What could $38 Million Get Lakers?
An analysis of what the Los Angeles Lakers could purchase with $38 million if they strike out with the big names this summer
When you have the best player on the planet, maybe signing three elite role players who can provide desperately needed three-point shooting and tough defense could be all you need to legitimately compete for a championship.
While the Lakers aren’t likely to say no if Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, or Jimmy Butler want to don the purple and gold, there’s certainly a good chance they could fail to sign any of these superstars. There’s also a good argument to made that spending their $38 million in cap space on a trio of elite role players who can shoot and defend rather than on one single superstar could actually make the Lakers a more dangerous team.
The problem confronting the Lakers is they need more than what they could get from a single superstar to become a legitimate championship contender. Besides LeBron, their roster last season was a muddled mismatch of talented but still developing young players and an odd ball mix of over-the-hill vets who couldn’t shoot or defend. They were one of the poorest three-point shooting teams in the league and middle-of-the-pack mediocre on defense.
What the Lakers’ roster desperately needs this year are the elite role players that are critical contributors on teams that can compete for a championship. They have the best superstar in the league in LeBron James and four talented potential future stars in Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart but lack the serious difference-making role players who can consistently shoot the ball from deep and make the tough defensive stops needed to win.
Adding a trio of elite role players like center Brook Lopez, shooting guard Danny Green, and point guard Patrick Beverley could transform the Lakers into a 3-point shooting offensive juggernaut that plays the kind of harassing rough-and-tough pressure defense that opposing teams hate to play against. All three are legitimate playoff-tested free agent vets still in their prime who’d immediately make the Lakers one of the most dangerous teams in the west.
Bringing back Brook Lopez, who set NBA records with the Bucks this year for three-point shots attempted (512) and made (187) by a center while shooting 36.5%, would be a great move to fix the Lakers’ three-point shooting woes. An unrestricted free agent who was fourth in the league with 2.2 blocks per game, the 30-year old Lopez made just $3.4 million last year. The Lakers could steal Brook from the cap pressed Bucks with a 3-year $30 million offer.
Danny Green is a career 40% three-point shooter and premier perimeter defender. The 31-year old Green attempted (435) and made (198) the most threes and shot the best percentage (45.5%) in his career while being an All-NBA defender. An unrestricted free agent who earned $10 million last year with the Raptors. Green would be an ideal starting shooting guard for the Lakers, who could probably be acquired with 3-year $45 million contract.
Patrick Beverley is a 30-year old point guard and All-NBA defender who’s been the heart and soul of the Clippers but who made just $5 million last year and has blossomed into an elite three-point shooter over the last four years. He would be a perfect fit on the Lakers as Lonzo Ball’s backup point guard. Pat attempted (282) and made (112) threes last year, shooting 39.7%. Stealing from the Clippers should be easy with a 3-year $30 million offer.
Signing these three elite role players would have a bigger impact on the Lakers than signing any one superstar. They’re the kind of proven, playoff tested players that LeBron and the Lakers lack now and desperately need. Together, they would likely cost the Lakers most of their $38 million in cap space but would give LeBron the kind of clutch three-point shooters and elite defenders that the team needs to legitimately compete for a championship.
The Lakers biggest offensive issue last year was their three-point shooting. Together, Lopez, Green, and Beverley made 497 out of 1,229 threes last year for 40.4%. The Lakers as a team only made 847 of 2,541 threes for 33.3%. Adding three elite three-point shooters would likely catapult the Lakers into the top three teams in the league in three-point shot attempts, makes, and shooting percentage along with the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks.
Defensively, the Lakers team defensive rating of 108.5 points per game ranked 13th in the league. Adding three proven, experienced defenders like Lopez, Green, and Beverley would clearly improve the Lakers’ defensive rating. Winning in the NBA is all about matchups and being able to shut down or at slow down the other team’s leading scorers. Green and Beverley with Ball and Ingram would give the Lakers a quartet of elite defenders.
The Lakers should know before free agency whether they have any shot at signing one of the top tier superstars. While I don’t expect their front office to be willing to turn down a superstar who wants to join the team, signing a trio of elite role players like Lopez, Green, and Beverley could be a savvy move. No one superstar could upgrade the team as much offensively and defensively as adding these three established great three-point shooters and defenders.
Bottom line, while the Lakers’ Plan A this summer is surely to sign a top tier superstar in free agency, Lakers’ fans shouldn’t fret over the possibility that the Lakers might strike out with Plan A because their Plan B could be better.