Tag Archives: Los Angeles Lakers

What now? DraftNasty looks at the NBA free agency landscape after the draft

With the NBA Draft in the rear view mirror and the free agency period set to start at 6 p.m. on Sunday, DraftNasty's Troy Jefferson breaks down some of the compelling storylines and offers his best fits for the scenarios.

Where do the star players of the NBA Finals go next?

Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson are all free agents. Durant was the marquee name of the free agency period before he tore his achilles in the NBA Finals. However, the two-time Finals MVP is still a highly sought-after name and will receive a max contract from whoever signs him.  Kawhi Leonard was able to shift the balance of power away from the Western Conference  to the East when he joined the Raptors and won a championship this past season.  Klay Thompson is a five-time NBA All-Star and just barely missed out on the NBA supermax deal because he was not named to an All-NBA Roster.  To make matters worse, he tore his ACL in the NBA Finals and it remains to be seen how much time he will miss next season.  Each of these players are probably future Hall of Famers and will make whoever they sign with considerably better. Leonard and Thompson are both LA natives but I expect Thompson to stay in northern California.  Thompson plays his best when running off screens and setting picks for backcourt mate, Steph Curry, and their synergy is hard to replicate. Thompson was drafted by the Warriors and his skill-set is perfect for the Warriors free- flowing offensive attack.  Leonard could either return to the Raptors, which would put Toronto back in the driver's seat in the Eastern Conference, or he could return home to play in Los Angeles.  Both the Lakers and Clippers could offer him a max deal, so it will come down to a matter of preference for Leonard.  Doc Rivers has shown before that he can maximize star talent and the Raptors proved they could put a team together around Leonard.  I think the Raptors or the Clippers are the likely landing spots for Leonard. Durant could miss all of next year but he, too, has plenty of suitors. He could return to the Warriors or leave the Western Conference like Leonard did last year and join a weaker Eastern Conference. The Knicks and Nets have been linked to Durant. The Knicks would probably be a playoff team with a fully healthy Durant but does a guy who spent the last three seasons competing in the NBA Finals want to play the waiting game with a young core?  The Nets made drastic strides last season as a playoff team, but they still need a star. If they are able to sign Kyrie Irving and pair him with Durant, this would probably make them the team to beat in the East. 

Troy's predictions

Kawhi Leonard- L.A. Clippers

Kevin Durant- Brooklyn Nets

Klay Thompson- Golden State Warriors 

Does Brooklyn re-sign Russell or sign Kyrie?

As mentioned above, Kyrie Irving -a New Jersey native- has been linked to the Brooklyn Nets.  The Celtics enjoyed some success with Irving but could not make it to the NBA Finals and it seems their time together is over.  Brooklyn has the cap space for two max deals and have a need at point guard. They have a point guard in D'Angelo Russell, who made the All Star team this past season and could re-sign him.  Irving has had the better career to date though. I think Brooklyn would be better served signing Irving and trying to use that second max slot to sign another star player like Durant. However, Brooklyn could be in the same position as the Celtics if they strike out and can only bring in Irving, who would be the lead star.  In his past stints, Irving's teams have not flourished when he played the role as the "lead dog", see his early career in Cleveland and the last two years in Boston.

Troy's predictions

Kyrie Irving- Brooklyn Nets 

How do the Lakers fill out their roster?

The Lakers traded away three players including last year's first round draft pick, Mo Wagner, to the Wizards in order to free up enough space to sign another player to a max deal.  Right now, the Lakers are comprised of LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma and Anthony Davis as well as a few unproven youngsters.  General manager Rob Pelinka and the Los Angles Lakers could sign a player like Kawhi Leonard to a max contract and then fill out the roster with players on the veteran minimum or sign a  second tier star like Tobias Harris and then spread out the money to others that would make more than the veterans minimum. I actually think the best case scenario is for the Lakers to look to their past, they have a need at point guard and could bring back Russell. Russell saw his game rise to the next level last season and showed his ability to break down defenses and get to the rim. Signing Russell would allow James to play less at point guard and give the Lakers someone who could push the pace in transition. The Lakers ranked fourth in transition points per game last season and with what figures to be a roster of newcomers in 2019, Los Angeles needs as many easy buckets as they can muster. With the money they save by not using their max contract slot, the Lakers could also target free agents like J.J. Redick or Trevor Ariza, both sharpshooters and the type of players that have enjoyed success with James in the past. 

