2021 Free Agency
Lakers surrounding LeBron James with decades of experience
There is no shortage of veterans on the revamped roster in Los Angeles.
Take a good look at this Lakers summer free agent haul, because it just might be the last collection of help for prime LeBron James.
For sure, it’s always tricky to judge whether LeBron even after 18 years is ready to walk into the sunset; roughly seven months ago he was a Kia MVP favorite. That said, he is human, and Father Time is undefeated, and the Lakers are desperately trying to maximize what he has left as a premier player — and the same goes for the players they’ve added.
And so: Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza and Dwight Howard among others are all assigned the duty of helping LeBron to a fifth championship, but given where these aging marquee players are at in their careers, this would be a cinch if it were, say, 2012.
Well: As the Lakers retool for 2021-22, they’re hoping this batch of proven players can squeeze a bit more from themselves in order to squeeze another title for LeBron and also Anthony Davis, who were shortchanged last season because of injuries.
Davis in particular was a glaring omission for much of the playoffs once he pulled up lame with a groin injury in the first round against the Suns. Therefore, first and foremost, the Lakers are hoping for good health involving LeBron, who has suffered from nagging injuries two of the last three years, and Davis, who has a history of injury-interrupted seasons.
Westbrook is clearly the most qualified of the bunch. He averaged a triple-double for the third time and dragged the Wizards to the playoffs after a slow start. That said, Westbrook is high usage and turnover-prone and not bringing the most efficient shooting touch.
Anthony (37 years old) salvaged his career with a pair of decent seasons in Portland and seems resigned to being a role player. He and LeBron were the top high school players once upon a time and, lifelong friends, finally become teammates. Anthony shot 40.9% beyond the arc last season.
Howard (35) will start his third tour of duty with the Lakers, where he won a title two years ago, then did a pit stop in Philly. Same for Ariza (36), who owns a Lakers ring from the Kobe Bryant days, then bounced around the league. Anthony, Howard and Ariza are all minimum-wage veterans who already made their fortunes and now are trying to catch a ring on the way out the door (Howard going for two fingers).
The most intriguing pick-up is Malik Monk. He was largely disappointing during his three years in Charlotte, although last season he had several moments and finished with 11.7 points and shot 40% from deep, all career highs. Monk brings two elements that the Lakers could use — youth and outside shooting. It’s possible he could have a breakout season as he assumes the swingman role off the bench from the departed Kyle Kuzma.
Another young piece is guard Kendrick Nunn, who had an up-and-down stint as a backup with the Heat. Nunn will serve a similar role with the Lakers behind Westbrook.
The Lakers are also looking for 3-point production from Wayne Ellington, one of the more efficient shooters in the league (42% last season), but someone who has never received heavy minutes or been a volume shooter.
Unless there’s another deal or two coming before the summer’s over, this is what the Lakers are bringing next season. With the exception of Westbrook, none of the incoming players are major additions. They are joining LeBron, however, and he’s a make-his-teammates-better superstar. If he holds up in his 19th season, so will the Lakers.
* * *
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.