Lakers 2021 Offseason
Graphic Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

Lakers Offseason 2021: Lakers Free Agency Tracker

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The Los Angeles Lakers are looking to revamp a roster that is led by two of the NBA’s best players in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The quest, as always for the Lakers, is to win the NBA title, the 18th in the team’s illustrious history. With NBA Free Agency set to begin, FSM will have a running tracker of Lakers trades and free agent moves.

 

Lakers 2021 Offseason
Graphic Credit: Instagram

The big deal, maybe across the entire league, was done just before the 2021 NBA Draft when the Lakers traded Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and their 1st round pick (#22 overall) to the Washington Wizards for Long Beach native Russel Westbrook.

The Wizards are also sending their 2024, and 2028 second-round picks to the Lakers to complete the deal. According to The Athletic, the Wizards took the No. 22 pick and traded that to the Indiana Pacers for point guard Aaron Holiday. With that pick, the Pacers took Kentucky forward Isaiah Jackson.

Earlier on draft day, the Lakers were close to a deal with the Sacramento Kings for shooting guard Buddy Hield. That trade also was involving Kuzma and Harrell. Still, when Lakers V.P. of Basketball Operations and General Manager Rob Pelinka got the call from Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard about Westbrook, he turned his focus there.

The Lakers will be Westbrook’s fourth team in as many seasons. He will be the fifth former MVP to play for four different franchises in four seasons or fewer, joining Bob McAdoo, Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, and Derrick RoseWestbrook will join James, Davis & Co. in Los Angeles, giving the team a nine-time All-Star point guard. Westbrook, who turns 33 in November, has averaged a triple-double in a season four times in his career, including this past season.

Thank you DC! You welcomed my family and I with open arms from day one,” Westbrook wrote. “Everyone from the front office, to the training staff, the coaches, my teammates, and the fans. I’m grateful y’all took a chance on me and supported me every step of the way. I’m blessed to have been a part of such a stand up organization. It didn’t take long to make a home in DC, and I will forever be grateful and appreciative of my experience with the organization. Thank you! #thedistrict.”

Westbrook, who is from Southern California and played at UCLA, has been intrigued by the idea of returning home to Los Angeles. He’s owed $44.2 million this season; the Westbrook-James-Davis trio would combine to earn $121 million in 2021-22 — 19 entire teams will earn less heading into free agency.

 

Westbrook will have some added fuel to motivate him in 2021. Per reports, he was used by Kahwi Leonard to get Paul George to L.A.

 

Lakers 2021 Offseason
Graphic Credit: Twitter

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reports that “Westbrook had become a father of three the previous November, and while he’d made a home and carved a Hall of Fame legacy in Oklahoma City, the chance to live and play in Los Angeles, where grandparents and his large extended family and friends could visit every day, held deep appeal.

Teaming up with (Khawi) Leonard would be the fastest way there, so he placed the call, according to multiple sources. But Leonard didn’t just take the call as one native son of Los Angeles to another, ponder it and file it away.

He used it.

According to multiple sources, Leonard then called Westbrook’s teammate in Oklahoma City, Paul George, and told him he’d rather team up with him on a homecoming.

George had always longed to play in front of his family as well but had formed a close bond with Westbrook in their two seasons together in Oklahoma City and was content to stay.

Leonard’s call upended all of that, though.”

 

On paper, Westbrook is an odd fit in Los Angeles. But it shouldn’t be a shock since it is the same formula the Lakers have used since James decided to come to L.A. They brought in Rajon Rondo and Dennis Schroder are lesser versions of Westbrook, to play a similar role as what is expected of Westbrook.

 

Lakers 2021 Offseason
Graphic Credit: FadeAwayWorld

The Lakers ranked 24th in 3-point attempts and 21st in 3-point percentage last season. Westbrook is a notoriously poor 3-point shooter. He has made only 30.5 percent of his attempts in his career, further limiting spacing for LeBron James and Anthony Davis as they drive to the basket. That was already a problem over the past two seasons.

