Lakers: 1 free agent signing to make, 1 free agent to avoid

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LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis will give the Lakers a chance at an NBA title next season. Landing the right free agent could boost LA’s odds. 

Lakers fans would love to see their team swing a deal for a third superstar this offseason. Unfortunately, Los Angeles doesn’t have the salary cap space required to make that kind of move. Any help coming to LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ way this offseason will likely be coming from the bargain basement of free agency.

The biggest decision facing the Lakers in free agency is just how much they’re willing to pay Dennis Schroder to return as the team’s starting point guard. He’ll be looking for a massive long-term deal despite the fact that he didn’t really thrive in Los Angeles this season. Expect the two parties to come to a compromise early in free agency. Schroder’s market outside of LA won’t be as strong as he hopes, and the Lakers can’t afford to let him walk away for nothing.

That means GM Rob Pelinka and his staff need to focus their attention on finding a wing player capable of helping them in closing lineups next season. A gamble on Josh Richardson in free agency could turn into a stroke of genius for the Lakers.

What can Josh Richardson do for LA?

It’s fair to point out that Richardson didn’t play well in Dallas this season. He managed to average 12.1 points per game in 59 contests but he didn’t shoot the ball nearly as well as he did earlier in his career for the Heat. Shooting 33 percent from behind the arc and just 42.7 percent overall from the field pushed him to the periphery of the Mavericks’ rotation down the stretch.

The good news is that Richardson still has the length and athleticism to profile as an above-average wing defender. The Lakers should try to sign him with the mid-level exception with the hopes that his shooting will regress to his career mean next year.

What Richardson can definitely provide the Lakers is another wing capable of wreaking havoc in Frank Vogel’s defensive system. Inserting Richardson into a closing lineup alongside James, Davis, Schroder, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could be enough to power the Lakers to another title next season.

Richardson might get offers north of the mid-level exception for non-contending teams, but the Lakers should be able to bring him to LA with promises of a chance at a title. He should be the team’s top realistic target once free agency begins.

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