Lakers Free Agency Watchlist

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports 

The upcoming free agency period for the Lakers will be crucial as they look to renter title contention.

In a thrilling five-game series, the Denver Nuggets managed to eliminate the Purple and Gold in the first round of the playoffs.

Denver, now facing a 2-0 deficit against the Minnesota Timberwolves, is just one example of the fierce competition in the Western Conference, with other strong contenders like the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks.

If the Lakers want to compete with teams like this, they will need to have a good free agency period.

With that in mind, let’s examine our Lakers free agency watchlist.

DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan is an option for the LakeShow if the 34-year-old wants to play in his hometown of Los Angeles.

DeRozan is a six-time All-Star and a very talented scorer. He is one of the best mid-range shooters and is still playing at a high level. DeRozan almost landed with the Lakers in the 2021 offseason but ended up in Chicago after LA acquired Russell Westbrook.

DeRozan would provide the Lakers with another scorer. He averaged 24/4/5 on 48/33/85 shooting splits this season. 

While DeRozan is a talented player, his fit is questionable with the roster. The Purple and Gold also don’t have the cap space to sign DeRozan unless he decides to take a pay cut to play for his hometown team.

Most likely, DeRozan will sign elsewhere on a bigger contract.

Klay Thompson

Klay Thompson is another option for the Lakers to consider in free agency. Thompson is from Southern California and is coming off a season where he averaged 18/3/2 on 43/39/93 shooting splits. 

Thompson is one of the greatest shooters in NBA history but has been inconsistent in recent years. He ended his season with an 0-10 shooting performance against the Sacramento Kings in the Play-In Tournament.

The 34-year-old would have to take a hometown discount to play in LA. However, Thompson could receive a big contract from a team like the Orlando Magic.

Thompson could be an elite spot-up shooter alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but he’s likely to earn a bigger contract elsewhere.

Jonas Valanciunas

If the Lakers opt to move Davis back to power forward, they will need an upgrade at center. Jonas Valanciunas would fit well alongside Davis due to his rebounding and ability to space the floor.

In the postseason, the Timberwolves have dominated with their size, which has allowed them to challenge the Nuggets. Having three bigs, Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert, and Naz Reid, has been the formula for defeating Denver in Minnesota's first two games.

Adding Valanciunas could help the Lakers get over the hump against Denver and match up with teams like Minnesota as well.

The 32-year-old averaged 12/9/2 on 56/31/79 shooting splits. Although he only shot 31% from deep this season, he is almost a career 35% shooter from that range.

It’s not the most important part of his game, but his ability to hit shots from there could allow the spacing to work offensively next to Davis.

Valanciunas should be a target for Rob Pelinka and the front office to upgrade their big rotation.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a former Laker whom the LakeShow has definitely regretted trading. Caldwell-Pope was moved in the deal to acquire Westbrook in 2021, which didn’t pan out whatsoever.

KCP was the perfect role player alongside James and Davis. He played a pivotal role on the 2020 championship team as a 3&D wing.

Caldwell-Pope appeared in 76 games this season, averaging 10/2/2 along with 1.3 steals per game on 46/41/89 shooting splits. The 31-year-old has been a crucial role player for the Nuggets over the past two seasons.

Signing Caldwell-Pope would give the Lakers a quality 3&D role player who already has chemistry with James and Davis.

Buddy Hield

Buddy Hield has been a trade target for the Lakers for years. Nothing has ever worked out, but they could land him at a free agency.

LA could use a sharpshooter like Hield alongside James and Davis. The 31-year-old appeared in 84 games between his two teams and averaged 12/3/3 on 44/39/88 shooting splits.

Hield’s elite three-point shooting would fit extremely well for the Purple and Gold’s offense. The front office should make him one of their top targets if they want to add shooting off the bench.

Malik Monk

Malik Monk is another former Laker who they should try to bring back. Monk had a breakout campaign with LA back in the 2021-22 season and has spent the last two seasons with the Sacramento Kings.

Monk has been a 6th Man of the Year candidate for the past two seasons. He averaged 15/3/5 this season on 44/35/83 shooting splits.

The Purple and Gold could use a bench scorer of Monk’s caliber, who already has chemistry established with James, Davis, and Austin Reaves.

Pelinka and the front office should try to bring Monk back to the Lakers, though he may need to be in their price range.

Bruce Brown

Bruce Brown is a target who LA almost landed in the 2023 offseason. Brown is a great two-way role player. The 27-year-old was a pivotal wing on the Nuggets championship run last season. 

Across 67 games this season, Brown averaged 11/4/3 on 47/32/82 shooting splits. 

Brown has a $22 million club option, which the Toronto Raptors could decline to free up cap space. However, if they believe a team will trade for him in the offseason, they could accept the team option to move him for assets.

The Lakers should pursue him as a high-quality two-way role player if Brown makes it to free agency.

Kelly Oubre Jr.

Kelly Oubre Jr. had a good season with the Philadelphia 76ers but could be on the move in the offseason. He averaged 15/5/2 with 1.1 steals per game on 44/31/75 shooting splits.

The 28-year-old plays well on both ends of the floor and would be a good sixth man for the Purple and Gold. 

Oubre’s athleticism, scoring ability, and defense would make him a great pickup. Pelinka and the front office should offer him a deal if he is in the Lakers' price range.

Andre Drummond

A reunion with Andre Drummond could be enticing for the LakeShow in free agency. Drummond played 21 games for them in the 2020-21 season and was solid.

The 30-year-old played well for the Bulls this season in 79 appearances. He averaged 8/9/1, shooting 55.6% from the field. He put up near double-double averages in just 17.1 minutes per game.

Drummond would be an upgrade at backup center behind Davis and already has chemistry with him and James.

Isaiah Hartenstein

Another backup center option is Isaiah Hartenstein. Hartenstein had a great season, starting in 49 of 75 games for the New York Knicks. 

New York’s Mitchell Robinson suffered a major injury, but Hartenstein stepped in and played well on both ends of the floor.

The 25-year-old averaged 8/8/3 with 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. He shot a very efficient 64.4% from the field. 

Hartenstein would fit well next to Davis in lineups together and as a backup big.

Nic Claxton

Another option in upgrading the big position is Nic Claxton. Claxton may be the best overall center on this list and he’s 25 years old.

Claxton averaged 12/10/2 with 2.1 blocks per game while shooting 62.9% from the floor. He is a traditional big who protects the rim and rebounds well. 

However, it’s unlikely the Lakers can meet Claxton’s financial demands. The Brooklyn Nets to re-sign Claxton on a big deal. 

If a deal with the Nets falls through, LA should take a shot at signing Claxton.

The upcoming free agency period is crucial for the Lakers. Pelinka and the front office have to upgrade their center position, add a bench scorer, and add more depth to their rotation.

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