Los Angeles Lakers 3-and-D free agent target is now off the market

Free agency continues to be a challenge for the Los Angeles Lakers to find answers in after missing out on the perfect 3-and-D target to an in-state rival.
Sacramento Kings v Philadelphia 76ers
Sacramento Kings v Philadelphia 76ers / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Lakers were never going to be big spenders during the 2024 period of free agency. Due in large part to their financial restrictions, Los Angeles has made it known that the NBA Draft and the trade market would be their greatest allies in the pursuit of improvement.

Unfortunately, an entirely affordable target who would've been a perfect fit in the Lakers' rotation has signed with an in-state rival.

Los Angeles entered the 2024 offseason with several areas of weakness, but none were more alarming than its perimeter play. There's certainly talent on the roster, but the need for three-point shooters and high-level wing defenders is undeniable.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, one of the perfect fits for that 3-and-D weakness is officially off the market: De'Anthony Melton.

Melton has signed with the Golden State Warriors for the full mid-level exception—a figure the Lakers could've afforded if existing rumors hold true.

Ideal Lakers target De'Anthony Melton signs with the Warriors

One of the most stunning rumors of the 2024 period of free agency has been the revelation that LeBron James is willing to take a paycut to create space for the Lakers to use the full mid-level exception. In that scenario, Los Angeles would've been able to afford Melton.

The move would've carried some degree of risk based on Melton's recent injury woes, but it also represented a direct acknowledgment of two massive flaws.

Melton, 26, is widely regarded as one of the best 3-and-D players in the Association. Standing at 6'3" and 200 pounds with a 6'8" wingspan, he plays a physical brand of defense that enables him to create turnovers, run opponents off the three-point line, and keep opponents out of the paint.

Melton is also a career 36.9 percent shooter from beyond the arc, with that mark jumping to 38.3 percent over the past four seasons.

Unfortunately, Melton missed 44 games in 2023-24 due to a serious back injury. It's caused teams to lead with precaution in free agency, thus resulting in Melton signing a one-year deal instead of the multi-year contract he was previously on track for.

Unfortunately, the Warriors were able to acquire Melton while the Lakers were busy trying to steal one of their players: Klay Thompson.

Los Angeles will now head back to the drawing board as it looks to find players who can address perhaps their two biggest areas of need. Incoming rookies Dalton Knecht and Bronny James could assist in that regard, but the Lakers are rational to want a more proven commodity in the short term.

With Melton now off the market, the question ahead of general manager Rob Pelinka is simple: Who's left to potentially fill the void?