But the Lakers have been desperately searching for a secondary playmaker to help take ball-handling pressure off of James. Westbrook has led the NBA in assists in three of the past four seasons. He may not be a shooter, but he’s a dynamic scorer that will make the Lakers even deadlier in transition and on the glass. That makes him an imperfect and risky addition, but one with a good deal of upside.

The L.A. Times Lakers reporter Broderick Turner reported that the trio had already been talking about linking up this summer.

They talked about putting their egos aside and playing as one in their quest to bring the Lakers another NBA championship. Westbrook talked about how his only intention was winning and coming back home to Los Angeles to become a champion.

James and Davis talked about the two of them changing positions if that was best for the team — James moving from small forward to power forward and Davis from power forward to center.

Westbrook let James and Davis know he doesn’t mind playing off the ball when James initiates the offense, something he did while playing alongside James Harden with the Houston Rockets.”

 

Are the Lakers now the favorites once again?

 

Lakers 2021 Offseason
Graphic Credit: Russell Westbrook Instagram

The Lakers started their title defense with little rest after winning the championship over the Miami Heat during the NBA’s 2020 restart at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla.

The short break appeared to affect the roster. The Lakers played competitively early in the 2020-21 season, but hope for a high playoff seeding faded when James and Davis missed chunks of the season because of injuries.

The Lakers defeated Golden State in a play-in game to qualify for the Western Conference’s seventh seed. The conference’s eventual winner, the Phoenix Suns, downed the Lakers, with a severely limited Davis, in six games in the first round.

Los Angeles experienced inconsistent play from its guards throughout the regular season and the playoffs. Point guard Dennis Schroder, an unrestricted free agent this summer, scored a combined 8 points in two pivotal losses to Phoenix. Caldwell-Pope was a key cog during last year’s title run, but a bruised left knee limited him against Phoenix. Harrell, who won the 2020 Sixth Man of the Year Award with the Los Angeles Clippers, received limited action in the playoff series.

The addition of Westbrook to the Lakers returns James to his tradition of playing alongside top-level guards. In Miami, James won two championships with Dwyane Wade. He won one with Kyrie Irving in Cleveland.

Now, he will add the 32-year-old Westbrook to his list of All-Star guard teammates. On Thursday, James shared an image of himself, Davis, and Westbrook in Lakers jerseys from his Instagram account.

The Lakers still need to round out their roster by adding shooters who can space the floor, but Westbrook, a walking triple-double threat, should provide an immediate boost to the team’s perimeter playmaking.

 

Day 1: Welcome Back, welcome back, welcome baaaaacccccck!

 

Lakers 2021 Offseason
Graphic Credit: Clutch Points

The Lakers kicked off free agency on Monday by welcoming back three former Lakers, two of whom have won titles while wearing Purple and Gold.

Once the Lakers acquired Westbrook, many wondered how the franchise would fill out the remainder of their roster. The team was in dire need of shooting, defense and likely would need to add veterans on minimum deals due to salary cap restrictions.

Several names were mentioned as possibilities, but one of the more intriguing ones was veteran wing Trevor Ariza, a familiar name amongst Lakers fans. Ariza, of course, helped the franchise win an NBA Championship back in 2009 and has remained one of the best veteran 3-and-D wings in the league.

Now a reunion has apparently come to fruition as the Lakers and Ariza have come to terms, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Woj broke the news that the Lakers and Ariza agreed to a 1-year deal.

Ariza spent most of last season with the Miami Heat, where he was one of their key rotation pieces. Though obviously not the same athlete he used to be, he remains a solid perimeter defender who must be accounted for offensively with his three-point range.

The Lakers’ front office wasn’t done making moves at the outset of free agency as the team also came to terms on a one-year deal with sharpshooting guard Wayne Ellington. Like Ariza, Ellington is also familiar with the Lakers’ franchise, spending time here in 2015.

