Lakers Rumors: Los Angeles must go all-in on sharpshooting free agent target

The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly interested in landing one of the top shooters on the open market. Rob Pelinka must move mountains to make it happen.
Charlotte Hornets v Toronto Raptors
Charlotte Hornets v Toronto Raptors / Cole Burston/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Lakers have progressed through free agency without making the splash that many were hoping to witness. Financial restrictions limited their options, even as LeBron James reportedly expressed a willingness to accept less money to create the full mid-level exception.

While the dream signings fell through, James took enough of a pay cut to keep the Lakers under the second apron, thus opening the door for general manager Rob Pelinka to make a late move.

In the aftermath of James' decision, Los Angeles could potentially ship enough salary out to create the taxpayer mid-level exception. That would afford Pelinka the opportunity to sign a player to anywhere between a one and three-year deal starting at $5.168 million.

According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, Pelinka is looking at Toronto Raptors wing Gary Trent Jr. and former Lakers guard Spencer Dinwiddie as potential targets with the taxpayer mid-level exception.

"Gary Trent Jr. and Spencer Dinwiddie are two names to watch for if the Lakers clear enough space to use their taxpayer midlevel exception, according to league sources."

Dinwiddie is an interesting target to consider, but it's Trent who would be the home-run signing that could change the tone of the Lakers' offseason.

Lakers must move mountains to sign Gary Trent Jr.

Trent was selected at No. 37 overall in the 2018 NBA Draft. The former second-round selection struggled to find early playing time, but has become one of the most intriguing young wings in the NBA over the past four seasons.

Since 2020, the 25-year-old has posted cumulative averages of 16.2 points, 1.4 steals, and 2.7 three-point field goals made on .420/.383/.823 shooting.

In addition to emerging as a high-level sharpshooter, Trent has shown flashes of brilliance on the defensive end of the floor. At 6'5" and 204 pounds with a 6'9" wingspan, he's proven willing and able to take on tough defensive assignments, with his length and lateral agility providing positional versatility.

Unfortunately, the Raptors' decision to build around the perimeter trio of Scottie Barnes, RJ Barrett, and Immanuel Quickley has pushed Trent out of their plans.

Most expected Trent to be signed rather quickly by another team, but instead, the unrestricted free agent remains on the open market. That opens the door for Los Angeles to go all-in on a player who fits their needs to perfection and could have a Malik Monk type of experience with the franchise.

For those unfamiliar: Monk signed a one-year minimum deal with the Lakers in 2021-22, showed out, and has since signed contracts collectively worth upwards of $97 million.

Trent could see similar success in the purple and gold as the type of 3-and-D wing that the team desperately needs. This past season, Los Angeles ranked No. 24 in three-point field goals made and No. 28 in three-point field goals allowed.

By signing Trent, the team would be committing to a player who can step in and provide immediate value in a starting or reserve role. He could also be re-signed long-term in 2025 if the two sides agree to a one-year deal.

Creating the taxpayer mid-level exception would likely require the Lakers to trade minimum salaries and a second-round draft pick, but that's a cost worth paying for the perfect free agent fit.

Signing Trent is nothing short of essential for Pelinka to pull off.