The Los Angeles Lakers acquired Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley and Javale McGee last summer, a failed investment that surrounded LeBron James with poor shooters in a three-point shooting era.
Now that Anthony Davis is in town, avoiding those mistakes and optimizing cap space will be crucial this offseason.
If the blockbuster trade is completed on July 6 and Davis accepts his $4 million trade bonus, Los Angeles will have $23.7 million to spend. If the trade is completed on July 30, it will have $32.5 million available.
Regardless of how the trade pans out, general manager Rob Pelinka still has to sign a combination of upper tier, middle tier and lower tier free agents -- and he can’t mess it up this time around.
Another max contract would form a superstar trio but limit the Lakers’ depth. A slew of more affordable deals would form a deeper supporting cast for James and Davis but limit the Lakers’ star power.
Which route will the Lakers take? Do they add another superstar and build a top-heavy roster? Or do they add a supporting cast and build a balanced roster?
Here are their options on three different levels of free-agent talent...
SF Kawhi Leonard
Leonard is arguably the best player in the world and his stock has never been higher than it is right now. The problem is that the Pelicans have no incentive to delay the Davis trade and open up more cap space for the Lakers, so finding money for Leonard is going to be a massive hurdle.
PG Kemba Walker
Walker has already said he would take a pay cut to play again in Charlotte, so the same might apply if he were presented an opportunity in Los Angeles. The 29-year-old All-Star is coming off his best season and has proven he can take over a game and command a team on his own.
PG Kyrie Irving
Irving has expressed interest in playing with Davis before, but reuniting with James is far less likely. Irving and James complement each other so well, though, and potentially winning a ring after a dysfunctional season in Boston could be enough to lure him away from the Nets.
SG J.J. Redick
The Lakers ranked 29th in three-point shooting last season (33.3%) and Davis’ 31.4% career clip from deep won’t help. Redick is a perfect option beyond the perimeter (41.3% career mark), with his 14 years (70 starts) of playoff experience being an added bonus.
PG Patrick Beverley
Redick is more of an offensive weapon, but Beverley’s 2.0 defensive win shares were much better than Redick’s 1.2 this past campaign. Couple that with a 39.7% three-point percentage and a distinct competitive edge, and Beverley has the attributes that create a winning environment.
SG Danny Green
Like Leonard, Green will have to forgo the opportunity to defend an NBA title if he wants to sign elsewhere. His career-high 45.5% three-point percentage this season and premier defense make him one of the top role players in the NBA. Two rings don’t hurt, either.
SF Trevor Ariza
Throughout his career, LeBron has made it a habit to drive to the hoop before dishing it off to sharpshooters like Ray Allen, Kyle Korver, Mike Miller, J.R. Smith and James Jones. Ariza, 33, is another NBA champion and fit for this type of role after a poor season between Phoenix and Washington.
SG Wesley Matthews
Matthews, 32, bounced between three organizations in 2018-19, one of the worst years of his career. He’s been nearly as effective shooting from deep (38.2%) as the field (42.5%) over his 10 years, and would at least give Los Angeles an affordable perimeter threat.
SG Seth Curry
Curry is a candidate to join his brother and fill in for the injured Klay Thompson in Golden State. However, the Lakers are legit contenders and just as attractive of a destination for a player who recently shot a career-best 45% from three-point range.
SF Gerald Green
One of the streakier players in basketball, Green is best in 10-to-15-minute workloads off the bench. His VORP has been below league-average in four of the last five seasons, so Green only makes sense if he’s on a minimum deal alongside a max contract like Leonard or Walker.
SF Carmelo Anthony
LeBron is good friends with Anthony, who last played for the Rockets in November 2018. Anthony is a future Hall of Famer and a scoring champion, but his defense is below average. Again, the vet-minimum contract would work here if Los Angeles wants to resurrect his career.