Which of today’s opponents could be good for the Lake Show?
At present, your 15-21 Los Angeles Lakers are currently facing off against the 10-27 Charlotte Hornets, in Charlotte, on the final leg of their five-game road trip. LA has gone a surprisingly respectable 2-2 thus far.
Neither club looks exactly ready to compete for championships just yet. If the Lakers don’t make moves in-season to improve their own title contention odds, could they look to replenish their roster in the offseason with some Hornets free agents?
Per Spotrac, Charlotte will have a total of eight free agents, though four of those will be restricted (i.e. the Hornets will have the ability to match any offer tendered to them). Here are five who could fit the Lakers’ needs, assuming the team retains All-Stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis over the summer.
1. Kelly Oubre Jr.
The 27-year-old small forward is on an expiring $12.3 million deal, and could also serve as an interesting trade target for the Lakers, provided the team doesn’t surrender much more than a second-round pick in an exchange, given that he’d essentially be a rental. If the team were to approach him in the 2023 offseason, however, they could probably add him at or even a bit below his present value. The fact that he is a role player for one of the league’s worst teams should depreciate his standing in the market.
Then again, with Miles Bridges sidelined due to being a terrible person, Oubre has enjoyed his best-scoring season yet. Across 35 games, the 6’7″ vet is averaging 20.2 points on .421/.308/.714 shooting splits, grabbing 5.1 rebounds, swiping 1.6 steals and dishing out 1.2 dimes. Oubre is a lengthy, versatile defender who can score inside the arc with ease, but won’t help the Lakers’ poor three-point shooting. He’s essentially a taller Lonnie Walker IV circa the 2022 offseason, before Walker emerged as a viable long range shooting threat.
2. P.J. Washington
An athletic but undersized (6’7″) big man, Washington is averaging 15 points (with a .425/.340/.795 slash line), 4.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks a night as the team’s starting four. Though physically he’s basically Montrezl Harrell, he’s a competent shooter and a far better defender than the ex-Laker. There could be a bidding war for the restricted free agent’s services this summer, and LA may ultimately opt to pursue starrier names if the price gets too high.
3. Dennis Smith Jr.
Smith wasn’t even really seen as much of an asset until this season, having washed out as a lottery prospect before reinventing himself as a quick, change-of-pace point guard who can slash and pass well off the bench. The 6’2″ backup could be a decent, cost-effective Russell Westbrook/Dennis Schröder replacement, should LA opt to let those vets walk.
4. Mason Plumlee
The Hornets’ rim-rolling journeyman starting center will probably fetch more on the open market than the Lakers may want to spend on what would essentially be a Thomas Bryant upgrade (Plumlee is a more physical, bigger defender), but if the market cools he could probably be had for something around the mid-level exception.
5. Jalen McDaniels
The 25-year-old power forward, an unrestricted free agent, could be in line for a raise from his $1.9 million rookie scale minimum contract this season, after proving his mettle as a rotation piece, albeit for a bad team. The Lakers need plenty of help in their frontcourt, and McDaniels might be worth a cheap flyer.