Los Angeles Lakers unrestricted free agents:
Six Los Angeles Lakers fall into this category.
1. Dwight Howard: He turned out to be one of Pelinka’s best signings. He joined the Lakers as a new man with a fresh attitude and was willing to focus most of his energy on defense and rebounding.
In the regular season, he was third on the team with 7.3 rebounds although he played just 19 minutes a game. He also chipped in 7.5 points with an outstanding and career-high 73% field goal percentage. In the playoffs, he was a solid contributor, especially against Denver and Nikola Jokic.
Howard earned $2.6 million and could receive offers for considerably more from other teams. Yet he’s earned about $240 million in his career, so perhaps he values a comfortable scenario over a higher dollar contract.
He appeared to fully enjoy his season with the Lakers and might want to stay put. The team would probably welcome him back. But Dwight is a difficult man to predict. Chances he’ll return: 50%.
2. Markieff Morris: He was an excellent mid-season pick-up for the Lakers. Although he didn’t contribute much in his 14 regular-season games with the team, he shined in the playoffs. He was especially effective as a stretch 4 in the second round against Houston and in the Finals against Miami, and at age 31 has much gas left in his tank.
As was the case with Howard, much will depend on whether Morris prefers more money elsewhere or a chance to repeat with the Lakers. He has earned close to $44 million throughout his career, but he might want one last significant dollar contract, more than the Lakers can offer.
He hasn’t indicated publicly what he values most, so all we can do is guess. Chances he will be back: 40%
3. Jared Dudley: The 13-year veteran played in the fewest games and the lowest minutes per game in his career this past season. His biggest contributions to the Lakers came as a supporter and quasi-coach on the bench and in the locker room.
In limited court action, Dudley showed he can still be a physical presence and can still hit the three-point shot, connecting on 18 of his 42 attempts (43%). However, at age 35 he can’t be expected to play many minutes. It’s possible he’ll retire after earned his first championship ring although it looked like he still has the desire to prolong his career.
He can continue to be an effective end-of-the-bench player if he’s willing to accept the same role he played this past season. Odds he will return: 50%
4. J.R. Smith: The Los Angeles Lakers signed him when play resumed in the bubble to fill Bradley’s roster spot. He hadn’t played in the NBA for about a year and a half, and his rustiness was evident.
Smith was largely ineffective in his six regular-season games with the team when he averaged just 2.8 points on 32% shooting. His stats were even worse in his 10 postseason games. It appears highly unlikely that he’ll be re-signed. Chances he’ll be back: at best 10%.
5. Dion Waiters: The Los Angeles Lakers picked him up at mid-season after waiving Troy Daniels, hoping he could provide some offensive punch off the bench. He was still recovering from injury then, so didn’t suit up until the season resumed in Orlando.
Waiters displayed some of his offensive skills in the seven games he played prior to the playoffs when he averaged 12 points per contest. But his defense left much to be desired. He played sparingly in five of the Lakers’ first seven postseason games, averaging just 2 PPG. But after that, due to injury and coach’s decision, he was inactive for the final 14 games
It seems doubtful that the Lakers and Waiters have much mutual interest and it would be a surprise if he returned. Odds: 10%
6. DeMarcus Cousins: He missed the entire 2019-20 season after tearing an Achilles tendon and was eventually waived by the Los Angeles Lakers. So although he is no longer technically part of the team, he reportedly continued to have close contact with them throughout his rehabilitation.
Cousins is a 30-year-old four-time all-star with myriad offensive skills… but that was prior to his injury. Nothing has been said publicly regarding his recovery or a possible return to form.
If he can contribute, even at 75%, there almost assuredly would be interest between Boogie and the Lakers for the upcoming season. But coming back from a torn Achilles is far from a certainty. Chances he’ll return: 65%, perhaps on a non-guaranteed contract.
When projecting the Los Angeles Lakers 2020-21 roster, the great unknown is what the one person whose opinion matters most, Rob Pelinka, is thinking. How much value does he place on his team’s unsigned players? How likely is he to attempt a trade? Are there other free agents he’s targeting?
As of now, the best guess is that the upcoming season’s team will closely resemble the 2019-20 championship squad.
All statistics courtesy of www.basketball-reference.com