After winning the 2020 NBA championship, the Los Angeles Lakers did not rest on their laurels and stayed busy in the shortest recorded offseason in league history.
Lakers GM and VP of basketball operations Rob Pelinka proved why LA gave him the keys in the first place and was a big reason why the reigning champions were one of the biggest winners of this year’s free agency.
The best team in the league undeniably got a whole lot better with the additions of Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schroder, Marc Gasol, and Wesley Matthews.
Then again, losing guys like Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, Danny Green, JaVale McGee, and Avery Bradley — who were all vital pieces to this year’s title run – does sting a bit.
The Purple and Gold did get some top-notch guys via trades and the market. Still, it’s pretty clear that there are some holes in their roster that need to be filled.
Superstar LeBron James will be the team’s primary facilitator as long as he’s around, but they do need another secondary playmaker to run it back. Schroder, obviously, was brought in to soften the blow of losing Rondo and Bradley. Adding another capable floor general surely won’t hurt for LA.
The Lakers’ wing situation may look a bit different since they basically swapped Green for Matthews. Retaining KCP was big for them while giving Alex Caruso (and possibly Talen Horton-Tucker) more meaningful minutes next season should be in the cards.
With all that said, the Lakers are currently lacking a third-string center who can give them short but quality minutes in their bid to repeat.
The Lakers need another rim-protector
The Lakers boasted one of the most intimidating frontlines last year with Howard and McGee anchoring the paint alongside Anthony Davis.
The Brow will no longer have those two behemoths watching his back next year but should take solace in the fact that Harrell and Gasol will take their spots.
Skills wise, Gasol and Harrell are certainly much better upgrades over the last year’s Laker centers (on paper, at least). The Lakers can make more plays for Harrell who can score more and crashes the boards at a higher rate, while Gasol brings range, excellent playmaking, and some championship experience.
However, these two do not bring the same elite level rim-protection that Howard and McGee offered. The Lakers practically boasted the best defense in the entire NBA last year because they had two freakishly-athletic bigs who relished their roles as anchors.
Harrell does play big for his size but has been labeled a defensive liability against much bigger players at his position. Gasol, meanwhile, did win DPOY in 2013 but is more of a positional defender rather than an intimidating shot-blocker.
The case can be made that LA already has the best defensive big in the game in Davis, who just signed a max-extension with the team. Most pundits even believe he should have been crowned DPOY last season.
AD is the perfect slotman in today’s modern NBA but leaving him in the paint as the sole big open more risks for him to get banged up. The Lakers understood this last year, opting to play him at power forward most of the time.
The Brow managed to stay relatively healthy simply because he had another 7-footer to do most of the dirty work. Gasol ticks all those boxes and more, but shouldn’t he shouldn’t be playing heavy minutes anymore due to his body’s wear and tear at 35.
With all the big free agent names already out of the market, the Lakers now have scarce options to choose from (not to mention limited cap room) to fill in this gap.
Remaining options for LA
The Purple and Gold are in need of a traditional center and there are still some veterans out there who would likely accept a small deal for a chance to win an NBA title.
As far as resumes go, ex-Laker Tyson Chandler remains the most accomplished center remaining in the pool. The 7-foot-1 beanpole is a former DPOY winner himself and notched 1.2 blocks over the course of his 20-year career.
Chandler played in LA in 2018-19 and would certainly cherish the opportunity to return to the fold. However, Laker fans didn’t really get much from during that one-year tenure, while his stint with the Houston Rockets last year suggests that he should be considering retirement by now.
If the Lakers want the best talent available, DeWayne Dedmon is another name floating around. He averaged 8.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, and career-best 1.5 blocks for the Atlanta Hawks last year after getting traded by the Sacramento Kings.
He is still relatively young at 31 and possesses great length akin to Howard and McGee.
Dedmon, however, might be out of the Lakers’ price range at the moment unless he agrees to take a pay cut.
Ian Mahinmi is another guy they could likely afford for a veteran’s minimum deal. The 6-foot-11 Frenchman is a good athlete and another abled body who can play alongside AD or take minutes off of him.
Mahinmi won a title with the San Antonio Spurs in 2011 and should jump at the opportunity to possibly win another one in LA.