team more solidly into championship contention in 2019? Such a philosophy might suggest the team is going to patiently let their foundation settle in hopes of having a new dynasty worthy roster two or three years down the road. Alternatively, there might be bigger moves in store to land another top tier star or two, and have the Golden State Warrior watching their backs immediately. Of course, in basketball, chemistry is everything, and adding just any stars won’t help the Lakers along. They must be smart, strategic, and look to enhance a squad now anchored around King James.
There’s the Lonzo Ball factor, too, as the point guard showed promise in his rookie season, but his—and his father’s—personalities might be too big for management to tolerate, especially when he’s more clearly not the biggest star the team has to offer.
Between free agency and prospective trades, there are no shortage of potential moves that Magic Johsnon and Rob Pelinka might have in mind from the Lakers front office. This article takes a look at ten additions that could serve LA’s best interests, and ten that the team really ought to stay away from at this stage.
20 Get: Damian Lillard
Getting Kawhi Leonard this summer seems like a tall task for the Lakers at this point. Particularly if the Lakers can’t get the job done on a deal for Kawhi Leonard, one of the best alternative options is turning the team’s attention to bringing in Damian Lillard. At point guard, he’s led the Portland Trail Blazers to a competitive position in the ultra competitive West. With six years of pro experience under his belt, he’s hungry for more, and particularly if L.A. were prepared to cash in Lonzo Ball’s potential for sure bet, Leonard could be a key acquisition to giving the Lakers a scary lineup very quickly.
19 Avoid: Kyrie Irving
There’s no question that Kyrie Irving is a special player—one of the best active in the NBA today. LeBron James has a history of ingratiating himself to fellow stars, and looking for opportunities to dominate together rather than compete. But pairing up with Irving again?
Let’s just say that the duo has been there, done that, and it’s not in anyone’s interest to revisit this combo.
Irving departed his James’s Cavs under suggestions of dissension between them, with a lot of pundits suggesting that they were actually too similar in their skillsets to really complement one another on the court. Regardless, while James has typically been eager to make friends among other elite talents, Irving is better cast as James’s rival for the foreseeable future, and a likely Finals opponent sometime down the line.
18 Get: Luc Mbah a Moute
Luc Mbah a Moute isn’t the most intriguing potential acquisition out there. He has never averaged more than ten points per game or six rebounds, and he’s rarely played much more than half the minutes in a regulation game. However, the forward has proven himself as an effective defensive presence throughout his journeyman career with the Bucks, Kings, Timberwolves, 76ers, Clippers, and most particularly in his recent stint with the rockets. As the old adage goes, defense wins championships, and with strong enough offensive presences already lined up in LA, Mbah a Moute could be a key role player to help this team get over the hump.
17 Avoid: Kyle Anderson
In his fourth season with the San Antonio Spurs, Kyle Anderson moved into a starting position and put up his best numbers to date. Just the same, his stat line is far from glamorous. According to Basketball Reference, he has topped out around eight points, five rebounds, and three assists per game.
Moreover, pundits seem to agree he’s lacking in confidence on the offensive end, particularly from three point range.
Anderson is now on his way to Memphis after signing an offer sheet, and so may be out of consideration for the Lakers anyway. Nonetheless, L.A. should be just fine without him.
16 Get: Greg Monroe
While Greg Monroe isn’t known for tremendous defensive play, he is a solid ten points or so per game scorer in the paint who matches up well against other centers in the Western Conference. No, he’s not going to be a superstar addition, nor would he have any need to be playing a supporting role to LeBron James, whoever winds up with the starting point guard gig, and the team’s other star acquisition if they do go through with another rumored big time transaction. The Lakers nonetheless, will have to look at some potential solid bench players for LeBron.
15 Avoid: Dwyane Wade
LeBron James has a history of playing with Dwyane Wade. When he originally departed Cleveland for South Beach, it was in no small part to team up with Wade on the Heat and chase championships. They gelled nicely at the time, but time marches on. James’s best basketball is behind him as he’s transitioned to a supporting role off the bench. While a team could do worse than this veteran champion, he doesn’t really address any immediate needs for the Lakers at this time. The point may be moot, as it seems Wade is leaning heavily towards retirement. Regardless, the Lakers shouldn't even entertain this thought.