Ellington isn’t quite the defender Ariza is but is one of the best shooters the league has to offer and proved that last season with the Detroit Pistons. He averaged 9.6 points while knocking down 42.2% of his shots from deep last season and has shot below 35% just once in his entire career.

 

Lakers vs Nuggets
Photo Credit: USA Today

One of the biggest redemption stories of the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2020 Championship run was Dwight Howard. After a failed first stint with the Lakers, Howard returned years later and was absolutely crucial in helping the team to their first ring in a decade.

When Howard left after last offseason, it was seen as a bit of a disappointment, and Howard went on to have another solid season in Philadelphia, showing that he still has plenty left in the tank. And with Howard again a free agent and the Lakers looking for cheap veterans to fill out their roster, Howard seemed to be an obvious fit.

According to The Athletic’s NBA insider Shams Charania, the two sides agreed to a deal Monday afternoon.

The move makes sense for both sides. Howard clearly wanted to return to the Lakers and even made it known on social media recently. The Lakers also need another big man as Marc Gasol is currently the only other center under contract, but Howard provides a completely different look, toughness, and physicality than the Spaniard.

Howard also proved that his comeback season with the Lakers in 2020 was no fluke with how he played in Philadelphia. Again, the big man enjoyed another good season and stepped up big time when MVP candidate Joel Embiid went down to injury. As far as reserve big men go, very few bring what Howard does to the table.

 

Lakers 2021 Offseason
Photo Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers also signed guard Kent Bazemore to a 1-year deal according to Shams. Bazemore, who spent half a season in Los Angeles in 2013-14 before leaving in free agency. Last season in Golden State, Bazemore averaged 7.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game while shooting 40.8% from the 3-point line, a career-best mark, on 2.7 attempts per game.

Bazemore turned down more money and years (2) from the Warriors, sources told Shams but believes he will have a bigger role and opportunity to win a championship with the Lakers.

He left the Lakers after the 2014 season to sign a 4-year, $70 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks, $2 million less than what the Lakers offered, and said that he didn’t feel wanted by the Lakers since they declined to pick up his $1.1 million qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent in 2014.

Bazemore said this at the time of his signing with the Hawks,One thing you want in this league is to be wanted. They didn’t pick it up for that little amount of money, so that showed how much they believed in me and my abilities. That closed that chapter.”

So far Bazemore is the fourth former Laker to sign with the team this offseason with each of the team’s signings so far being players who have donned the Purple and Gold previously in their career. It’s also notable that Bazemore is another wing joining the roster along with Wayne Ellington and Trevor Ariza.

 

Day 2: The Lakers got their M&M’s:

 

“The way we do it like this, That, for my mellow my man
It’s like that for my mellow my man, No no we do it like that
This, for my mellow my man, It’s like this for my mellow my man”

The Roots

 

Lakers 2021 Offseason
Graphic Credit: Clutch Points

Lakers Nation felt like the Hip-Hop group The Roots on Tuesday because they got their man, Melo. 

The Los Angeles Lakers are still trying to fill their roster with shooters, defenders, and crafty veterans. That, at least, appears to be the plan after they reportedly agreed to terms with players like Kent Bazemore, Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington, and Dwight Howard. However, they did not make a day one agreement with their most likely target, Carmelo Anthony.

Anthony has long been connected to the Lakers. It’s been rumored since 2014 when Carmelo Anthony nearly signed with the Lakers as a free agent, only to re-up with the New York Knicks, and again after the team originally signed LeBron James in the summer of 2018. However, the team did not pursue him, and he instead spent the past two seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers. Heading into this offseason, the rumored mutual interest between Anthony and the Lakers was stronger than ever.

This is why it’s unsurprising that the Lakers have reportedly agreed to terms on a one-year, veteran minimum contract with Anthony, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Beyond his friendship with James and the other veterans that the Lakers have already agreed to terms with, Anthony can still provide value as a floor-spacing power forward. In the 2020-21 season with the Trail Blazers, Anthony shot 40.9% from three-point land, and figured to get even more open looks alongside James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook.

