As part of our ongoing series detailing which players the Charlotte Hornets should target during free agency, our attention shifts to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers finished with a 33-49 record, earning them an 11th-place finish in the Western Conference.
I don’t need to tell you this was an embarrassing performance from one of the most storied franchises in the league. With so many players coming and going from season to season, the Lakers’ roster consists of a multitude of upcoming free agents.
Starting with the team’s restricted free agents, Charlotte doesn’t have much to do. Jay Huff, Mason Jones, Quincy Douby and Mac McClung highlight Los Angeles’ restricted players, and while McClung has a chance to be an NBA rotation player, he hasn’t made it yet.
Moving on to player and team options, the Lakers have Wenyen Gabriel, Austin Reaves and Stanley Johnson potentially returning to team options. On the other hand, Kendrick Nunn and Russell Westbrook have player options for the 2022-23 season.
Gabriel, Reaves and Johnson are sure to return to their team-friendly deals. Nunn, who mysteriously didn’t play this season, should opt for $5.1 million; there’s no way he’s going to get that on the free agent market after not playing all season.
Westbrook is the difficult one. He will probably opt for his $41.4 million for this season; it would be foolish not to. The only problem is that he’s not worth that much at this point in his career. While the Lakers may want to trade him (he’s been tied to the Hornets all year), that salary hit will be hard to move.
As for unrestricted free agents, LA has to decide who to retain from the following: DJ Augustin, Malik Monk, Kent Bazemore, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Wayne Ellington, Avery Bradley. That’s a lot of free agent decisions to make in an offseason. When combined with the long list of options and restricted free agents, the Lakers’ roster may look drastically different next season.
Of these seven unrestricted players, Monk and Bradley would make the most sense for the Hornets to go after. For Monk, he would return to the team that originally drafted him and provide elite shots with better defense. As for Bradley, the aging wing can provide a lockdown defense on the perimeter at a reduced price.
Every other Laker free agent isn’t cheap enough, young enough, or skilled enough to be a top target for Charlotte this offseason. Despite the plethora of Lakers to watch on the open market, I doubt the Hornets will make any move to sign any of their free agents. There was a reason this team underperformed this season.