Troy's predictions

D'Angelo Russell as well as a few second tier free agents- Los Angeles Lakers

What does Dallas do with their cap space?

Dallas acquired former New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis in the middle of this past season and saw Luka Doncic take home the rookie of the year award. The duo will serve as the centerpieces for the Mavericks going forward in the post Dirk Nowitzki era and they have enough money to bring in a max player this offseason. The Mavericks have a clear need at point guard and I look for them to try luring a guy like Kemba Walker. First order of business will be resigning Porzingis, who is a restricted free agent. I don't see Porzingis leaving the Mavericks at all. However, I don't see Walker signing with Dallas because it isn't a great fit to have Doncic/Walker and Porzingis all on the floor together, there would be a natural overlap in the need for each player to have the ball. I do expect however for Dallas to target a true center because we've heard at times that Porzingis doesn't like playing the 5. Orlando's Nikola Vucevic is the name I expect to see sign with the Mavericks. I also wouldn't be surprised if the Mavericks target a defensive minded point guard like Patrick Beverly as well. 

Troy's predictions 

Nikola Vucevic and a starting point guard - Dallas Mavericks 

Who will play alongside of Harden in Houston in 2019-2020?

The Rockets have been on the door step of the NBA Finals the past few seasons but this is a crucial offseason for them. Houston could stick with their same roster from last season and try and take advantage of the Western Conference, which is in flux. The Lakers have star power but will need time to gel and the Warriors have stars but Durant is a free agent and so is Thompson and even if they keep both, they won't be ready by the start of next year. There are benefits in opting for continuity if you're the Rockets. However, the opposite argument could be made, Houston couldn't beat the banged up Warriors this season so why would anything change next season? If the Rockets want to bring in another max contract player like Jimmy Butler, they would probably have to trade center Clint Capela and Eric Gordon, to make the financials work. Butler would bring toughness and a defensive presence to the Rockets however I can't see him coexisting with Harden and Chris Paul, all three need the ball in their hands to be successful. Paul and Harden already have times where they look like they're taking plays off when the other is dribbling, Butler would only complicate matters. The best case scenario for brining in Butler would be getting rid of Paul and acquiring a spot up shooting point guard in the mold of former Heat point guard, Mario Chalmers. 

Troy's prediction

The Houston Rockets should keep the team as presently constructed

Where will Kemba end up?

If Durant, Thompson and Leonard are in the "first tier" of free agents, Walker is not far behind. The former UCONN point guard is a one man offensive weapon that has only missed six games over the past four seasons. Whoever signs Walker is getting someone that can score (averaged 25.6 points per game last season), lead and possesses rare durability. I think the Celtics, who will probably lose Irving to free agency are the team to watch. Unlike the Mavericks. Walker fits in a lot better from a scheme standpoint with the Celtics, who possess a plethora of wings like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Romeo Langford, who can not only mask his defensive decencies but don't need to handle the ball every possession. 

Troy's predictions

Kemba Walker- Boston Celtics 

2018 NBA Draft Team Needs: Pacific Division

Los Angeles Lakers

Team needs:

Shooting Guard

The Lakers got their table-setting point guard in Lonzo Ball, who has the ability to spoon feed baskets for others but with Isaiah Thomas and Kentavious Caldwell Pope facing free agency, the team needs to add another off the ball scorer. If the Lakers want to add a cheaper piece via free agency in order to put money aside for a bigger free agent, Marco Belinelli is an option. Bellinelli fit in seamlessly for a young 76ers team after coming to Philadelphia midseason. If the Lakers use their 25th overall pick on a scorer, UCLA’s Aaron Holiday, who played with Lonzo in 2016, could provide depth behind Ball and play off the ball when he plays point guard.

Forward

The Lakers will be in the Paul George sweepstakes this offseason. Even if the Lakers sign George, they will still have enough money to offer Julius Randle a long-term contract. Randle is coming off his most efficient season, averaging 16 points (55-percent FGs) and eight rebounds per game. If LA chooses to add some depth along the frontcourt with its 25th overall pick, Kentucky’s Jarred Vanderbilt could be worth a shot. Vanderbilt is a left-handed power forward with good position versatility, athleticism and -at times- can’t help but remind you of a young Lamar Odom.

