As is with every free agency period in the NBA these days, Lakers fans are mocked for believing they can sign every superstar available. But I’m here to help get rid of that stigma, as I like to think of myself as the modern Laker fan who is realistic in my expectations.
I understand that rebuilding a contender takes time and no superstar – unless it’s a transcendent talent, like LeBron James – can change that. I’ve been an Oakland Raider since birth, so I know a thing or two about how long the process can take before your team finally returns to relevance.
Now with all this said I’ve created five points for what the Lakers plan in free agency should be, so it can be beneficial for them in the short and long term.
Before I continue, trading D’Angelo Russell is not one of the points. “He broke the bro code” or “He sucked last year” aren’t justifiable reasons to do such an action. One, he made a mistake with the whole recording thing – and it’s not his fault Nick Young is a cheater. Two, Byron Scott misused that roster.
Now on to my five points!
1. Hassan Whiteside is the only “big fish” they should try to catch
In the past, the Lakers would go all in on a superstar like Kevin Durant and completely neglect to sign their free agents or players that could help a weakness while they wait for a superstar’s answer. Lately, they’ve struck losing key role players like Jodie Meeks and Ed Davis. This year is different as Hassan Whiteside is target #1 because of the skill set he brings, as well as the void he fills at the 5 spot.
Hassan brings much-needed energy and tenacity to the middle of the lackadaisical Lakers defense with his 3.7 blocks per game, which immediately doubles Roy Hibbert’s 1.4 stuffs per game. He crashes the defensive boards like no other with 8.6 defensive rebounds per game, nearly tripling Hibbert’s anemic 3.1. According to NBA.com Whiteside’s defensive rating was 101.7 this past season, which was four points better than the Lakers’ highest-rated starter last season (Larry Nance at 105.9). Obviously, he’s a force on the defensive end that can help hide the defensive deficiencies on the Lakers wing players.
You may be wondering Hassan’s offense. He has a constantly grown his offensive game as shown in the last two seasons, and that should continue with Luke Walton as his coach. Walton has the ability to put players in a position to use their talents to the fullest extent and succeed. But he won’t have to worry about the offensive side of the ball much given the young scoring talent to Lakers have.
Now that it’s all but decided Whiteside will stay with the Heat, it looks like the Lakers really missed out on a true talent for the future. Settling for Timofey Mozgov isn’t going to do much good – he’s barely any better than Hibbert was.
2. Sign DeMar DeRozan
But the point remains the same: You’ve drafted Brandon Ingram, so there’s no need to get another starting caliber wing player that’ll take minutes away from the rookie. I’d rather have them bring a veteran role player that can teach and lead, which leads me to my next point…
3. Sign strong veteran leaders
As of now the Lakers have no veteran on the roster than can keep the locker room in check. As much as I love Kobe. he didn’t do a good job of that last season. You’d just have to see a glimpse of the Russell-Young debacle to know what I’m talking about.
They need a veteran like presence like Kevin Garnett who could keep the locker room in line and teach these young men how to be professionals. Much like the GM of the Oakland Raiders, Reggie Mckenziel, has done by bringing in strong vets like Justin Tuck and future hall-of-gamer Charles Woodson, who taught the youngins’ how to prepare and work like winners. This is a small but important point that I believe in the long haul would benefit the Lakers’ future success.
4. Get rid of Nick Young
We all loved Nick Young for a bit and then after the honeymoon things just fell apart. He’s now quite redundant within the Lakers as Lou Williams is a more versatile player that fills the role of sixth man. He’ll be taking away minutes that should be going to Russell, Jordan Clarkson, or Ingram.
The problem is who would possibly take him. I have your possible solution that lies in the small, Texas town of Houston where the Rockets have signed a coach named Mike D’Antoni – the same Mike D’Antoni that helped Nick Young earn his current contract during his time in Los Angeles. They’d probably get a few future 2nd round picks, or draft rights to some overseas stash players that may never come over. The open space can be used to get a veteran point guard to teach Russell, like a Steve Blake for example, who could’ve really helped the young D’Angelo last season.
My final point is…
5. Don’t try to hit a home run this free agency
It’d be wise for Mitch Kupchak to get players that’ll help grow the team rather than sign any big name that’s on the market. What the core of young players need is veteran leadership and time so they can gel and become comfortable in whatever system Luke decides to run. You cannot rush the process of rebuilding as it is much like baking a cake. It takes time and if you try to speed up the process you’ll burn the cake and have to start all over again.
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