Before free agency even started the Los Angeles Lakers addressed their biggest need: acquiring that coveted third star in Russell Westbrook to play alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. But that didn’t mean they could sit on their hands when free agency opened up. And they didn’t.
When the flood gates opened the Lakers struck deals with multiple players, all of whom were once affiliated with the franchise.
Trevor Ariza, who is loved by Laker nation for his role in winning the 2009 NBA championship alongside Kobe and Pau, returned on a veteran minimum contract. Then Wayne Ellington and Kent Bazemore, who both spent time with the Lakers during their down years, followed quickly after.
And because what is a family reunion without that one cousin who you have a love hate relationship with, Dwight Howard signed on the dotted line for his third stint with the purple and gold.
There was a time when Dwight Howard returning to the Lakers even once was unimaginable.
Now, he’s done it twice.
The surprises were far from done as the Lakers finally pulled the trigger on acquiring Carmelo Anthony after years of flirting with the idea, dating back to his prime days in New York.
For good measures they also snagged Malik Monk, former 11th pick from the 2017 draft class, in a move that nobody saw coming considering how young Monk is.
And to add a little sprinkle of salt into the wounds of Laker haters, the team swooped in to sign Kendrick Nunn out of the grasps of the Knicks/Warriors.
The thrill of refreshing Twitter to see a new tweet from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowsk or The Athletic’s Shams Charania during NBA Free Agency is amongst my favorite events of the year. Every new signee seems massive and exciting, but do the pieces fit? How well does one another compliment the next?
Let’s dive deep into each acquisition and see how and if they make the Lakers better.
Last season Anthony averaged 13.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists to go along with 40.9 percent shooting. In Lakers terms, he was a way more efficient and consistent Kyle Kuzma, with less defensive ability.
But the Lakers will live with that considering the construction of this team.
Anthony is a catch-and-shoot threat at this stage in his career, no longer the former All-Star scorer and midrange assassin he was in his Hall of Fame prime. It’s been a long process, but the 37-year-old has seemingly accepted his physical limitations as his career winds down and will likely play a role similar to the one he played in Portland.
He allows the Lakers to play Anthony Davis at the five and surround him with frontcourt shooting. He’s also best friends with LeBron James, which helps from a chemistry and role standpoint.
Monk is a 23-year-old combo guard that is coming off a career-best shooting season from deep. He’s the instant offense guy the backcourt was missing off the bench. There’s a reason he was available: He disappointed in his stint in Charlotte, leading to the franchise giving up on him despite him being so young and a former lottery pick. But with more structure and better teammates in Los Angeles, Monk is set up to thrive.
He is far from perfect and depending on how he fairs alongside some strong minded veterans, Monk will either be getting major minutes in a Lou Williams type role, or be at the end of the bench. There will be no in between here.
He’s behind Russell Westbrook, Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn and Wayne Ellington in the rotation, but he has the untapped upside to (potentially) break out and earn a larger role.
Trevor Ariza averaged 9.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.0 steals to go along with 35.0 percent 3-point shooting in Miami last season.
Ariza, a former Lakers player who was part of the 2008-09 championship team, is a 3-and-D wing who trends more toward the defensive end of the spectrum. At 36, Ariza is no longer the high-flyer or elite athlete that he was in Los Angeles over a decade ago. But he can defend either forward position, knock down 3s at a league-average clip and finish in transition. He should bolster the Lakers’ second unit as the backup power forward.
I do wonder who will accumulate more minutes out of he and Melo. The front court is crowded and with Davis and James taking up bulk minutes, either Ariza or Melo will have to take a lesser role. This may be a situation where Ariza and Melo’s importance varies between series and games.
If defense is needed you’ll see Ariza, if its offense you’ll see Melo.
Wayne Ellington averaged 9.6 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists to go along with 42.2 percent 3-point shooting in Detroit last season.
Ellington, also a former Lakers player, is an elite 3-point shooter who shot 42.2 percent from beyond the arc in Detroit last season. He’s a below-average defender, but given the gravity and off-ball movement he provides, he fits in nicely with a team desperate for shooting.
Regardless of coming off the bench or starting, Ellington should play a major role this upcoming season solely because of his elite shooting.
Kent Bazemore, the fourth former Lakers player to sign with the team this offseason, is a 3-and-D wing who helps steady the team’s suddenly shaky guard defense. He’s coming off of a career 3-point shooting season and is a long, pesky defender who can defend one through three and even some smaller fours. He also can handle the ball and be a secondary playmaker, giving the Lakers’ bench — he’s unlikely to start — some additional juice.
He like Monk may or may not be seeing big minutes depending on the matchup and way which they contribute during the season.
Just see 2020 Dwight Howard highlights. It will be the same role.