The 2019 NBA offseason is here and the Los Angeles Lakers are making aggressive moves in an effort to return to championship contention heading into the 2019-20 NBA season.
After the Anthony Davis trade with the New Pelicans, the Lakers will now look to fill out their roster in free agency.
With just Davis, LeBron James, and Kyle Kuzma penciled in as starters and an inexperienced bench, the Lakers will need help at every position. As a result, here are the top five free agents for the Lakers at each position, continuing at power forward:
Rudy Gay: With Davis, James, and Kuzma in town, the Lakers won’t need to look at power forwards who can provide value without needing a ton of minutes. Rudy Gay, who turns 33 years old in August, could be a perfect fit as a solid veteran with plenty of experience who can provide a little bit of everything.
At 6’8,” he’s big enough to play a small-ball power forward and his much-improved three-point shooting (a career-best 40% from deep last season) provides plenty of reason to give him a real look.
Gay won’t be locking players down defensively but he is respectable, and the ability to use him at either forward position provides some flexibility for head coach Frank Vogel. On the right contract, Gay is exactly the kind of veteran the Lakers should be targeting.
Al-Farouq Aminu: Every team needs quality defenders that they can stick on their opponent’s best player, and Aminu is one of the better players in the league at guarding wings. Using his 6’9” frame and 7’3” wingspan, Aminu has the ability to pester players into tough shots and is versatile enough to temporarily switch onto guards when needed. He’s also excellent on the boards, snagging 7.6 per game for the Portland Blazers last season.
On the offensive end, Aminu doesn’t offer a lot, though he shoots just well enough from three to be a threat at 34%. He isn’t a world-beater, but Aminu’s defense is good enough that he deserves consideration, particularly since he would allow James, Kuzma, or whoever he shares the floor with to conserve energy while he tackles their opponent’s best offensive wing.
Thaddeus Young: After spending most of his career as one of the more underrated players in the league, it may be time for Young to jump on a winning squad and get some of the recognition that he deserves. With the Pacers == his home for the past three seasons, pulling off a draft day trade for T.J. Warren of the Phoenix Suns — the writing appears to be on the wall that Young will be making a move.
Young has the ball skills to attack closeouts and enough athleticism to finish through contact at the rim. He can step out to the three-point line, though he isn’t a particularly good shooter at just 33% from deep for his career. He’s also a sneaky rebounder, finishing in the top-five among forwards in offensive boards last season.
He’s a bit quicker than most bigs and that allows him to play passing lanes and still recover and as a result, he racks up steals year after year. Young isn’t much of a rim protector but he can do a solid job sticking with his man on the perimeter. A move to the Lakers would almost certainly require him to come off the bench but his talent would still demand a solid allotment of minutes.
Nikola Mirotic: Last season’s Lakers suffered from a lack of shooting, which killed their floor spacing and caused them to make last-ditch moves at the deadline to acquire Reggie Bullock and Mike Muscala in the hope of rectifying the situation. Having learned their lesson (we think), the Lakers should prioritize shooting in free agency and with that in mind, Mirotic would make a lot of sense as a backup big.
A 36% shooter from three over five NBA seasons, Mirotic isn’t afraid to let it fly, launching more than half of his shot attempts from behind the arc. This forces defenses to spread themselves thin in order to cover him, which would provide the room James and Davis will need to operate in the paint.
With the Milwaukee Bucks already having to pay if they want to hang onto Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon, the Lakers may be able to swoop in and snag Mirotic for a reasonable price.
Julius Randle: If D’Angelo Russell can have a rumored Lakers return, then why not Randle? Randle gained experience playing alongside Davis last season with the Pelicans during which he put up 21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists in what was easily the best season of his career.
To top it off, Randle shot 34% from three, which could help the Lakers take advantage of the attention that James and Davis will attract.
That said, selling Randle on coming back to Los Angeles may be difficult. The Lakers wouldn’t be able to offer a starting role (which is likely a must for Randle) and minutes may be difficult to come by with Kuzma, James, and Davis eating up the available minutes at power forward — Randle’s primary position.
Should the Lakers commit to playing James solely at small forward that may allow them to offer Randle 30+ minutes a night in a three-man power forward and center rotation with Davis and Kuzma, but it’s still a tough sell at best.
However, if general manager Rob Pelinka can find a way to smooth things over with Randle after the team let him walk in free agency last summer, the Lakers would have a frontcourt that few in the NBA could match.