While Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has his sights set on landing a superstar such as Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James, the Lakers will have no choice but to consider their options if they can’t sign an elite scorer to complement a healthy Kobe Bryant in the 2014-2015 season.
Fortunately for L.A., there are some notable free agents in a Plan B situation, who can help keep the team competitive in the short term. After a horrendous 2013-2014, Kupchak could still re-sign Pau Gasol and add at least one starter to return the Lakers to the postseason.
Among the names that have been mentioned in recent reports is restricted free agent Greg Monroe. At age 24, Monroe is one of the biggest prizes of a rich free-agent class, considering his best years are likely ahead of him. Over the past three seasons, he has averaged over 15 points and nine rebounds per game with the Detroit Pistons. Coupled with Gasol, the 6’11 power forward could help make up for the Lakers lack of a true center.
However, the Pistons will reportedly match any contract offer for Monroe. Perhaps the only way the Lakers could add Monroe is through a sign-and-trade scenario on the slim chance that Monroe tries to force a deal to Los Angeles. The Lakers would have trouble executing any type of trade due to the low number of signed players on the roster.
With Steve Nash’s future in doubt, the Laker could use an additional player to pair with Bryant in the backcourt. According to the Sacramento Bee, the Sacramento Kings and Isaiah Thomas are far apart on a new contract for the restricted free agent.
CBS Sports reported that the Lakers are interested in the speedy point guard, who averaged 20.3 points per game last season. L.A. could perhaps offer a three-year deal worth roughly $24 million for Thomas, and the Kings would likely not match it after signing Darren Collison.
Another option for the Lakers is to bring back Trevor Ariza, who has spent the past two seasons with the Washington Wizards. After the 2008-2009 season, the Lakers essentially chose Metta World Peace (at the time referred to as Ron Artest) over Ariza, who would sign with the Houston Rockets. However, Ariza enjoyed a solid campaign with the Lakers, and attended high school and college in the Los Angeles area.
Ariza, 29, has bounced around the league since being drafted by the New York Knicks in 2004, and has expressed interest in returning to Washington. The small forward is seeking a deal worth roughly $10 million a year, and the Lakers have the cap space to sign him. The Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz, Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns also have interest in Ariza.
Lance Stephenson has reportedly popped up on the Lakers’ radar, after the free agent turned down a deal from the Indiana Pacers. Stephenson is looking to sign elsewhere, according to ESPN, having declined to sign a five-year contract worth $44 million.
If Stephenson is looking to get signed with a team soon, Los Angeles might not be a likely destination. The team is still waiting on Anthony’s decision, and wouldn’t be able to give the former Pacer the kind of money that he’s looking for, if they give Anthony a max contract. ESPN reports that the Mavericks and Boston Celtics are also interested in Stephenson.