This summer will be one of the most important in the history of the Los Angeles Lakers’ franchise. Coming off of what will be a second straight awful season, the Lakers will be looking to drastically improve the talent on the roster and free agency will be a major part of that.
The Lakers could be armed with as many as four draft picks, but there is no guarantee that those players will be able to contribute immediately to next year’s team. Free agency, however, could bring the Lakers a big-name that’s recognizable to fans and is more likely to make an immediate impact on the fortunes of the Lakers.
There is no shortage of possible additions at every position and the Lakers will likely explore a number of options once the time comes. From point guards like Rajon Rondo and Goran Dragic, to wings like Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler, to bigs like Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, and DeAndre Jordan, there are plenty of ways the Lakers could go.
So we asked our panel of experts, which potential free agent should be the Lakers’ top free agent target this summer? This is what they had to say:
Nathan Kim (@Kimchiz): There are a number of star players that will be free agents this summer. I believe the Laker’s should make a run at many of the players available as they have financial flexibility and are in dire need of talent. If I were to only choose one free agent however, I would choose Marc Gasol.
The Lakers front court is dismal with the likes of Robert Sacre, Carlos Boozer, Tarik Black, Ed Davis, and Jordan Hill. Many of these players are a bit short and should actually be playing the power forward position. The team needs a true center that can protect the rim as well as handle the ball offensively. Gasol can do both of these things and more.
He would take the pressure off some of the guards and allow for better spacing of the floor. The current Laker bigs are either offensively incapable, or tend to shoot the ball mid-range. A quality center would match Byron Scott’s old-school defensive-minded coaching style as well. The greatest need for the Lakers is a star big man, and I believe Gasol is a perfect match.
Gasol is currently on the Memphis Grizzlies who are currently second in the Western conference. Although, it would seem unlikely that Gasol would leave such an exceptional team, there is still a chance that he may want to follow in his brother Pau’s footsteps. Furthermore, if the Lakers are able to get a top draft pick, Gasol may be more enticed to come wear the purple and gold next season.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): There’s quite a few free agents I believe the Lakers should target in the off-season. Unfortunately, only one or two of those players set to become available will be attainable in my opinion.
The number one target for the Lakers in free agency should be Rajon Rondo. Kobe Bryant is a big fan of Rondo’s and has already promised to recruit him in the off-season until the veteran point guard makes his decision.
Rondo has championship experience and is a true pass-first point guard. He’ll have the respect of Kobe right out of the gate and that might transcend to head coach Byron Scott quickly as a result.
Along with being the right player in the backcourt alongside Kobe next season, I don’t think he’s a max player meaning the Lakers might have more financial flexibility going with Rondo.
There will be a lot of talk about Goran Dragic still being a target of the Lakers come July, but I can’t see him leaving the Miami Heat if they are willing to give him a max deal. GM Mitch Kupchak and company will likely still gauge his interest in coming to Los Angeles even if it seems like a foregone conclusion he remains in Miami.
Rondo will be on a short list of free agents this summer which includes Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Greg Monroe and LaMarcus Aldridge. All of these players would be ideal for the Lakers, but Rondo seems the most likely to leave his current team in favor of Los Angeles.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): Some of the biggest names in free agency, like Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge, are not feasible options for the Lakers in my opinion. I just can’t see those guys leaving their situation. I do, however, believe the Lakers need a big man, which is why their top target should be DeAndre Jordan.
I was unsure of Jordan coming into the season, but his play since Blake Griffin went out with injury has been outstanding. He would give the Lakers a true rim protector who will control the backboards and be the heart of the Lakers’ defense.
Obviously his offense still leaves something to be desired, but it has improved and if the Lakers are able to get a point guard, or Jordan Clarkson continues to develop, they will be able to get Jordan enough buckets to keep him satisfied.
With the Clippers already owing so much money to Griffin and Chris Paul, they might not be able to afford to pay Jordan max money, which is why the Lakers should swoop in with the max offer to try and snatch him away from their Staples Center co-tenants.
Jordan would give the Lakers a big man for the present and future, and honestly, I would just enjoy taking away one of the building blocks from the Clippers.
Russell Valenzuela (@RussVal4): The Los Angeles Lakers aren’t going to solve everything this off-season. Any rebuild is still going to take at least another year. Getting Julius Randle back from injury and potentially a top-five pick in the upcoming draft will certainly help.
In terms of free agency, the Lakers should target wing players who could fill in and be good role players. A good, viable option for the team to target would be Tobias Harris from the Orlando Magic.
Although he will be restricted, Orlando could have a tough time matching an offer the Lakers or any other team present. The Magic currently have a young core and also have to consider the futures of their guards, Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo, when considering a Harris return.
Harris would fit into the roster perfectly as he doesn’t need to be a number one option to productive. He’s a long, athletic wing with good rebounding ability. Another positive for Harris is his youth. By the time next season begins, he will be just 23 years old and still capable of improving vastly along with the rest of the younger players.[divide]