14 Get: Michael Beasley
While Michael Beasley isn’t likely to get a bid for the All Star Team representing either conference at this point, he's a rock solid supporting cast member.
In recent seasons playing in Milwaukee and New York in particular, he’s proven himself as a guy who can score off the bench, or be a respectable starter of the roster calls for it.
Moreover, stints playing in China lent him leadership experience as the top player for less experienced teams, which have set him up with the mental tools to perform in the clutch. Insulated behind LeBron, Beasley could thrive in L.A.
13 Avoid: Kevin Love
Kevin Love made his name as a prolific scorer for the Minnesota Timberwolves and when he and LeBron James first teamed up in Cleveland, it looked as though they may well be an irresistible scoring tandem. While Love’s offensive abilities have continued to impress, playing for a true contender exposed limitations in his all around game, particularly on defense.
Love and the Cavs are well situated now, with Love as the focal point of the offense in James’s absence, and as a playoff bubble team where Love is less under a microscope than he was competing for championships. Bringing him to L.A. would only reinsert him into his less natural role playing spot from recent seasons.
12 Get: Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler enjoyed significant career growth over his time in Chicago before becoming the focal point for the Minnesota Timberwolves. However, rumors abound now about conflict between Butler and other key players. Butler only added fuel to that fire with a cryptic social media post which some read as an indication he doesn’t want to stay with his current team.
Particularly with LeBron James moving in, and significant questions about whether the Lakers will entertain a future with Lonzo Ball (and his father), the last thing L.A. needs to add is another potentially volatile personality. However, the fact that Butler seems hungry to win and wants to go to a team that has a championship or bust mentality, may be exactly what LeBron needs by his side.
11 Avoid: Klay Thompson
Despite is All Star caliber play, Klay Thompson tends to get overlooked as the third or fourth level star on the Golden State Warriors juggernaut.
In the long term, he may well fit in nicely with the LeBron James Lakers, but as of now he’s a luxury the team can’t realistically afford with his reported $19 million contract.
Besides that, it’s difficult to imagine L.A not having to trade the farm to get him.
Thompson will be a free agent next year, though, and with L.A. signing quite a few one year deals to fill out key roster spots, he may well make sense as someone to devote a lot of assets to for 2019-20. For this season, though, the Lakers are better served to wait things out.
10 Get: Marcus Smart
Every star team needs its role players. In just four years of NBA play, Marcus Smart has shown impressive consistency in a backup role. He’s given the Celtics a steady ten points or so per game coming off the bench, and demonstrated poise in Playoff situations.
Reports suggest Smart is frustrated with the free agent market, in which he hasn’t yet garnered much attention as a restricted free agents. Words is that he now may be looking to fly the coop from Boston in 2019, but it could be an opportune time for Los Angeles to swoop in to score an undervalued asset.
9 Avoid: Nikola Vucevic
Nikola Vucevic is an asset as a proficient scorer and particularly mobile big man in a league that has become less and less focused on centers. However, even though Vucevic was the topic of trade conversations and rumors throughout last season, and as we look ahead to the 2018-19 season, an uncomfortable truth remains—Vucevic has indicated he doesn’t want a trade.
To be fair, the big man may well just be playing nice for his local fans and management, which can actually be a positive indication for a player whose team hasn’t exactly thrived in recent years. Still, while many talents are clamoring to latch on to the Laker bandwagon, it may not make the most sense to deal for a guy who is reluctant to move.
8 Get: Tyson Chandler
Tyson Chandler’s best basketball years may well be behind him. The guy was drafted in 2001 and has played at center for no fewer than seven franchises, so it’s to be expected that the wear and tear on his body would be catching up to him.
Even in his twilight years, he remains a respected role player who can still hold his own as a starter after all these years.
Chandler’s name pops up in a variety of trade scenarios. His range of experience, and championship credentials from his days with the Dallas Mavericks could make him a worthwhile addition to the Lakers lineup as they look to chase glory these next couple years.
7 Avoid: Danilo Gallinari
Italian star Danilo Gallinari is a rising star at small forward and could be an intriguing addition to most any roster if the right deal were to be struck. However, Gallinari missed the second half of last season for Los Angeles’s other franchise, the Clippers, due to a hand injury.
