If NBA Expands Rosters, Which Free Agent Should the Lakers Sign?

Former Laker Dion Waiters


Former Laker Dion Waiters

The Lakers have been fortunate so far this season to have mostly avoided the rampaging COVID-19 infections that have depleted so many NBA teams across the league and forced a slew of postponements. The only player who has been forced to sit out because of the league’s health and safety protocols is Alex Caruso, who was not infected with the virus but had some exposure.

Caruso was out for nine days and missed five games, returning on January 7.

But things have gotten bad enough in the NBA now that the league is considering allowing teams to add a two-way roster spot to their current allotment of two.

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A standard NBA roster has 15 players, plus two two-way players. Because of the pandemic, the league is changing the availability of the two-way guys, allowing them to spend the season with the team rather than having their time divided between the NBA and the G-League. Adding a third G-League player gives the team another emergency option should the health and safety protocols force multiple players out.

The Lakers only have 14 players on the roster, so it is unclear whether they would be allowed to add a two-way player. The team is up against the hard cap so does not have much financial flexibility, but if the NBA allows an exception to add a third two-way player, the Lakers could take advantage.

Which Player Makes Sense for the Lakers?

There is some talent still available on the NBA’s free-agent market, players who could yet help the Lakers especially if the roster was depleted because of COVID-19. If the Lakers are able to sign a veteran to a two-way deals, their best options are:

Ersan Ilyasova. He is 33, but at 6-foot-9, still an effective stretch-4, which is the kind of player the Lakers are missing. He played 63 games last season and averaged 6.6 points and 4.8 rebounds in 15.7 minutes, making a solid 36.5% of his 3s. He is not particularly athletic, but in half-court sets, he is a floor-spacer off the bench.

Dion Waiters. Did we have enough of the Dion Waiters Experience last summer? No? Well, he is waiting for his phone to ring. Not a good fit, but at least he knows the system.

Shabazz Napier. It’s a bit of a surprise that Napier is not in the league. He has had a solid six-year career as a backup point guard, is a decent scorer and a passable perimeter shooter. The Lakers are very thin on point guard depth and Napier is the best available.

Gerald Green. Green has rolled through eight teams in 14 pro seasons, not counting two years playing in Russia. He is a smart, veteran scorer who has improved himself defensively.

Kyle Korver. Korver’s resume includes 17 NBA seasons and 2,450 made 3-pointers for six teams. He was signed by the Bucks last summer and did what he does best for them—made 3s, at a 41.8% clip. He is 39 and a defensive liability, but provides floor-spacing with his shooting.

Lakers Have Two Two-Way Players on the Roster

Typically, teams sign two-way players who are young and considered long-term projects. The Lakers’ current two-way guys are Kostas Antetokounmpo, the 23-year-old younger brother of reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Devontae Cacok, a 6-7 forward from UNC Wilmington the team signed in 2019. Cacok is 24.

Cacok appeared in one game last season, his only NBA appearance. Antetokounmpo has appeared in eight games over three seasons, having originally been a two-way player for Dallas.

If the Lakers were to add another two-way player, though, they might be better off looking for a veteran who wants back into the league. Some of those players might resist signing a two-way deal, but the chance to win a ring with the Lakers would be a strong lure.

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