The Landscape of the Lakers With D’Angelo Russell


Nothing about what the Lakers did on Thursday met the status quo. They’re a franchise stuck in the past, trying to do what worked prior years, determined to replicate the championship teams that won titles built around dominant big men.

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An acknowledgement of both the state of the league and how far the Lakers have come was the selection of D’Angelo Russell. And with it, the landscape of the Lakers changed entirely.

Fans had drawn up what a team with Julius Randle and Jahlil Okafor would look like. Few imagined what a team with Jordan Clarkson and Russell would be able to do.

The free agent market and the Lakers’ targets became much clearer. A byproduct of selecting Russell is that the Lakers need not dive into the shallow pool of free agent guards. The rumors of Goran Dragic will be silenced, but maybe more importantly, as will the rumors of Rajon Rondo. There will be no starting-caliber point guards signed by the Lakers this off-season.

Instead, their focus shifts to big men. By passing on Okafor, there’s now a large gap left in the middle of the floor. A recent article from the Los Angeles Times’ Mike Bresnahan revealed a handful of things:

  • Jordan Hill is as good as gone. The only way he comes back is on a huge discount, and I doubt that happens. The Lakers need a rim protector and he’s far from it.
  • Marc Gasol can be crossed off the list thanks to how the situation with his brother was handled, and Marc has every right to be disinterested.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge will be priority No. 1, DeAndre Jordan priority No. 2.

Aldridge is the most likely of the big men to come to L.A. as his time in Portland is up. However, he’s already going to be on the wrong side of 30 by the start of the season. Also, as a Texas-native, the Mavericks and Spurs likely have the upper hand in negotiations.

Jordan, meanwhile, is unlikely to leave the Clippers for less money and a lesser talented team. He would have to really be upset with the Clippers management and there’s nothing to indicate that.

The Kevin Love saga is unpredictable, but it’d be hard to imagine the Lakers thinking Randle and Love side-by-side in the frontcourt could work. That leaves a host of second-tier options for the Lakers to try out, ranging from Brook Lopez to Robin Lopez and Greg Monroe. The latter two are true centers, but Brook is injury-prone and Robin is more of an energy guy. Monroe is young, but there are concerns as to whether he can play the center position, specifically defensively.

The last options are those that are already in-house, so to speak. Ed Davis will opt out of his contract but has spoken positively of the Lakers and is willing to return. He’s seeking a big contract, but it’s hard to overpay any player this summer given the salary cap spike in the coming seasons.

The darkhorse candidate could be Summer League signee Robert Upshaw. Upshaw is a first-round talent with some lingering issues. He was kicked off his college team for off-court behaviors, namely smoking marijuana, and also has some health worries with regards to his heart. There’s a chance that being kicked out of the Washington Huskies program gave him a reality check, and if so, the Lakers could have found a steal as an undrafted free agent.

No matter the case, the future is as bright as it’s been in L.A. for many seasons.