The latest buzz suggests that his hand is still broken, and he’s rumored to miss playing for the Italian National Team as he tries to recover. With his injury status increasingly uncertain, Gallinari is not worth gambling on for the Lakers this offseason. The Lakers have to look for some sure bets.
6 Get: Brook Lopez
In the 2017-18 season, Brook Lopez quietly emerged as a key cog in the Los Angeles Lakers machine. He’s an imposing presence on defense, while also being that rare center who shoot for three. In a league that’s increasingly wide open and demands a full line up that can score from all around the floor, Lopez is a near ideal role player.
As of press time, he’s bound for the Milwaukee Bucks, but he could always become a trade target later in the season, as he's on a minimal one-year deal. The Lakers would be well served to do what they can to revisit the possibility of bringing Lopez back if things don't work out in Milwaukee.
5 Avoid: Hassan Whiteside
Despite having developed into a respectable starting center during his time with the Miami Heat, all indications are that the market has gone very cold on Hassan Whiteside. Despite his efforts to recoup his image, which includes posting to social media about hitting the gym hard in the off season, the question remains who would really benefit from adding him to the roster? Heat used him sparingly this past postseason, amidst rumors of personality conflicts and, in particular, Whiteside having attitude issues.
With LeBron's arrival, the Lakers have become a championship contender. Though Whiteside would likely be available at a steal relative to his natural talent, he’s not the kind of personality any team serious about winning ought to add to the mix now.
4 Get: Kawhi Leonard
Yes, Kawhi Leonard was just traded to the Toronto Raptors, but who's to say he'll last the entire season in Toronto? He's made it clear to his agent he doesn't want to play there, and at most, he'll be there for one year before he's made available again to sign in L.A.
Besides being an All Star caliber small forward, Leonard carries with him the credential of having led his team to an NBA Championship before.
He earned Finals MVP honors in San Antonio’s 2014 title campaign. Bringing his talent, and Western Conference Playoff experience into the mix could be huge for making L.A. a Championship contender for the length of LeBron James’s tenure.
3 Avoid: Isaiah Thomas
There are some players the Lakers should avoid because they don’t gel well with LeBron James, and there are others that don’t make sense for not quite fitting the culture of the team. Isaiah Thomas is an odd case of an elite player who hasn’t succeeded on either level.
Despite having proven as a top tier NBA point guard, particularly via his efforts in Boston, Thomas had arguably the weakest season of his career to date last year while splitting time between James’s Cavs and the Lakers.
IT is now set to try his luck in Denver, but even if he has a bounce back season and finds himself on the market again, it's been proven he doesn't mix with LeBron. To be fair, a lot of his poor season is attributable to injuries that kept him out of half of the games. Nonetheless, the stench of last season lingers, and it’s best for all parties involved to move on.
2 Get: DeMar DeRozan
The Toronto Raptors didn’t get a ton of respect as true playoff contenders this past year—taking a backseat to not only eventual Conference Champions the Cavaliers, but also the Celtics and 76ers. They did, however, leave the regular season with the best win loss record in the East, and the second best in the league on the whole.
A big part of that success can be attributed to DeMar DeRozan. Playing for the Raptors has largely kept the two guard from becoming a household name, but he’s quietly developed a legitimate All Star skill set and could be a fine complement to James. He's now heading to San Antonio following the trade of Kawhi Leonard, but if things don't work out for him in San Antonio, the Spurs may look to flip him later this season for some pieces to help rebuild. DeRozan would fit in well with the Lakers, while taking some scoring pressure off of LeBron in L.A.
1 Avoid: Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony is a top tier scoring talent. However, if there’s one thing his season with Oklahoma City confirmed its that he’s not a star who got held back by a bad team in New York—or at least that’s not the only reason why his NBA career has by and large been a disappointment. He’s a player who demands a lot of attention, demands a lot of time with the ball, and struggles to settle into a role that benefits the team rather than his individual needs.
Anthony is looking to leave the Thunder, and there are few players who could more readily poison James’s Lakers out of the gate than ‘Melo.