Cap space: -3 million, 103 million

Free agents: Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell Pope, Channing Frye, Isaiah Thomas, Julius Randle

Los Angeles Clippers

Team needs:

Power forward

The Clippers had a lot of young players step up despite losing Blake Griffin. Players like Sindarius Thornwell, Milos Teodosic and Tobias Harris can serve as the new faces in the rebuild around DeAndre Jordan. Los Angeles also has capable three-and-D players like Wesley Johnson and Sam Dekker under contract. However, the Clippers could stand to add an athletic power forward to spell Harris in small ball lineups. With the 12th and 13th picks, LA could go in a few different directions but Kentucky’s Kevin Knox fits the mold of a strong but athletic forward. The Clippers could bring in Knox with the 12th pick and use the 13th pick on the best available prospect, which could be anyone from Alabama’s point guard Collin Sexton to Missouri small forward Michael Porter Jr.

Cap space: -19 million, 119 million

Free agents: Avery Bradley, Montrezl Harrell

Golden State Warriors

Team needs:

Wing

If the Warriors showed one weakness it was when Andre Iguodala went down to injury.  Coupled with the earlier injury to fellow wing Patrick McCaw, Golden State needed another wing defender. The Warriors will bring back Kevin Durant but it remains to be seen what else they will be able to add in free agency.  If Golden State looks to the draft with their 28th overall pick, then SMU’s Shake Milton is a name to watch. Milton shot 43 percent from three-point range last season and owns a 6’11” wingspan.  Milton also averaged four assists and four rebounds per game. The former Mustang would be a welcome addition and could develop into a three-and-D prospect capable of defending multiple positions.

Cap space: -36 million, 136 million

Free agents: Kevin Durant, Nick Young, Zaza Pachulia, Kevon Looney, JaVale McGee

Sacramento Kings

Team needs:

Wing

Justin Jackson is the only true small forward under contract. Sacramento has the second and 37th overall picks in the draft. If the Kings want to add a wing early in the draft, Luka Doncic from Slovenia would make sense. Doncic is a polished player and at 19 years old, he has not yet reached his ceiling.  However, if Sacramento wants to grab a big man and come back in the second round and add a wing player, Kansas’ Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk is a 6’8” sharpshooter.  He has shown before that he can play well alongside former Kansas Jayhawk and current Sacramento Kings guard Frank Mason, Jr.

Big man

Willie Cauley-Stein, Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos have one year each remaining on their contracts.  Sacramento could look to add another big man who could play alongside Cauley-Stein, stretch the floor and play both the forward/center positions. With the second pick in the draft, Duke’s Marvin Bagley, Jr. would make sense. He has room to improve defensively but he could play beside Cauley-Stein and they could both help each other's deficiencies.

Cap space: 2 million, 98 million

Free agents: Vince Carter, Bruno Caboclo

Phoenix Suns

Team needs:

Center

Phoenix has the first and 16th picks in the first round.  Tyson Chandler is the only true center under contract and he will be 36 years old by the start of next season.  Arizona’s Deandre Ayton played right down the road and is the consensus best prospect in the draft.  Ayton is a 7-foot-1-inch,  250-pound 19-year old with an NBA-ready body. Ayton averaged 20.1 points per game last season along with 11.6 rebounds.  He also possesses a decent jump shot to go along with a back to the basket game. With Ayton and young SG Devin Booker, Phoenix would have a strong foundation to build around.

Guard

Elfrid Payton turned in his best season last year, averaging 12 points per game, six rebounds and four assists. Payton also played 28 minutes per game last season, splitting minutes with a host of players (Troy Daniels, Tyler Ulis and Mike James). If the Suns choose to add a big man with the first pick, look for them to come back 15 picks later and try to address the depth in the backcourt.  Miami’s Lonnie Walker IV is 6’4” and has a 6’10” wingspan.  His size will give him some position versatility defensively at the next level.

Miami (Fla.) G Lonnie Walker IV (pictured for Team Final during the 2016 Nike EBYL Peach Jam) averaged 11.5 points per game for the Hurricanes in 2017-18 and shot nearly 35-percent from three-point range.

Coupled with his scoring potential (11.5 points per game), Walker could be an intriguing pick to log guard minutes behind Ulis and Booker next year.

Cap space: 7 million, 93 million

Free agents: Alex Len, Elfrid Payton

*The 2018-2019 NBA salary cap sits at $101 million and the luxury tax sits at $123 million.

Player stats are courtesy of ESPN.com.

Financial outlook is courtesy of Spotrac.com.

--- By: Troy Jefferson, DraftNasty Staff reports, Follow him @troy_jefferson on twitter.