As the Los Angeles Lakers begin the second half of their season, improvements will need to be made if they’re going to defend their title.
The Lakers currently sit at 25-13, good for the third-best record in the Western Conference, although they lost seven of their last 10 games going into the All-Star break.
A big reason for that is the absence of key players such as Anthony Davis, Dennis Schroder and Marc Gasol. There are still moves that can be made to improve the roster as a whole though, and general manager Rob Pelinka has shown willingness to do whatever it takes to make that happen.
The Lakers’ cap situation makes it tough to make trades without giving up key rotation players, so they will likely have to look to the buyout market to make improvements. Some players they have already been linked to include P.J. Tucker, Andre Drummond and LaMarcus Aldridge.
With the deadline just around the corner, the Lakers Nation staff put together a roundtable discussing what the team’s biggest need is and some potential options that could be available:
Daniel Starkand (@DStarkand):
I completely understand why people feel the Lakers need to add a rim-protecting big man, but for me, their biggest need is a wing defender that can knock down some shots from deep.
Wesley Matthews was supposed to fill that role, but for the most part, he has looked like a shell of his former self this season. If he can start knocking down shots then maybe the Lakers can get by without an addition, but they are running out of time to see if that can come to fruition.
We’ve seen Anthony Davis be willing to move over to the five in the playoffs, which is why I don’t think a big man, who likely would be played off the floor anyway, should be the top priority. If Andre Drummond and LaMarcus Aldridge are available on the buyout market then the Lakers should definitely still pursue either considering they can create two open roster spots.
The primary focus for me though should be on players like Otto Porter Jr., Wayne Ellington and Trevor Ariza. Shooting has been a huge issue for the Lakers as of late, and any of those options would help improve them in that respect.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH):
A 3-and-D wing would definitely be nice as the Lakers’ three-point shooting has cooled off significantly over the last month or so. Likewise, the team’s perimeter defense has been extremely inconsistent. That being said, the Lakers do have players capable of providing those things on the roster, they just haven’t been consistent with it.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wesley Matthews, Kyle Kuzma, and even Alfonzo McKinnie have all had moments and while they may not return to the unbelievable level they were at to start the season, a solid improvement back to the mean would more than suffice.
There are no options when it comes to an athletic, rim-protecting big man however, which is why that is the more pressing need in my opinion. Having a big who can at least make player think twice about attacking the rim makes a lot of difference defensively and provides a great role partner for the Lakers’ playmakers on offense. The most important thing in this league is versatility and that athletic big man would give the Lakers the ability to play any style they want.
Matthew Peralta (@_MatthewPeralta):
Another 3-and-D wing or big man would be an ideal player for the Lakers to go after. Trevor Ariza is a popular name considering he hasn’t played a game for the Oklahoma City Thunder this season. As for big men, Andre Drummond would be the ideal, but Hassan Whiteside is another name to watch out for. Neither center would play too much in the postseason, but they’d be worthwhile additions during the second half of the regular season.
There’s also the issue of 3-point shooting as the Lakers have cooled off considerably since their hot start. Wayne Ellington would be at the top of my wishlist if he and the Detroit Pistons agree to a buyout.
Sanjesh Singh (@TheSanjeshSingh):
The Lakers should look to bolster their backup point guard depth. Dennis Schroder’s four-game absence accentuated the need for creativity. Alex Caruso is a solid backup, but he’s limited as a shot creator and currently dealing with a concussion. Talen Horton-Tucker has received some opportunities, but he’s still learning and come playoff time, his inexperience is suboptimal. Shabazz Napier is arguably the best option available if L.A. opts to sign one.
It’s no secret the Lakers need a rim-protecting big man. Damian Jones had some moments, but he’s still a project player, not a win-now player. If Cleveland trades JaVale McGee and then he is bought out, he’d be a solid get. Familiarity and continuity are extremely imperative, and McGee checks those boxes as a player who knows his role and excels in it given the situation. Andre Drummond is another name with links to L.A., but I’m proceeding with caution on him. He hasn’t impacted a team’s ability to win throughout his career; maybe a role in L.A. would change that, so it’s a wait-and-see matter.
The Lakers don’t need to rush to make moves; they’re still poised to be a tough team to beat when fully healthy, but options will present themselves if necessary.
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