Anthony is entering his age-37 season, making him yet another older veteran joining the Lakers this season. However, there is no denying the value he brings if he continues to hit threes at a high rate.

The Lakers still have plenty of work to do to finalize their roster, including the use of their taxpayer mid-level exception.

 

Lakers 2021 Offseason
Graphic Credit: Clutch Points

The first day of free agency for the Lakers saw them bring in older veterans, all of whom coincidentally had previously played for the franchise. But there were questions as to whether the Lakers were getting too old and needed to bring in some young players as well.

One option that had not been linked to the Lakers but offered an interesting buy low possibility was Malik Monk. The young guard is a known scorer who improved his three-point shooting last season and would seem to still have the potential to grow into a much better player.

With all of the veterans brought in already, the Lakers are finally bringing in some young legs, agreeing to a deal with Monk according to Woj. It is a 1-year deal for the veteran minimum, which is a steal for the Lakers.

Again the Lakers are straying more towards the offensive side of the ball with a free agent signing. Coming out of Kentucky, Monk was a pure bucket getter but struggled to find his footing in Charlotte amongst the glut of guards on the roster.

The Lakers will surely have some competition in the backcourt as well, but Monk brings the ability to provide instant offense to the team in a way that perhaps no one else can. He is more than capable of getting his own shot and knocked down 40.1% of his shots from three-point range last season. And playing off of James, Davis, Westbrook, and Anthony should only increase his open looks.

Rob Pelinka and the Lakers front office have focused almost primarily on bringing in a number of wings who all provide a different skill set. Monk is the latest addition to that group, hoping to get right back to the championship level they were at two seasons ago.

 

Lakers vs Knicks
Photo Credit- Laker Nation

The Lakers also re-signed guard Talen Horton-Tucker to a 3-year, $32 million deal, with the third year a player option on Tuesday.

After being thrust into the spotlight during his rookie season and winning a title right out of the gate with the Lakers, Horton-Tucker has become a household name in Los Angeles and an intriguing young player for the franchise to develop. Horton-Tucker continued to show flashes of promise during his sophomore season with the Lakers as he earned more playing time and high praise from his teammates and coaching staff.

The Lakers had until July 31 to extend this offer, but it seems the team just wanted to get this book of fairly expected housekeeping out of the way. To not at least extend the offer would have been franchise malpractice, especially since they can later rescind it if they want to let him go anyway (much like the team did with Julius Randle a few years back).

The maximum that Horton-Tucker could sign with the Lakers was a starting salary of $10.3 million. THT, a former second-round pick, earned a strong contract from Los Angeles.

 

Lakers 2021 Offseason
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

The Lakers busy Tuesday continued with the signing of former Miami Heat point guard Kendrick Nunn, as reported by Woj. Nunn agreed to a 2-year deal worth $10 million, with the second-year a player option. Reportedly, Nunn turned down “significantly” more money to try and chase a ring with the Lakers.

Nunn, who is 26, averaged 14.6 points and 3.2 rebounds per game while shooting 38.1% from the 3-point line and 48.5% from the field in 56 games last season.

After beginning the free agency period as a restricted free agent, Nunn had his $4.7MM qualifying offer rescinded by the Heat once it became clear that there wouldn’t be room under the team’s hard cap to fit in a new deal for the 6’2″ guard. That made him unrestricted, opening the door for him to complete a contract agreement with the Lakers.

With Tuesday’s signings of Anthony, Monk, Horton-Tucker, and Nunn the Lakers now have 13 players under contract with the vet minimum exception still available to use. The projected tax bill, which would be the largest in Lakers‘ history, now is at $42.3 per ESPN’s Bobby marks.

 

The Lakers did make another move later on Tuesday evening. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Lakers will waive forward Alfonzo McKinnie. McKinnie is set to enter free agency as an experienced wing after his fourth NBA season.

 

Stay tuned right here for all the Lakers transactions this free agency peroid with our Lakers free-agent tracker.

 

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-Joe Arrigo – Franchise Sports Media

 

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