Evaluating Lakers’ Options After Missing On Klay Thompson And DeMar DeRozan

LeBron James, Lakers, NBA
Mar 24, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) reacts after a three point basket in the first half against the Indiana Pacers at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The latest development was unpleasant in the ongoing soap opera, The Los Angeles Lakers. After weeks of speculation, including a phone call with LeBron James, Klay Thompson decided against joining the team. Instead, he departs to the Dallas Mavericks on a three-year, $50 million deal as he seeks to compete for a fifth NBA championship.

The Lakers and GM Rob Pelinka are in trouble. With the biggest name they were publicly going after off the board, the team needs to pivot in a different direction. While James gave a purported list of players he would take a pay cut for, most are off the free agent market.

The question for La La Land is simple: Where do we go from here?

What are the Lakers’ options after missing on Klay Thompson?

Apart from a splendid draft, where they acquired college standout Dalton Knecht and Bronny James, the first few days of free agency have been hardly newsworthy for the Lakers. Apart from resigning Max Christie on a team-friendly deal, no moves have come to fruition.

Instead, the team has retained the same core as last season, swapping head coach Darvin Ham with JJ Redick. Bringing back D’Angelo Russell, Christian Wood, Cam Reddish, and Jaxon Hayes doesn’t necessarily move the needle. And running it back with the same core and hoping for a different result would be Insanity 101.

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Klay Thompson, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks Updates

Nick Wright on First Things First didn’t mince his words when criticizing the job Rob Pelinka had done in the first few days of free agency. “I am baffled at the total inability of Rob Pelinka to get anything done, ever… How many times are we going to hear about the Lakers being in on something and then the front office not being able to get it done?”

To pivot, LA has to either look at remaining players on the market or seek out trades. The biggest team that Los Angeles would aim for is the Utah Jazz. After losing out on Mikal Bridges, the team might be ready to blow it up, and they have a ton of assets that could theoretically benefit the Lakers.

DeMar DeRozan could have made sense but picked the Kings

Whether it is Colin Sexton, Walker Kessler, Jordan Clarkson, or All-Star Lauri Markkanen, Utah is brimming with possibility. Further, with the market diminishing for DeMar DeRozan, a Mid-Level Exception for the veteran could have been a bargain.

However, DeRozan did not wait around for the Lakers and instead agreed to join the Sacramento Kings.

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Klay Thompson, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks Updates

Had DeRozan chosen the Lakers, he could have served as another scoring threat and initiator who could have worked wonders having his minutes staggered with James to boost a bench offense that ranked toward the bottom of the league for most of the season.

Other positions of need for LA

Apart from consistent three-point shooting, the biggest hole in the current Lakers roster is their big man depth. Beyond Davis, whose unwillingness to play the five is common knowledge, the team has no reliable center to trot out.

As a result, one of the biggest positions of need was one the Lakers were reportedly ready to focus on. Jonas Valanciunas, the 32-year-old center, was one of the primary targets for LA. However, they could not capitalize, so the Lithuanians signed with the Washington Wizards.

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Klay Thompson, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks Updates

Los Angeles’s options are dwindling, with names like Mo Bamba, Mason Plumlee, Luke Kornet, Isaiah Hartenstein, and Goga Bitadze signed elsewhere. It remains imperative for Rob Pelinka to figure out how to build up the roster.

Remaining free agents to consider

Gary Trent Jr. appears to be a viable option to add more perimeter firepower, but the Lakers must ensure they can unlock the taxpayer mid-level exception to acquire him. Other free agent guards include bringing back Spencer Dinwiddie or perhaps pursuing a different skill set by taking a chance on a player who hasn’t found a spot yet.

Some older veterans, like Kyle Lowry, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris Sr., Patrick Beverley, Robert Covington, Bismack Biyombo, and Evan Fournier, are still available. They are looking for a winning situation to contribute to on their next contract.

Other free agents include Tyus Jones, Saddiq Bey, Luke Kennard, Landry Shamet, Markelle Fultz, Dennis Smith Jr., and Paul Reed. There are plenty of other names out there as well. The Lakers have options but must effectively identify the right fit.

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Klay Thompson, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks Updates

A few players with previous history with the Lakers, including Lonnie Walker IV and Talen Horton-Tucker, have yet to land new contracts.

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