The Los Angeles Lakers have nearly found a direction to go in for the next few years, after signing rookie Julius Randle to a contract prior and hiring Byron Scott as their head coach. Free agency was a hit or miss for the team, and their effort should certainly be applauded for pursuing guys like Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, and LeBron James.
This season and next are likely to be Lakers legend Kobe Bryant‘s final years in the purple and gold armor, leaving a void for a team historically home to stars. Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak should focus on development and building the roster that will pursue the franchise’s 17th NBA championship.
As mentioned, the Lakers have definitely found a cornerstone in Julius Randle. At age 19, the rookie provided the team with a solid summer league (12.5 points and 4.3 rebounds), despite it being his first organized performance since the national championship game that featured his Kentucky Wildcats.
Randle showed off his incredible physicality in the post and the ability to take defenders off the dribble. His performance also featured some attempts at playing the point forward, which may become a wrinkle in the Lakers gampelan with improvement.
Despite having a loaded frontcourt featuring Ed Davis, Carlos Boozer, and Jordan Hill, Randle’s talent is destined to still get him significant NBA minutes this season. As the year passes, Lakers brass will be grooming Randle to take on a much larger role and carry the torch if he has a successful rookie campaign.
The most interesting dynamic that is sure to follow Randle’s solidification as a Laker will be the moves made in future free agency. The Lakers’ plans are to make bigger splashes in the 2015 and 2016 class. With this approach, they should take a look at some productive names to pair alongisde Randle at the center position.
The top targets at the center position will be Omer Asik, Marc Gasol, and DeAndre Jordan. These 7-footers are known for their defensive abilities in the paint, offensive rebounding, and have postseason experience. Each player will be an option for a Laker team unproven in each quality.
Omer Asik, 28, was recently traded to the New Orleans Pelicans from the Houston Rockets where he backed up former Laker Dwight Howard. His time in Houston featured a reduce role upon their acquisition of Howard, and led to trade requests and frustration.
Entering the last year of an $8.3 million deal, a solid showing in New Orleans will make Asik a top target for a Lakers team lacking depth at the center position. His presence could provide the team with the kind of interior defender that they have lacked over the last several years. Per 36 minutes, Asik posted 10 points and rebounds per game along with one block.
The Lakers originally drafted Marc Gasol in 2007 as the 48th pick before trading him for brother Pau Gasol. The Memphis Grizzlies acquired the Spaniard, and have had much success since his arrival.
Gasol has led the team to four consecutive playoff appearances (2011-14, most in franchise history), including a Western Conference Finals run in 2013. Gasol also was won NBA Defensive Player of the Year in the same season.
Not only is Gasol one of the league’s best interior defenders, but his versatile game is quite similar to the one that allowed Pau to capture two Lakers championships. Los Angeles should definitely look to invest in the 28 year old.
DeAndre Jordan is arguably one of the league’s best athletes and shot-blockers. At 6’11, he runs the floor like a deer and finishes with power. Last season he was second in the NBA in blocks at 2.5 per game. Jordan has also appeared in 30 playoff games for the Los Angeles Clippers.
A big man like him could cause opponents fits when paired with an offensive threat like Randle can become. A possible move next door to the Lakers could prove to be a smart move going into 2015 free agency.
The Lakers have the chance to at least make one of the these three signings, and it will be one of the many moves that they must make to ensure historic success. Each player can complement Julius Randle as they head into the future without Kobe Bryant. The main factor will be the amount of money that they are willing to spend on each player. If they would like a rise back to prominence, they should be more than happy to spend next summer.